how to battle negative thinking

Isn’t it weird how we can let little things completely infiltrate our worlds and affect our outlooks on life? Last night, I had a mini mental breakdown while on the phone with Mitch. Over what?

Construction, of all things. So, so stupid.

Right now, I’m back East, and having a great time. There was Rebec’s shower and my shower… and I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with the parents. Today, I’m headed to Connecticut to see my best girlfriends from college, and tomorrow, I’m grabbing dinner with my best girlfriends from high school. I’m headed to Nantucket at the end of the week to see my family, and next week, my incredible husband is flying in, and together, we’re going to Katie’s wedding–something I’ve been looking forward to for a really long time. Then we’re spending a few days in Manhattan, catching up with our NYC friends. Meanwhile, back in Chicago, I have such a wonderful life: fabulous friends, a job I truly enjoy, a dream neighborhood, the sweetest dog, and a house that… has a lot of potential. ;) And we have a baby on the way. Something we’ve wanted for years!

I am LUCKY. Beyond lucky, really.

Why, then, have I been letting the status of construction on our house–a little thing, in the grand scheme of things–get to me so much? I’ll go days without getting down about it. Sometimes weeks. But then all of a sudden, something insignificant will set me off, and I’ll spiral into negativity.

Last night, Mitch met with a new contractor. Granted, we’ve thought everyone we’ve hired so far has been great, haha, but we both liked this guy. (They Facetimed with me so I could be part of the discussion.) We picked out materials and planned out how we’d like the fireplace project finished, and while it took a long time (nearly the whole night!), progress was made.

But then, when talking to Mitch on the phone before bed, I learned that he hadn’t eaten dinner because there hadn’t been any time. After work, he had to pick up Noodle from doggy daycare, drop her off at home, run to Home Depot for supplies, and then jet home to meet with the contractor. And then he had to plan his lessons, handle a few other construction-related chores, and prepare for the following school day. Eating just hadn’t happened.

A little thing. I realized, though, that Mitch’s day wasn’t just a weird, crazy day. Days like that have become the norm for us. Most of ’em are spent dealing with that kind of stuff, and the days that aren’t cause us great guilt.

Another wasted day that could have been spent remedying the problem. 

I can’t remember the last time we said to each other, “What should we do tonight?!” Or the last time we didn’t slide into bed utterly exhausted. Because there’s always an overwhelmingly long to-do list. Even while I’ve been home, I’ve been doing things like picking out doors and marble tile, calling new contractors to get additional estimates, and working up amateur blueprints.

But like I said before, we’re insanely lucky, and soon, this will be over. It’s not that big of a deal. (Really sorry about all the complaining!)

That said, I think that the eight and a half months have started to really wear on us… and we need a few coping mechanisms. Ways to dig ourselves out of negative thinking, if you will.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

How to Battle Negative Thinking

Nantucket Brandt Point-3

Make smaller to-do lists.

I’m definitely someone who likes to write out everything she has to do at the beginning of the day to clear her mind. In some respects, it’s great. But it also makes me feel like a failure at the end of the day, because I almost never cross off everything on that list. Smaller, daily to-do lists need to accompany weekly and monthly to-do lists. And when everything is crossed off on those lists–even the daily ones!–celebrations should be had.

Create rewards.

It’s hard to stay motivated without them. Noodle, for example, is a huge fan of pooping in the downstairs bathroom. (It’s the weirdest thing. Read this post. Such the lady.) But when I reward her for going outside, I find far fewer surprises in the bathroom. Those puppy treats motivate her.

Hmm. Maybe that wasn’t the best analogy. But everyone needs rewards. For me, I think it’s a day–or even just a night–totally off. When there’s something to look forward to, I’m much more likely to stay motivated and on-task.

Make time for other activities.

When I was writing my thesis, I remember spending day after day after day in coffee shops after work, plugging away at it. Mitch tried as hard as he could to get me to take breaks, but I was so overwhelmed by the massive task that I couldn’t tear myself away. Towards the end, when I’d finished it, I kind of lost it. I sat there, completed thesis in front of me, in hysterics–convinced it was crap and that I wasn’t going to get my graduate degree. I was a lunatic. ;)

Every day, time should be set aside for other activities. You might take a half-hour walk around the neighborhood. Or catch up with a friend on the phone. Or read a book outside for a while. Whatever it is, the mind should be elsewhere for that time. Everyone needs a mental break.

Revisit the original inspiration.

Right now, something that’s really been helping is this blog. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to the bedroom, bathroom and fireplace inspiration posts. (Thank you, guys!) Each post reminds me of why we’re working so hard on these projects, and what life will be like when they’re finally done. They restore my faith that soon, we’ll simply get to enjoy our home, and they make me excited about all there is to come.

Maybe I need to start each day by looking at these posts?!

Recount the progress that’s been made.

Mitch calls this “favorite pastiming.” Lately, we’ve been sitting on the couch and just staring at the halfway-completed fireplace, talking about what it used to look like. (SO UGLY!) And every time our contractor leaves, we run down to the basement and spend a good 20 minutes admiring the changes. We also watch this video. It helps.

When you’re in the middle of an enormous undertaking, it’s easy to forget how much work you’ve put in, and how much progress you’ve actually made. Take the time to look back, and allow yourself to feel proud!

Reflect and be grateful.

It’s also easy to lose sight of what’s important. At the very beginning of this post, I list everything that’s freakin’ awesome in my life right now. Such an good thing to do while you’re in the midst of a big project, whether you’re writing it down, thinking about it, or talking about it. Perspective is important. It keeps you grounded.

How do you battle negative thinking? I’d love to hear!