Are you sitting around, wishing you had the life of some Instagram-famous person? Are you jealous of people who do miraculous things for their age, while you can’t seem to even keep it together for a whole week? Do you whine about your life while simultaneously doing nothing about it? Don’t tell yourself, and all your followers, “the Universe has a plan for me”, or “The Universe has a way of working this stuff out”.
The Universe doesn’t give a shit about you. It’s not looking out for you. It’s not sending you signs. It’s not going to make things happen for you.
You are going to make things happen for you.
How do I know? Because I’ve been there too–and this is your wake-up call.
I’ve been in that position of feeling uninspired, in a rut, and lamenting how I’m stuck running in place, while my peers seem to be doing laps around me. I love to wallow in self-pity about it, too. It feels so good. I love to bemoan my current situation and feel frustrated at my shortcomings. It’s certainly easier than actually putting in any real effort to change. And that’s okay. It’s okay to feel lost and unsure. It’s okay to be mad at yourself.
But don’t drag the fucking Universe into this.
The Universe isn’t going to apply to college for you. It’s not going to get you that dream job you want. It’s not going to keep persisting when you’re grinding out the hard work every day. If you want to credit the cosmos and believe all things work out in the end, that’s great, but you need to credit yourself, too. You put all the work out there into the Universe and are getting it back because you deserve it–not because of some random chance or because it’s the Universe’s will for you.
It’s one thing to believe in a higher power or the supernatural. It’s another to shrug and say, “Things will fall into place,” or “The Universe has a plan for me”. Yeah, girl, it might–but you’re going to have to actually execute it. Believing in something more than yourself or being a spiritual person isn’t an excuse to slack off, and it’s certainly not to blame when things don’t go exactly as you thought.
I want to empower you and inspire you to do the things you want to do, the things you need to do, and the ugly things you don’t even want to think about. Because you’re capable, you’re resilient, you’re tenacious. You can do those things you dream of–and you don’t even need the approval of the Universe to begin.
I’ve worked a variety of jobs over the past 14 years, over 30 last time I counted. Since the age of 16, I’ve had jobs in retail, food service, mail rooms, corporate offices, and now IT. A lot of these jobs sucked. Jobs that paid too low to work for managers that were too high up on their proverbial horses. Toxic environments, bad scheduling, lack of policies, or lack of enforcing of existing policies, feeling like you couldn’t go to HR about things (or when you did, nothing changed). I admit that I hastily left some of these jobs in my impulsive youth, but objectively, many of them were challenging positions that were draining on both physical and mental health.
Despite those negatives, I noticed many of my fellow employees stayed for years. You will run into them at any job, no matter the type. I’ve talked to the veterans of a company, who agreed that the systems were inefficient, or that management didn’t hold anyone accountable, or that the general culture was lacking passion or enthusiasm for the job. But they didn’t want to leave because “the money is too good”, or “I need the health insurance”, or “I like my schedule here”. They loved to complain, but they loved those benefits more. I got a lot of excuses like that at multiple companies, from multiple people. Some of that goes into the fear of change, but it turns out quite a few people are happy just making a paycheck and going home.
I need to pay my rent, too, but I won’t stick around a crappy job for them. To me, a job should be more than just the benefits you get out of them. I like to feel a satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from what I do. I enjoy helping others, being in a bright, positive environment, feeling like I have the resources from my managers to do so, while solving problems, maintaining my autonomy, and having the right people around me.
In short, I crave purpose.
Humans, as a whole, seek purpose because it’s key to finding fulfillment. When we lack it, we feel directionless and lost. When we have it, we are confident, motivated, and more relaxed. Everything falls into place.
Having purpose is such a universal human experience, and yet, in my 14 years of employment history, I have found that many, if not a large majority, of my coworkers did not seek purpose.
At least, not in their job. Your paycheck doesn’t have to be your purpose, though some absolutely see providing for their family and paying bills as the utmost valuable thing they could do–and I see you. I am not driven that way, but I admire you.
What if you’re one of those lost, wandering souls, still looking for your purpose? Should you pursue a degree in a field you’re passionate about? Or look for fancy job titles and high-level positions at your most desired companies? Well, yeah, you absolutely could, if you want. But, it’s not a universal answer to finding your purpose.
I met a cleaning lady from Venezuela at my college who was dirt poor and barely spoke English, but she was so passionate about doing a good job as a janitor and getting to interact with people on a daily basis. She was a light in everyone’s life. She didn’t have a college degree, or a high school diploma, for that matter, but she loved what she did. She said that she loved doing this for the young people and being able to make a difference at the school.
That’s the kind of passion I’m talking about. It’s not tied to a job, but for her, it certainly was, regardless of whether it was a glamorous or prestigious position.
So, is it just finding something you’re good at then and like doing? I think that’s important, too, but it’s still only part of the story.
The important thing about finding purpose is finding something that you feel passion for, that you feel you belong to. It’s a cause, field, hobby, or industry that you feel needs you. It’s better for having you in it, and you’re better for having it, too.
How do you find your purpose? Well, that could be an entire article by itself. In fact, Google is full of them! Amazon, likewise, has tons of books on the topic that you can get for relatively cheap. Maybe I’ll write a post full of resources on this topic, but for now I’ll say this: you’ll know your purpose when you see it.
The amazing thing about not knowing what to do with your life is that you can do whatever you want! It’s so freeing. You can write a book, write a movie, be a counselor; advocate for an oppressed, victimized, or minority group; work with kids, work with animals, work with the elderly, learn to make or build something, be crafty, be YOU.
