For many people, the word brings an image of celebrating love and lasting commitment. But not every anniversary is about love. And not all of them are happy, either.
From remembering where you were when the space shuttle Challenger exploded to where you were when the Berlin Wall came down, there are events in all of our lives that unify us and simply make the world stand still. But whether the event is good or bad, they bring back emotions and can make us view life through the eyes of that particular day.
Just what kind of anniversaries am I talking about? The days we dread during the year. The anniversary of when someone close to you died. The anniversary of when you discovered your partner had cheated on you. The anniversary of the day you lost your job. The anniversary of your miscarriage. The day that was supposed to have been your wedding anniversary.
Anniversaries can sneak up on us, and I’ve found three typical reactions: nervously awaiting that date for weeks beforehand; having a really tough day and then realizing what the day it is; or not even being aware of the day until after it has passed.
Nervously Awaiting the Date
As women, we tend to have a knack for remembering dates without even trying. This can make our anxiety climb as we countdown until our D-Day anniversary. How do you prepare for this? For one, it’s in the planning. If you can possibly help it, do not schedule big meetings and presentations and interviews on this day. It can add to the nerves of an already stressful day and put additional unnecessary pressure on yourself. If you do find yourself having to take an exam or complete a big task that day, then plan something exciting and relaxing for afterwords. This is the day to splurge on a massage or a manicure. This is the day to have dinner at your favorite restaurant or get take-out from your favorite restaurant. Think about the things that are meaningful and special to you, even the things you rarely do because they are a bit more special or out of your typical spending range.
But there’s more to planning. Consider telling those close to you what the day means and that you may be a bit more stressed or tense than normal. Or, keep the reason to yourself and simply share, “Tomorrow I may need your patience and support a bit more. Please bear with me and know it will end.”
Another way to plan is to give yourself permission to cry or not be as productive as normal on that day, or even during the days leading up to the anniversary day. Try to make that week as stress free as possible. This is when you call in favors from your friends for carpool or babysitting. It’s also when you don’t volunteer to host a dinner party either. Be kind to yourself.
Do have plans for what you are going to do. Don’t just give yourself a blank day. It will make it harder. Plan to do things that are typical for you: cooking and freezing meals, working in the yard, doing your normal work tasks, going through and cleaning out those files you’ve been meaning to do for a while. An idle mind can lead to hard times.
Not Realizing What Day It Is
The other common stressful reaction is not even realizing what day it is, until you have a meltdown and look at the calendar. In this situation, there’s not a whole lot of planning. But you can launch into your “stressful day” plan. What? You don’t have a basic idea for how you handle the hard days? Well, we’ll work on that later. But the important thing when the day sneaks up on you is for you to take control.
Just how do you take control?
Own it! You don’t have to tell everyone. But own it to yourself, “Wow! I didn’t even realize the significance of today until I looked at the calendar after my outburst. That day really meant something.” Owning it can be that simple.
The next thing is to take stock of what has to be done that day and what can be left to do tomorrow (or even next week). Putting too much pressure on yourself can be a bad thing. Now, I do know for a lot of people, keeping really, really busy is a great coping mechanism. Yes, I do want you to stay busy. But if you’re not able to focus, making yourself keep busy with a significant project may not be the best solution. Try to keep busy with things you’re comfortable doing on a regular basis. Are you a teacher? Then grade papers or make lesson plans. Don’t feed the entire PTA that day. You get the drift.
Next, decide how you can make the things that you do have to do a little less stressful. Take-out. Skip the kids baths and let them watch a movie. Go to bed early. Hit the gym for an extra power workout to get the tension out.
Not Being Aware of the Day Until After It’s Passed
Now this is actually a good thing! It means you’re well on your way to healing and moving forward. It’s the kind of thing where you look back and say, “Gee! That day came and went and I didn’t even think about it.” It can even get to the point where you never even think about it.
There are only 365 days in a year (well, unless it’s Leap Year). So there are only so many days for an event to take place. It’s got to happen sometime. But if you think long enough, you’ll realize that good things happened during that time period, too. It is possible for us to rewire our brains to remember and celebrate the good days and not the hard days. So instead of silently dreading and counting down until D-Day, how about marking your calendar to celebrate the day you moved into your home, getting through midterms, or paying off your credit card bill (or student loan or other big financial accomplishment). When we take time to look forward to and celebrate the good things, we start to realize just how many good things are happening in our life. And then the magic begins!