Tough Approach to Tough Times

October 5, 2011
By

By Alison Rodgers

It’s the state of the American family in hundreds of thousands of households from California to New York.  Life has a tendency in this down economy to press in on family life.  The added pressure of devalued currency, a rise in commodity prices reflecting at the gas pump and again in the grocery bring people to the point of “all the right things, for all the right reasons”.  He writes:

Every day, I go to work and do a good job.  It’s stable, not challenging, but stable. I appreciate that I have a good paying job.  I know that there is no advancement potential, but changing jobs right now is not a good idea when your family depends on you.  Every day of my life, I stand in that gap, being the father, husband, worker. I do all the right things for all the right reasons.  Still, I am tired.  Exhausted.  I love my family, my wife…but I have nothing left after the stress of the day, of barely making it every single month, of worrying about the next major illness or catastrophe that will finally just be the last straw. There is no end in sight, no extra.  I guess I always believed that if you were one of the “good people” who paid your bills and had a good job and loved your family – that things would turn out happy.  I’m just tired.

I can empathize with you, “Right,” and really want to validate what you’re saying, how you’re feeling and what is going on in you.  First, thank you.  In these tough times it’s so good to hear from someone that demonstrates and speaks love to their family each day.  As a child, those kids of yours are learning that Dad is a safe space, that there is stability in the world.  The stability that you represent changes the life of a child for the better ever single day.  No matter the movie star of the moment, the real heroes are those caretakers that provide for their family, love selflessly and continue standing even when the rain comes.  I send you love and admiration.  I would like for you to look up two things while we have this time together: these are the two things that I work on with my closest friend, protector, husband, crazy sexy man, father of our kids….Brian. My love.  First, learn about breath walking.  Check it out.  Second, what you focus on is what you’re going to manifest.  Be CERTAIN about your hopes and dreams.  Trust me – focus on today and work on your breathing.  Not what you HAVE to do…what you get to do.  It’s about attitude, life is.  Key: don’t create what you don’t want.  Don’t focus on what you don’t want.  Get yourself amped about the day by being grateful, using incantations, giving the first portion of your day to being positive. Fathers are the protector, provider, spouse and co-parent in millions of households – and it’s a tough job.

I have a hero like you.  In our home, we’ve experienced much of the same financial pressure, including the failure of a family owned business that was economy dependent (restaurant).  Like you, my hubster Brian stands in that gap each day, providing for and protecting his family from the harder things in the world.  He’s an amazing man who I love with all that I am.  It’s Brian who makes me want to be a better person, to fulfill all that I am – not by what he says, but by that selfless love that causes him to take Taryn on Daddy/Daughters Dates every Monday while I’m in grad school classes, although the rest of the time I am a stay at home mom who also writes.

There is an inference in your email that says “this isn’t really all that fair” and “what can I do about it?”  If I’ve failed this part of the active listening phase, write me and let me know, okay?  What you think matters.  Here are a few things that come to mind without being able to have dialogue.  Let’s tackle what you can control within you that might change your paradigm.

  • Depression hides in “tired.”  Self care is important. Take an afternoon to visit your GP and see if your health is all that it could be. Have access to a counselor? If that will affect the budget, check with a university near you to see if they have a psych program. We counseling majors take on clients pre-license at the school facility under the watchful eye of PhD’s and doc candidates.  It’s way affordable, and you’ll have someone that is really up on all the new training.  If that isn’t in your cards, then add a small amount of exercise to the beginning of your day – a brisk walk,  a few lunges with light weights, deep breathing.  Remember, it needs to be specific to your fitness level and your health.  If you’re a fitness nut, then keep it up but change it up.  Humans need variety in their life.  Run a new route, change your club grips and play a links course, race a Kart on a fast track.  Do something that makes your heart move.  You need downtime that is just for you – a round of golf, a walk in the woods or on the beach, a game of football with the guys.
  • Practice mindfulness.  Fair is a thought that compares where you are against something that isn’t yours or isn’t “real.”  An ideal, while admirable, is often also one dimensional.  Can you look at your life with the framework that it’s an adventure, a journey…and this is part of a larger whole?  It won’t be this way forever.  Life comes and goes, ebbs and tides.  It’s being present in the day that counts so very much. While you’re going through your day, you’re thinking…and thinking….and thinking. One behavioral change that you can make is to stay focused on the present moment, on what you’re doing and where you are.  Anchor yourself in a calm place, and realize that this day is a gift – really live it.  Take time to hear others, to laugh, to smile.

“Ultimately the way to win the game of life, is found in only one thing: Our ability to choose meaning in any life circumstance. Become the master of meaning and you master your life.”

