Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Creating a Joyful Life

Thank you for your responses on the last post. Since the majority of those were direct to me via email, phone, or in person, my HH (Hot Hubby) suggested allowing anonymous comments. So, if you have something to share, but are feeling shy, you can now leave a comment anonymously. I would really like you to leave comments since we'll all benefit a lot more that way. I can offer limited insight since it's different for all of us.

Also, I was discussing with a friend the different levels of depression. I am hoping that this site can benefit people at all levels, from just having a down day to extended periods of sadness. That being said, this is, of course, not meant to treat depression or anxiety. If you are dealing with extended and/or extreme sadness, please seek medical attention right away. I have had successful experiences with both counseling and medication and would recommend trying whatever seems best for you.

Okay, onto today's topic. After I was forced to admit I had depression, I wanted to rebuild my life. That was an overwhelming concept! Thankfully, I was inspired to create a weekly schedule. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to add it here. So, I'll give you the basics.

I did it as a spreadsheet, so you can picture that in your mind. And I named it "Good Life", in the hopes it would help me create one. I listed every day of the week at the top and then going down the side I listed the important categories in my life (not in order of importance): Home, Spiritual, Physical, Educational, HH, KN (my daughter--my son wasn't around yet), Emotional/Personal, Social. Then I put things to do for each one under each day. Somethings are for every day and some are just for one day.

Home: Straighten (every day), Bake something, Vacuum, Dust, Kitchen, Vacuum, Bathrooms, Bathtub, Blinds

Spiritual: Scripture study (every day), Read lesson manual (I taught a Sunday School class), Write in journal

HH: Family Home Evening (a weekly activity/lesson we do as a family), Neck massage, Talk, Date
KN: Read a book (every day), write in her journal, learn ABC's, Play with Play-doh, play at the park, Do a puzzle, Color together, Go for a walk
Physical: 30-60 min. walk (every day), sit ups, weights, stretch (every day), Be in bed by 10 PM, Drink 4 water bottles/day
Emotional/Personal: Do hair and make up (every day), Say 5 positive affirmations (every day)
Educational: Read a book (every day)
Social: Call 1 sibling, Go somewhere public, Call a far away friend, Call a local friend, Hang out with a friend(s), Go on a date with HH

So, you can see it was nothing major and now some of those things seem really basic (like doing my make up). But at the time it was all a stretch for me. And a big part of why I was depressed was because I felt like I never accomplished anything. I never accomplished anything because I got overwhelmed when I tried to determine what to do with my time. Laying it all out on paper really simplified things for me. And it forced me to do things (I made a commitment to myself to do everything on the spreadsheet each day--without any pressure if something came up and I had to miss a day). Most days I just didn't feel like doing anything. Well, what could be more depressing than days full of nothing! I shouldn't say "nothing" because I had KN with me all day, but I really wasn't doing much of anything each day. I was blessed with a very low maintenance daughter who could cope with that.

I just want to comment specifically on a few of the items from my "Good Life". First, I believe a clean house is essential to feeling well. That doesn't mean spotless. Just straightening once a day will go a long way in restoring inner peace. Second, I believe having faith in something is also essential but that will be left for another day as it is a much bigger topic. Next, I tried to focus on serving the people in my family and keeping it all small and do-able. Next, how many of you put off taking care of yourself b/c there's not enough time? Make time. This is another subject that deserves it's own post, so I'll leave that for today. Along those same lines is doing hair and make up each day. It's about taking care of yourself. No matter what you tell yourself, you deserve that. You do. I had days where I never even got out of my pajamas because no one but KN saw me during the day (my HH sometimes has to work really long hours). But it only made things worse because I looked outwardly the same way I felt inwardly. Next, being a mom is challenging, but not necessarily stimulating. I think lifelong learning is also essential to happiness. That's why we have such amazing minds! And lastly, I know socializing is one of the last things you feel like doing when you're down. That's why it's so important! When you're with someone else (on the phone or in person), you have to move outside yourself at least a little. And so you can forget, at least a little bit, how yucky you feel inside. Or, you can confide in them and find the reassuring comfort we talked about on Monday. Either way, it's a win.

