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Friday, December 2, 2016

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Are you really stressed out about a family illness or a job loss? Are you worried about the impact that challenging times will have on your children, your marriage, or your own sanity?

To cope with a hard blow in life, keep in mind that you need to plan some healthy activities while you’re walking through fire. Rely on free things, if you need to, but make sure you have something to look forward to.

Participating in some fun activities during painful times means you won’t feel so anguished when you look back.

Five years from now, you can remember how you played board games with your friends during 2014, instead of recalling how tough it was to find a new job, for example.

“I lost my job last fall,” says a hospital worker we’ll call James. “To keep my children from feeling my sadness, I started playing basketball with them every afternoon. This kept us all moving forward. I was adamant that we create some nice memories _ even though our lifestyle felt really shaky.”

Another woman we know says she started hiking while going through a divorce.

“Twice a week, I’d take a five-mile hike with four other people. I’d also listen to my favorite music a lot,” she told us. “When I look back, I think the hiking and the music kept me from hating my ex. We share custody of two children, so I didn’t want the divorce to destroy all of my good feelings toward my ex.”

Good memories, however simple, can help enhance a marriage, sibling relationship, or friendship. Anything from going to the movies to having coffee at a side-walk cafe, builds memories.

Make sure, however, that you focus on positive feelings while spending time with other people. Be very proactive in staying upbeat as you try to do the following.

  • Limit negative conversation. If you dump all your marriage problems on your best friend at lunch, you’ll erase the enjoyment of getting together.
  • Stay flexible. If you ask your brother to go fishing with you, for example, give him a choice on which day to go. Give him plenty of notice about your schedule, too. It’s easier to make sure you actually follow through and create good memories, if you factor in flexibility.
  • Create some excitement. A friend of ours hated the idea of joining a senior citizens center when his wife died. But, once he got involved in the billiard tournaments at the center, he was excited about going. Give yourself a challenge of some type, so you’ll want to get out of bed.

“I recall having a lot of fun during tough times when I was 6,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Matthew. “Dad got laid off at the plant where he worked. We were getting commodities from the government. My dad worked a very, very part-time as a truck driver and spent afternoons taking us on picnics. Those picnics consisted of crackers and government-issued meat and cheese, but the memories are priceless.”

Matthew says he remembers this time very fondly, because his family was close. “We were hanging by a thread, but we had each other,” he emphasizes. “Those simple picnics and fun times got us through. Dad finally got rehired at his old job. I’m sure he was frightened at times, but later, he agreed that we had some very special times during the job crisis.”

Photo: CocteauBoy via Flickr