~ Tony Robbins

  • Know about systematic, progressive relaxation.  If you’re health is good, your relatively sure that you’re not depressed….all that energy has to go somewhere.  Are you stress and storing tension in your muscles?  Progressive relaxation involves the “tensing and relaxing of muscle groups over the legs, abdomen, chest, arms and face. With the eyes closed and in a sequential pattern, a tension in a given muscle group is purposefully done for approximately 10 seconds and then released for 20 seconds before continuing with the next muscle group.”  You can find out all about progressive relaxation from the link above.  I’d encourage you to check into focused meditation and yoga as other possible relaxation models.
  • Create joy.  If you’re tired all the time, it’s got to be tough to get up in the morning.  Try looking at life like every moment is there to be joyful.  You don’t have to spend tons of money to have fun.  Take your kids to the park and play with the dog, jump rope  in the backyard, BBQ hot dogs and have a picnic.  We have Tuesday night movies, camp in front of the fireplace in the man cave and spend the whole night with each other.  We sit down to dinner together every single night except date night – and that is such an important ritual for a little girl to have her fathers loving attention this way.  They talk to each other, munching french fries and having a soda.  These are the moments that will rejuvenate you, if you’re paying attention to the life going on around you.  It’s this very type of moment that you’re working so hard to preserve.
  • Don’t go it alone.  Communicate how you feel with that spouse of yours, allow them to understand your pain and frustration.  Financial problems are a huge cause of relationship breakdown – so beat the cycle.  Do it as a team, and create a plan that works for you.  Don’t be married alone.  I realize that many people say “he handles the money and goes to work; she raises the kids and takes care of the house.”  Yes, that is true in my world as well, but we do both together.  Brian helps me with major stuff in the house, and I post and mail bills during the month.  We openly talk about our financial struggles since I’m still in training to become a psychologist – not actively employed as one.  That is a paradigm shift from when I was a hefty bread winner for our family.  Talk openly about ways to save and change life that won’t impact your quality of life but improve it.  There are lots of sites on the Internet designed to help with this, like  The Cheapskate Guide.
  • Goals and Dreams.  Where are you headed?  No matter how old you are, it’s important to have goals and dreams that you’re working toward.  Sit with your spouse and develop that one, three and five year plan for lots of items – getting out of debt, changing your education or employment, maybe moving to a climate that you like better.  What do you dream of? Now…what are you doing to make it come true.  You’ll feel less stagnant and lost when you’re actively pursuing a goal, even slowly.  Make a difference by having a dream.
  • Create Mini Vacations.  You can change the tide by contacting your local tourist Bureau and finding about about your region.  Take adventure trips to bookstores, Goodwill, state or national parks, local beaches – find out about the world that you live in.  We haunt the museum (free admit and great for our artist daughter) and all the funky coffee house/record store/independent bakery places that we can find.  We notice the water being released from the dam, play on playgrounds, kick balls in the back yard.  We’re not huge entertaining people, but we do have folks over to enjoy the big fire pit that my hubster built for me out of the red brick that matches our house.  Vacations are about designated relaxation times.  Maybe we’ll role play that we’re at a spa and I’ll give the hubster a full body massage in front of the fireplace – it can be anything that you can imagine.  Have fun getting creative.  There is a list of daily things that you can do on 20 Ways to Have Fun on a Budget or 8 Great Date Ideas.
  • Listen to Music that Sets You Free.  You know, it’s okay that you’re feeling this pressure.  Let yourself take time for yourself – listen to those tunes that always make you smile, that give you hope and fill you with love.  Maybe it’s that song from your senior year in high school, the anthem from college, or even the song from a movie that stayed with you.  Avoid that music that makes you cry – the “what about me” version of life is a little angst ridden for your place in life.  Seek joy in healthy ways, express who and what you are in your own unique style.  What makes you feel complete and alive?  Anything that increases your joy that a.) doesn’t harm others and b.) is in moderation is probably a good stress reliever.  I clean, dance to music in my house, write, dig in my back yard, climb stuff like rock walls, mountains, trees…. and every once in a while, beat up pieces of chopped wood with my baseball bat to vent the injustice that wells in my heart.
  • Cut to the Chase.  I had a epiphany not to long ago, and pretty much cut ties with the people that were toxic for me.  I have enough to worry about in life without adding negative people to it, or even those that live in chaos and drama.  I love life – the being alive part – and that is what cancels out the tired.  I am to excited about being here to be tired.  Are you still here?  Are you still fighting? Are you teaming up with those that love you…or is that who you’re fighting?

I hope that some of these are of help to you.  I’m including a list of things from the site “Romance on a Budget” that you might give a try….fall in love again.  With you, your life, your wife, your kids.  Do a great job at work and be proud of what and who you are.  You’re the hero…in a life that is often unfair, truly hard and kinda scary, you’re the reason that your family thrives.

Love Notes – Leave Love Notes for your Sweetheart to find.

Pampering – Brush her hair. Scratch his back.

Wildlife – Feed the ducks, squirrels, birds, turtles or fish near you.

Games – Turn off the TV. Sit and play cards or board games together.

Cooking – Find recipes to make with your sweetheart.         

Candles – Candles should be used every day — for meals, bath time, snuggling.

Read together – Choose a book and take turns reading it to each other.

Photos – When is the last time you had a photo taken together? What are you waiting for?

Work Date – Surprise your love with a lunch date.

Stroll – Leave the TV, phone and computer behind and go on a walk together.

Spell it Out – With Sidewalk Chalk, write your names in a heart on the sidewalk where your sweetheart is sure to see it.

Entertainment – Go see a High School or College play or concert. It is affordable and fun!

Slow Dance – Turn on the radio and dance to the songs you fell in love listening to.

Star Gaze – Drive out to the country and look at the stars.

Volunteer – Choose a charity or cause that means something to both of you and work together to make the world a better place.

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