DBT Wise Mind on a snow day

The Value of Wise MindLovely winter landscape with the evergreen fir forests warmed up by  the orange sun and its rays, while everything is covered in snow. Image taken in Ehrwald, Austria.

As a working parent, snow days are the bane of my existence. It’s in these winter months in New England that I dream of moving to Florida; not necessarily because of the warmer weather but because there’s not likely to be a lot of snow days there. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good snow day when it’s really coming down and everyone is universally snuggled at home watching movies and drinking hot cocoa. The ones I dread are the days when the weather is bad enough for schools to close, but not for me to stay home from work. We had one of those days recently when schools were closed before a flake of snow ever fell because of the likelihood that the impending storm would hit during the school day and impact the afternoon commute. While I have to admit that I was a little annoyed about it since it left me scrambling for child care coverage, it made me think about the decision-making process that schools are faced with sometimes and how it is similar to the decisions we are often faced with.

Ultimately, I understand that the schools made the best call that they could; they couldn’t take the chance that a storm could hit and that it could potentially put kids in harms way on their way home. There was also no way for them to make a decision that everyone was going to be happy with. By cancelling school, they had parents like me frustrated because we had to figure out last minute child care plans. But if they hadn’t cancelled, there would be just as many parents (probably including myself!) angry and anxious that their kids would be travelling on unsafe roads. Not making a decision wasn’t an option; they had to do something and they had a limited amount of time in which to make that decision.

Doesn’t that hold true for all of us sometimes? The reality is that there are times when we have to make decisions and the options in front of us aren’t great; we have to choose between the best of bad options. It’s hard in those moments to not be frustrated, angry or anxious. It’s in these moments when we are most likely to make decisions from an emotional point of view, which generally don’t serve us well in the long run. In times like that, I often feel strong urges to avoid- to just kind of crawl under a rock and cling to inaction. Unfortunately, there are a lot of times when not making a decision is not an option and, even when it is, it’s usually the option that keeps me most stagnant. It’s in these situations when I’m most grateful for my Wise Mind. This concept in DBT is truly essential to me; that balancing act between my emotionally-driven impulses and my (at times) concrete logical thinking.

Wise Mind reminds me to step back and take a deep breath, and to proceed with mindfulness rather than impulse. It helps me to weigh out the pros and cons, to be balanced in my decision making, and to keep focused on what is effective for the long term. When I’m in my Wise Mind, I’m able to avoid avoiding, even when the options in front of me are less than ideal. Life is constantly throwing curveballs and tough decisions, when answers aren’t clear cut- we’re often in that same position like schools are when the forecast predicts a storm but there’s not a flake to be seen. When that happens, and I’m stuck trying to choose between the best of bad options, I look to my Wise Mind to help make what may not be easy decisions, but ones that I can intuitively feel are the right ones for me.