Brene Brown has written about the concept “foreboding joy.” It seems to me that what she describes as foreboding joy is that feeling we get when we are afraid to be too happy because it might jinx our good news. When my daughter was pregnant I had a very hard time believing that she was actually pregnant. As her girth expanded, I came to accept this as possible good news but I struggled to feel joy - because what if? What if something went wrong?
Christian is two now and I celebrate both his and Norah’s, our granddaughter’s, existence every single day. But in the dark of night, after a long day, when I am feeling vulnerable and discouraged that thousands of people will get in fights over a free piece of cheesecake but cannot be bothered to call 911 when their neighbor is being attacked - on those days, I start to sense an attack of foreboding joy. If left it its own devices, foreboding joy can steal our present day moments of real joy. I use various coping strategies to stave off foreboding joy - most of the time these skills are effective. They also make it more likely that I will be able to do what it takes to change what is needed in order to improve both my conscious contact with God and my capacity to bear his image. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Find a way to get in touch with gratitude daily. Just do it.
2. Add rituals that are calming after hectic days of showing up for commitments - exercise as a transition from work to home, journal, Exam prayer, meditation, yoga, sleep with a fuzzy weighted blanket, keep your bedroom dark and cold, play board games rather than zoning out in front of the tv (no scary movies if you do turn on the tube), read good books (not thrillers).
3. Eat nutritionally so you won’t be as tempted to stress eat at night; avoid caffeine.
4. To avoid getting agitated before bedtime, cut off technology a couple hours before sleeping. Emails that arrive at night are almost always problems.
5. Find ways to take breaks during the day so that you aren’t so exhausted that you cannot rest at night. When I get called to the hospital for an emergency it can be stressful and often brings sad and bad news. I ALWAYS treat myself with something after I am finished at the hospital. I may go walk through the aisles at Barnes & Noble. I may go to my favorite barista and order a delicious decaf treat. I do something to balance the sorrow out and take a pause, even if the break is small.
6. Work play into your day.
7. Plan to start your day with doing something that takes care of you first, before you start caring for others. Drink your coffee out of a beautiful mug; put your breakfast on a pretty plate; have a quiet time; do a yoga stretch; get your walk in, etc. The goal is to be able to say, if your day goes to hell in a handbasket, “Hey, the day didn’t go as planned BUT I sure enjoyed _______ before all hell broke loose.” Some days, this is enough.
Change is about hanging in and being consistent; it is easier to do that when you are enjoying yourself.
...you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
~ 1 Thessalonians 1:9 NIV