Somewhere in the archives of my mind I recall reading about a strategy that helped someone through a very stressful time. And I remember thinking what a good idea! This is a great technique to use when things look 'black'; when it appears that there's no way out of a mess; or when life is a boring, drudge or just busy or stressful.
Always have something to look forward to. Doesn't matter how big or small! It 's the same concept as seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and by always planning something you can look forward to, you make sure the light permanently shines.
I thought it would be fun to explore the many ways we could plan this. Life is always going to come at us in waves - peaks, and then troughs which usually catch us by surprise! And at the bottom of the trough where we can't see our way out, we think life is the 'pits', we see no end to this tragedy, the anticipation of something pleasant can let us see that the sky is still above us.
It would seem smart to have both short term and long term events to which we can look forward. Make it a goal that at the end of this blog post, you will create a daily, weekly and annual series of such events.
To start this process, buy a book or find a piece of paper you can keep somewhere special. Create separate sections in your book (or on the paper) that allow you to sort your ideas into daily, weekly and annual events.
Think of as many things as you can that make you feel great. Any sort of activity. Dancing, reading, sewing, hobbies, singing, walking, exercising in the gym, seeing friends, laughing, going out the movies, learning something new, playing the piano or other musical instrument, cooking, watching a comedy video, gardening, driving , daydreaming, doing nothing, roller blading, sailing, playing tennis or any other sport - anything that makes you feel good. Make a list of these activities (in the appropriate sections) in your special book or on your paper.
Next, lets consider all the little things that happen in a day that might make you feel good. For example, waking up and finding out you are alive! Or watching the sunrise or sunset; watching a beautiful scene on your way to or from work; a phone call from someone you love; listening to your favourite music; finishing a project; seeing your children or partner at the end of the day; having an hour to yourself - scan your days and make a list of daily 'anticipations'. Sometimes you have to search!
Now recall all the holidays you have ever dreamed of having. Write down all the exotic destinations - or boring ones! And describe all the sorts of things you would like to do there. Do you like beach based holidays or outdoor adventures? Back to nature or exotic hotel holidays?
Or have you heard about doing wonderful things in beautiful places like cooking classes in Tuscany; walking in Nepal; 'barging' through France (this means travelling on a series of barges - not hurling yourself through masses of people!); visiting tribes in the Andes; skiing in Europe or America; camping in a game park in South Africa or experiencing Egypt. Jot these down in travel section of your book. Take time to be as descriptive as you can.
A lot of the fun of these holidays is the planning before hand. It's reading all the travel guides and books on the area and deciding what to see and experience; discussing these details over endless dinners and cold nights and anticipating the wonderful time you are going to have that makes it more special.
Our brains can't tell the difference between vividly imagined experiences and reality! If we vividly recall (or relive) a wonderful experience of the past , our bodymind releases the same array of 'feel good' chemicals that it did at the time of the actual experience.
Similarly, if we vividly imagine (or PRE live) an experience that we think will be fantastic our bodyminds release feel good chemicals! That's what daydreaming and anticipation is all about! Remember that last week at work before your holiday starts? Your body is at work but your mind is already on holiday - and you feel great!
We have extraordinary power in our bodyminds and we can release chemicals that make us 'high' at will - endorphins for example. They are much more powerful than any drug we can manufacture synthetically and can eliminate pain and make us feel fantastic. Anticipation is about imagining all sorts of wonderful scenarios and releasing these chemicals which then make us feel great!
Having something to look forward to takes time and , a little effort because we have to scan for or orchestrate these events. Sometimes they happen spontaneously but then we didn't have the thrill of anticipation! And it's the anticipation that keeps us going through a tough time. "I just have to last three more days and then...."
So this is the critical step. The planning. Each month, in your book, or diary, for the next month (at least), mark something to look forward to each day - perhaps you can have the same one each day for a week then have different ones for the following weeks.
Then design your weekend 'things to look forward to' for the next month. And finally the 'biggie' - the holiday! Even if it's not a glamorous, exotic destination, you can imagine and plan for a wonderful time - whether its complete relaxation or camping and bushwalking in the hills somewhere.
And you can still think, dream about and plan the 'holiday of a lifetime'. Maybe you are saving up for that trip throughout Europe and it's castles; or a round the world trip - which is great because that's a major 'light at the end of the tunnel' , in fact, it's a huge beacon at the end of the tunnel! It doesn't matter if this holiday isn't due to happen for 10 years - it's the anticipation that makes it a fantastic stress busting strategy.
So when you are feeling stressed, burnt out, exhausted or overwhelmed, look at your book and daydream about an upcoming event.