My mental wellness wipeout (and recovery)

Pride goes before a fall and how mental wellness helped me recover.

I’m in the middle of a 21 Day Mental Wellness Challenge.

I had so much success with my gratitude challenge back in January I decided it was time to do something similar. A quick Pinterest search and I found a 21 day challenge to improve my mental wellness. I’ve been posting daily on my Facebook feed (you can find it here) for the blog hoping people will follow along which some are so I’ve been feeling pretty good about the whole exercise (beware of over-confidence).

Until yesterday.

12 days of improved mental wellness wiped out with a single phone call.

My Sweet is working night shift this week. The morning he finishes his 7 day shift is the morning we will drive 6 hours to catch a plane for a wedding in Nova Scotia. Anyone who has lived in the north knows it could start blizzarding any day. That 6 hour drive could be perfectly fine or it could be the drive from hell – if hell froze over and started spewing copious amounts of snow and ice.

He has been trying valiantly for the past two weeks to get new winter tires purchased and put on our truck (a process which actually began in late September). No luck. Since he is now sleeping during regular business hours, it was left to me to negotiate with the tire shop.

That didn’t go well.

The woman running the service counter could not have been less helpful. She wasn’t apologetic for failing to provide the service she had previously agreed to. She wasn’t receptive to discussing options. She wasn’t interested in trying to find a solution. She couldn’t even muster the ability to be polite.

Not one thing about our phone call was positive. Not. One. Single. Thing.

So when I hung up the phone, frustrated, I may have uttered a few words that were a less than flattering description of her character.

Practice makes perfect (sort of)

When you’re practicing something, trying to build a new habit or improve a skill, it shouldn’t be a surprise when you suddenly fall short of your goal and are instantly aware of your downfall. Those nasty words had barely escaped my lips before I was already reconsidering my reaction.

To be clear, I was unhappy with my reaction. I wasn’t rethinking my position on the poor service or attitude I had just been on the receiving end of. And that is why the next day, I was standing in front of the on-duty manager discussing my disappointment. While sympathetic, he assured me in the past year mine was the only complaint he’d had about this particular employee.

“That may be true” I said, “but in your experience are people more likely to come to you to discuss their problem or do they avoid the confrontation and just take their business elsewhere?” Clearly that was food for thought.

I don’t like confrontation any more than most people and often I am the person who will walk out and take my business somewhere else. But sometimes standing up for yourself and bringing attention to an issue is the right thing to do.

So how did I handle this particular discussion?

I didn’t raise my voice. I didn’t resort to rudeness or belligerence. I didn’t attack the manager or the employee in question. I didn’t try to draw attention to our interaction with loud and indignant outrage.

What I did was take a few deep breaths and remind myself that I am solely responsible for my behaviour, my choices, and my words. I also live in a small town and my job is a very public one. Losing my cool could lose me work.

I started with the facts of the situation, explained how I was feeling about the problem, and offered a suggestion for resolution. I was also willing to accept that I wouldn’t get what I wanted because at that point the time frame to achieve it was unrealistic. I really just wanted to feel like my concerns were being heard by someone who cared and could do something about it.

I’ll take Pleasantly Surprised for $500 please Alex

I give full credit to the manager who listened to me and then asked thoughtful questions for clarity. I also give full marks to him and another employee for finding a solution to satisfy all parties. My winter tires were done before noon on the next business day and I heaped praise and gratitude on those responsible. Mom always said you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Ok. This wasn’t exactly a life and death situation, but what if this conversation had been about something more serious? What if this was about advocating for a child struggling at school or workplace harassment or discrimination?

There are times when we need to take a stand even if it means having an uncomfortable conversation. We need to decide how important the issue is to us. Which hill are we willing to die on? Is there a way to approach the situation that will allow all parties involved to maintain their dignity and find a positive solution?

Mental wellness for the win!

The more I practice things like gratitude and mindfulness, and do mental wellness challenges and meditation exercises, the more consistent I become in having positive, meaningful interactions with people. I don’t always get it right. Clearly, or I wouldn’t have had this story to tell you today.

Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it does eventually make your default the skill you’ve worked so hard to establish. That’s something to keep working toward, don’t you think?

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