Monday, January 28, 2013


How do you deal with anxiety and stress? Retail therapy? That used to be my go-to shrink. When I was upset and down in the dumps I hit up the TJ Maxx and Marshalls and browsed away my feelings of despair. It was effective, although not the most friendly to my checking account. Back in high school I went into crying mode and a total lack of appetite. I think the two are related: when you are a complete blubbering mess you can't properly chew and swallow food. If you are looking for a diet plan this might be up your alley if you are quick to cry uncontrollably.
But, as I've grown up and matured - I hope - I've developed new coping mechanisms for life's bumps, troubles and trials. Actually, to be more specific, I've developed two mechanisms that have both proven to be wildly effective and not at all detrimental to my wallet or waistline. They are coloring and jigsaw puzzles.
Childish you say? Think again! These two forms of self-therapy are perfect for freeing the mind and refocusing negative energy and emotion. Coloring is for the really tough times. It is completely mindless. You complete a picture in a short amount of time and can be happy with your sad attempt at art. You can choose happy colors that reflect a mood you wish you were feeling. Even if things are gray, gloomy and dark you can paint a picture of yellow flowers and fluttering butterflies. The picture doesn't have to match your circumstances, in fact it shouldn't. It should be an uplifting reminder of bright days ahead and good memories from the past. And the best part? Much cheaper than a therapist.
Once you get through the worst of your trial puzzles can become an effective tool to dig out of the hole of despair. Puzzles are a bit more challenging and require more patience. It will take days (maybe weeks if you choose something with tons of pieces and an abstract image) to complete. You must wait and stick with it to see the final product. But when you complete your puzzle you feel a slight sense of pride, maybe even an overwhelming sense of pride, at the image you've constructed. As silly as it may seem, you feel a level of accomplishment that you didn't have before you fit all those pieces together perfectly. Maybe at the end of the puzzle your life is still in a place of disarray, but the pieces in that puzzle are not. There is a satisfaction in that. If a puzzle, that was once a thousand multi-colored pieces, can turn into a beautiful picture, then can't your broken and twisted circumstances do the same?
Puzzles show us the possibilities of even our most trying times. They may look like a mess. We may not see how any of the ups and down are going to turn into anything positive or stable. Yet, there is hope in the formation of the most complicated of jigsaw puzzles. There is a solution. It may take a long time to see the final result. Patience will undoubtedly be required. But if you stick with it, if you don't lose your cool and you don't give up and throw the pieces back into the box, there can be a beautiful picture that comes to light in the end.

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