So, start with wherever you're at and add on. Look at what you want to accomplish. Break it down into daily or weekly tasks and schedule it in. We started this blog talking about how our lives are too full and busy to find peace and joy, so why am I tell you to add more in? I'm not. When you determine what really matters to you, then look at what doesn't matter and cut it out. At least some of it. But keep your desired result in mind. Don't cut out things that bring you joy even if they seem less worthy. Just make sure it's real joy. For example, I can spend a whole lot of time reading people's blogs every day. But a phone call to one of my sisters really renews me. So, I might schedule a phone call with my sister and leave the blogging for a day when I have some extra time.

That being said, I still struggle with doing what is truly important in life. It seems like it's so much easier to blog than make dinner, or watch TV than go to bed on time. How do you do it? How do you determine what is important in life? How do you follow through? Is it easier to find joy when your life is organized, or is it just me?


Becky said...

Sorry for not replying to your earlier posts. They're all great.

To answer these questions, at least for me, it is easier to be happy when there's a schedule. I had a to-the-minute one as a student (probably very type-A-ish). Then I had a baby. He didn't want to eat and sleep when I thought he should, and since I figured he was more important than any schedule, I threw it out. That was a mistake too. It's still a struggle trying to find the balance between organized schedules and spontaneity.

When (with 4 little boys) I finally set up a schedule that worked, the best part about it was Thursday is MY day. That was the day I tried to avoid anything I hated to do and do at least one thing that I loved to do. As they got older, the proportion has increased! It was my reward for being productive on Mon-Tues-Wed and gave me strength to make it through the always crazy weekend.

As far as determining what's important, see today's post on my blog. Years ago I read "7 Habits" and made my own mission statement. The challenge comes in remembering what I wrote, but when I do it really helps.

Nik said...

Nice thoughts, Cheryl, thank you for sharing. You have such a beautiful heart! You really do.

In my life, I know that it is super important for me to not compare myself to other people (women in particular). That can be very distracting and defeating.

I also like to tell myself "one day at a time", and to make sure (like you) that I focus on my priorities (God, Hubby, me etc).

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your insight and admire you for being so open about your life and what does and doesn't work for you. I hope to do the same someday. Your blog has helped me.

Meghan said...

I too have struggled with depression, though I have never been treated for it. Reading your first post reminded me of those days and weeks I used to have before having my daughter. Something about becoming a mom made things click in my head and the depression has not come back. It's been over a year now. I keep holding my breath waiting for those days to come back where I can't even get out of my pajamas for 3 days. But life has moved on and so have I.

I have found that filling my life with purpose and productivity has made me feel fulfilled and happy. I could definitely be more organized though, as sometimes the stress and pressure of trying to be supermom overwhelms me and I retreat into my home for days on end. You have inspired me to try to be more organized.

I definitely do feel like if there is balance in my life I am happier. So even if I only accomplish a little bit in each area of my life each day, I feel a whole lot better than if I spent the whole day working on one area.

Please keep up the great blogging. Your experiences and insights are so inspiring.

Anonymous said...

This blog has so many great ideas. I agree that it's easier to be happy if you are productive and it's easier to be productive if you have a schedule. Sometimes I feel like there are so many things I should be doing that I don't know where to I don't. So then I don't get anything done. A plan for how to get it all done (a little bit every day) helps it to be less overwhelming. Thanks!

Jen said...

I just found this great article by Orson Scott Card -- the well-known LDS author -- in the Deseret News. Here's the link:,5143,700261229,00.html?pg=1. It's called "Bad Wife or a Busy One?" He talks about his wife and how she beats herself up about not ironing his shirts or baking bread, but how she's great at so many other things and he doesn't care. It's very well-written and comforting.

