Confession: I allowed Facebook to punch me in the gut last night. As I was crawling into bed, I took one minute to scroll through my feed and saw weddings, new houses, babies and more. And if you would believe it, envy gnawed at me. Even as I could fully recognize that I have experienced each of those things in my own life.
Then, I paused. I put the phone down. Deep breath. Not that long ago, I would’ve kept scrolling. The jealousy would’ve darkly blossomed into resentment and then on into total blindness to all the blessings I am lucky enough to experience each day. Because suddenly, I don’t own enough, I’m not doing enough, and I’m not good enough. Lies are somehow always easier to settle for than the truth.
I think maybe this is part of the human condition. Comparison. Want. Competition. I also know that for me, it especially occurs late at night, when I’m tired or already feeling a little defeated. As this is not a new—or uncommon—occurrence, I’ve developed a sort of “tool-kit” to ward off these unwelcome feelings. The items and practices below help me to re-center when my mental gravity goes a little askew.
1.) Walk Away From the Phone.
This is the most crucial step for me. Trust me, I love having a tiny personal computer at my constant disposal. But for how light it is, it can produce a lot of emotional weight. Our phones provide instant windows into the best parts of others’ lives through social media, making us wonder why we don’t get to experience the same things, in the same ways, at the same pace. They’re avenues to spend time unfruitfully meandering down rabbit holes leaving us feeling even less accomplished than when we picked them up. And most dangerous of all, they decimate our opportunity for solitude. If you have 40 minutes, this is a really good podcast about just that. Walking away from your phone can mean acknowledging the life in front of you, instead of getting lost in someone else’s.
2.) Dive into Edifying Content.
For me, there are few things more healing than picking up some reading material with a binding and pages to turn. My most recent favorite is Magnolia Journal. A few of the reasons I love this publication:
It’s real. I’m not thumbing through picture-perfect features of other peoples’ lives or homes or hobbies. The content delves into the root of emotions we most likely all share. It gives me hope. It shows me how to work with what I have. It gives me permission to just, be.
It centers on positivity and improvement, but in gentle ways. Enough said.
I can read the entire thing in an evening after my daughter goes to bed. I have a bad habit of staying up until 3 a.m. devouring interesting books. Not sustainable. This magazine helps alleviate that while still giving me the chance to read.
It comes quarterly. Life is busy. Monthly subscriptions give me anxiety because they arrive in the mail, I glance at the alluring cover stories, then I throw them on the table and they sit there with the intention of being read until the next one comes. Repeat this process until I just recycle them all at the end of the year. A quarterly subscription is somehow more doable for me, and it comes without the angst of having to get through it before the next one shows up. Not only this, but because the Magnolia team isn’t merely churning out content, it’s a well thought-out and satisfying read. Every time.
3.) Make a Gratitude List.
As simple as it sounds. Write out a few things that you’re thankful for, then hang it somewhere you’ll see it. It can be on notebook paper. It can be on sticky notes that you plaster all over your living space. Or, you can get one of my templates for free (pictured below). I have mine hanging in my bathroom so it starts my day in the morning and gives me a reminder before I go to bed. Find yourself ready to keep going after you’ve filled one sheet out? Start a gratitude journal.
4.) Make a Photo Book.
Along the same lines, put together a simple photo book with pictures that make you smile or of things that you’re grateful for. Shutterfly has a deal where you can get a photo book every month just by paying $8 for the shipping. It’s really hard to deny the good when there’s a collection of it directly in front of your face.
5.) Give Thanks.
Feeling envious or anxious? Thank someone in your life. Thank multiple people. Get specific, e.g. “I really appreciate how you…” or “It means so much to me when you…” The benefit is twofold: you’re re-calibrating your perspective by actively seeking out positivity, and also making someone else feel appreciated.
6.) Pray and/or Meditate.
I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t my faith that’s gotten me through it all: self-doubt, relationship breakdowns, the death of my father, many more moments of weakness. I love Jesus for the fire he puts in me, through no force of my own. And of course, I want everyone to know and love him, too—not because I think it makes me better than others, but because I have found a lot of freedom, salvation and hope in my faith. But I also absolutely recognize that there are other mindfulness methods outside prayer and the constructs of religion. Maybe it is simply emptying your mind while sitting quietly. Perhaps it is sending gratefulness or sorrow or inquisitions up into the universe for whomever wishes to grab them. Regardless, this sort of intermission and reflection helps return me to stability. Here is an example of words I might use:
I recognize my jealousy and anxiety is a result of my human nature. Please help me to overcome these emotions. Fill me with peace; help me to be a vessel of light over darkness. Thank you for my gifts and all of the good things I am fortunate enough to experience each day.
BONUS TIP: Get Outside.
Nature is restorative. If it's time in the yard or a walk around the block, good. If it's a hike on a trail away from the chaos of everyday life, even better. I was having a hard day last week, too. So I got baby in her car seat, packed up the dogs and the stroller, and headed for a nearby nature preserve. Even though I felt like I was in a place I just couldn't recover from (and even though I know I'll always recover), as soon as my feet hit the wood chip trail, it was an instant reset. Deep breaths of fresh air, shade from the trees and a little vitamin D. Mood lifted.
These are things that work for me. I wanted to type them out if not only for a personal reminder, but perhaps they can help you, too? What else do you do to combat your jealousy and anxiety? I’d love to read about them in the comments if you’re willing to share.
Be well and do good, my friends,