It is an unavoidable fact that bad things happen. We’ve all had life hand (sometimes even throw) us lemons. Sometime we catch those lemons and keep it moving. Other times we get overwhelmed with an abundance of them. Those “lemons” can be anything from annoying minor inconveniences to total crises that leave us feeling lost, dejected, and hopeless.
When our arms are filled with far more lemons than we could ever hold, we feel stressed and too overwhelmed to remember that lemons, with just a little manipulation, can be turned into something incredible. There’s wisdom in the proverb “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” When you think of it, what better alternative is there? Use the bitterness of adversity and turn it into something sweet, refreshing, or even profitable. Here’s how:
Step One: Embrace the lemon (it is the most essential part of lemonade)
As life hands you lemons embrace them. As the most essential component of lemonade, realize that the lemon is a necessary evil. While lemons are sour they are also a great source of Vitamin C, and just as your immune system is boosted by Vitamin C, so too is your mind boosted by life’s challenges.
Lemons are easier to manage when you remember that you’ve been handed lemons before. They may have been a different shape, size, or color, but they were still lemons. Imagine prior experiences, the holidays for example. Maybe they haven’t always been filled with pleasant moments. As a way to cope did you find ways to distract yourself? Did you figure out a way to enjoy the company around you, in spite of any unhappy feelings? The next time the holidays rolled around, was it just a little easier to manage the way you experienced the season? Even if you don’t always realize it, you’re building your emotional immune system—one lemon at a time.
Step Two: Sweeten your lemonade with positivity.
To make good lemonade, you absolutely need to sugar it with positivity. A little positive thinking never hurt a thing, so go ahead and help yourself to all the positivity (sugar) you can stand! When you’re in a sour situation, try to think ahead. Look at the positive outcomes that will award a sweeter attitude and more positive way of thinking.
For example, preparing an entire meal for you family on Christmas Day can be frustrating and stressful, especially when your guest count goes from six to twenty unexpectedly and the meal doesn’t come out quite right. When you feel like throwing in the towel, think of the positive outcomes that will make your struggle worth it—the gratitude, the full bellies, the smiles, the laughter, the love. Consider the long term benefits too: maybe this dinner will spark a new tradition. If nothing else, it will create a memory that your family can cherish forever.
Step Three: Add water.
Dealing with sour lemons and actively trying to find sugar is tiring! You’ll tolerate lemons better when they’ve been properly watered down. Dilute your sweet and sour mixture and replenish yourself by taking breaks, engaging in self-care activities, and receiving support from those around you. Water is life-sustaining, and just as you need water to survive, you need these three things to remain psychologically healthy.
Remember you will always need time away from your problems. When you’re struggling through hard times, take a break and rest. Engage in self-care activities—planned things that you enjoy—that help you cope with stress. Some people enjoy preparing and sharing baked goods to relieve the stress. Others use movies, music, and other forms of entertainment as a release. Exercise is a healthy form of self-care that has both physical and mental benefits. The bottom line is you want to schedule time for yourself to do the things that help you unwind.
Self-care may also include spending stress-free time with people who support you. Have a one-on-one meal with someone you feel comfortable confiding in. Even if you don’t want to discuss the larger, sourer lemons in your life, use your support system to help you manage the smaller ones, like problems with childcare or feeling overwhelmed by chores around the house. Releasing these stresses gives you a little more room to cope with the larger lemons in life.
Step Four: Sit back, relax, and enjoy a tall glass of lemonade.
After you’ve chopped and squeezed your lemons and added sugar and water to the mix, it’s time to sit back and enjoy your creation. Once you’ve superseded your struggles take time to sit with them—to reflect on them, to learn from them, to grow from them. Let each sip of lemonade quench the new parts of your soul that your struggles have revealed. Drink your lemonade proudly and heartily and in spite of the knowledge that a new round of lemons is on the way. You’ve transformed lemons into lemonade before, you can and will do it again—only this time, the end product will be even sweeter.
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please contact The Stone Foundation by clicking here, or by phone at 410-296-2004.
Lauren Greenberg, MS, LGPC is a graduate of Loyola’s Counseling Practitioner Program. For three years, Lauren provided hotline crisis intervention to residents of Baltimore City. She also has experience providing counseling to students at a local college for issues including grief and loss, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, anxiety, and trauma. Her professional interests and areas of study include positive psychology, promoting social and emotional competence, and women’s issues.