And, now, my comment on this post . . . After I got Luke on a decent schedule and the traveling of summer slowed down last year, I realized that I was seriously out of sorts, some people could probably call it the beginning of depression; I just felt like something was wrong, I didn't feel right. A few things changed that completely. 1) I started going to our weekly ward Park Day. Associating with the women of the ward on a weekly basis really helped me to step outside myself and we can all commiserate and celebrate together about motherhood. And, I started praying for more friends in the area. . . that's a whole other story. 2) Every Monday morning or Sunday night, I write down a to-do list for that week. I have another long-term to-do list as well, but on Monday or Sunday I create my to-do list just for that week. I try to be realistic, but hopeful. I find that I get most things done on that list by the end of the week if I focus and remember what is on my list. My new job has seriously cut down on my time to get those things done, but I am still making a list, just a smaller one. Then, I schedule out my week accordingly-- clean house on Monday, park day on Tuesday, free days on Wed. and Thurs. to do shopping and the library. Anyway, I still feel like I can be productive and successful and I feel good because it is all self-motivated. No one is looking over my shoulder; just me. 3) Scripture study and prayer are the key to keep everything well-oiled, especially my attitude. For some reason, women seem to need that more than men and I can always tell when I've been slacking.

Thanks for your great thoughts, Cheryl! I've really enjoyed thinking about your words and pondering my own life.

Jen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I've found that a few months after having 2 of my babies depression hits me. This time I started really feeling like I needed to get organized in my home - more clean and organized. I can tell a difference in how I feel when the living room and kitchen are a mess or they are picked up and have had a basic clean. If I make sure that is done, my energy goes up.

Also, I have a schedule for my kids to take a nap at a certain time. Even if they don't sleep, it is quiet time and they have to stay in the room they are in. This gives me time to have "me" time.

Tiffany said...

I know you're going to post another blog soon but I just thought I'd write some of my thoughts.
In high school, my mom thought I might be depressed (since it runs in my family). My mom, being the good mom she is, tried to give me St. John Warts (?). I refused to take it but got diagnosed with depression soon after and given prozac. I took it for many years and then after a bad bit in college, decided to never take again. I wasn't completely rational in stopping. I just figured the prozac wasn't helping because I was still unhappy. Now, this does NOT mean that everyone on prozac should stop taking it!!!! I just don't think my life was going in the direction it should have. It wasn't that I was living badly but more that I didn't have a purpose in my life. It was a very "let's have fun" selfish life. It was college! :) However, I agree with having a prupose, having a schedule, and getting organized. There's something about living and having a clean life. I have found that focusing on more than just me has led me to keep my depression away. I still don't take any medication. I keep myself very, very busy though. I think if I don't, I fall very quickly. I work for my mom's company and get to take my son along with me which has been a HUGE blessing because I didn't want to work if I had to put my son in day care. This has allowed me to stay very busy yet still be a very big part in Landon's life. I am by nature lazy. If I stay home, I end up not getting things done. I need a schedule and things to do. I have a no TV rule during the day in my house. It's more than anything, to keep me from vegging in front of the TV. It will be interesting to see how things change again once my second comes along.
Well, that's my "story". Thanks Cheryl for this blog. I used to think that I was the only one who struggled with being depressed when I was younger and struggling and fighting it everyday. It's almost like I keep myself so busy so it won't catch back up with me again. Keep up the blogging and I'll be reading!

Stafford Family said...

I too think it is helpful to have something to do. I started years ago thinking I would feel better if I just started with 3 basic things to do each day. Something for the future, something for today, and something to do for the past.

It sounds kind of crazy, I know but I needed something simple to base my feelings of success. Some times with kids it's hard to feel like you get much done. So maybe it's making the meals for the day from scratch or keeping up with the never ending dishes. For the past, I try to pick one area, even if it's small to dejunk/clean out, or scrapbook. For the future, I could maybe write in my journal or blog, or my kid's journal or scrapbook. At least I feel like I'm making some kind of progress.