It can be your job. It can be your side hustle. It can be on a volunteer basis. It can be your hobby that no one knows about but you.
The best way to find out is to do. What do you care about? What gives you light? What are your values? Think about options that tick those boxes and find a way to incorporate it into your life. It may require a bit of sacrifice and rearranging of priorities, but it’s well worth it. I had to cut down on video games to make room for more writing. I do not regret it. We make time for the things we care about most. This is worth the space on your agenda!
If you’re still not sure what answers those questions, then try some things! What are your friends into? Can you try it out with them at a class or workshop? Can they introduce it to you and teach you about it? Look into niche subreddits on Reddit and see what it’s like to get into gardening or woodworking or video editing. It might draw your attention in more, or you might realize it’s not for you at all.
You’ll know it when you feel it. It’ll be what gets you excited. Working at a place that meets all my criteria would be a great way to serve my purpose and feel fulfilled, but if it’s just tolerable while I put my heart into my passion on the side–that’s fine, too.
Have you found a purpose in life? How did you know?
Humans are hard-wired to resist change. Our brains process a life-changing event, like a new job, a big move across country, or news of pregnancy, as being so unsettling that it registers as an error that needs to be corrected. Even when it’s a change that we desired and took weeks, even months to plan, we experience this fear. It may explain why the “cold feet” phenomenon happens to people right before their weddings. The nervous feeling in the pit of the stomach seems inevitable, regardless of intentions or planning.
What is it about change that we fear?
Think about a change in your life, especially a positive one, that you have made and all the steps it took. Moving across country, finding a new job, going back to college, getting married. There was probably a moment where you felt doubt or fear. Why? Can you put your finger on it?
Sometimes we just fear the unknown and hate the thought of leaving our old life, our old friends, our old habits behind. Sometimes, it’s just a mourning of that lost life in favor of a new one, no matter how bright and shiny its appeal was in the beginning. Sometimes, we know it’s the right choice and feel nervous or scared anyway. Our brains don’t like the unfamiliar.
It doesn’t matter that humans as a species are adaptable. It doesn’t matter that you’ve spent careful thought and consideration to make this choice and recognize that it’s good for you. We like the comfort of routine and that feels safe. A disruption of that, large or small, feels uncertain and scary.
Afraid to even try
What about the changes you’ve thought about, and know you want to make, like starting a new exercise plan, or pursuing a new career, but you just can’t pull the trigger? What are some of the reasons why you can’t?
“I don’t have the time”, “I’m too tired”, “I can’t afford the gym”, “I need to pay off this debt first”, “I’m not qualified for these jobs”, “I like my schedule at the current place”, “I know how the system works here”.
Do you recognize these for what they are? None of the above reasons are legitimate. Really, you don’t have the time to exercise? Even though it’s something you say you want and you know would be good for you, and you talk to your friends who work out and say things like, “I’m so jealous. I wish I could work out!” What’s stopping you?
We make time for the things that matter most to us. Time is usually the biggest bullshit excuse for not doing something in the world. This year, I decided I wanted to change my priorities. In doing that, I had to look at my own schedule and current priorities and how it reflected with my new goals. I didn’t think I had the time, but I really did. I just spent a lot of it playing video games. The reality here was that I didn’t want to give up that time. I liked doing it, and felt I’d be giving up “too much” if I only spent an hour playing instead of four. That statement is laughably dumb now. Four hours of video games was not getting me closer to where I wanted to be in life.
How to make the change
I encourage you to pull the trigger on the new workout routine, writing your novel, a new career path, starting a family, going back to school, getting your pilot’s license, starting your new business, pursuing your dream/hobby/goal–whatever it is! If something is calling you, but you’re too afraid of the change (or afraid to fail), here’s some scientifically-proven starter tips:
Write down an affirmation related to this goal. Something tangible you can refer to and say, “this is why I want to do this. This is why I’m going through this scary stuff.” If you’re that passionate about it, you’ll continue to feel inspired. Make a vision board, if you’re more visually-motivated.
Assess your current priorities. Not what you actually value, not what you dream of–where your time is currently going. As stated above, my goals and actual real-life priorities did not match up. I noticed video games were a time sink and I made the necessary adjustment. I didn’t quit them; I adjusted how much I played. I’m also prone to surfing social media even though it makes me feel like crap, time-and-time again. What is in your current routine that doesn’t sync up with your long-term goals or dreams? What’s taking up your time that you can get rid of or cut down?
Cut through your other BS excuses. Working out is a good example. Saying the gym is too expensive or that you don’t have any equipment at home is just a fancy excuse. YouTube is full of free workout videos, including ones that don’t need weights or any other materials. I also encourage you to give yoga a try. They have styles for building strength, building flexibility, or for weight loss. I use a blanket, not even a real yoga mat. No equipment, no gym fees, no excuses!
Find a mentor. It doesn’t have to be a real life coach that you meet up with, but it does help to have someone you can go to when you need advice and support. I use the term mentor because I find it helpful to seek out people who have done what you’re doing and been through what you’ve been through. If you have a great support system already, that’s awesome. But it is so amazingly validating and fulfilling to speak to someone who has been through what you’re going through, or about to go through. It can be online, with a total stranger. I’m such a big advocate of online forums. It’s a great way to get myriad opinions and backgrounds, while maintaining the comforting, introverted buffer of the internet.
Get started, even if it’s not perfect.You don’t have to have every step in place. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge. There won’t always be details that you can flesh out to the very end. You won’t always know everything at the beginning. Sometimes you just need to get in, get the experience, and fall back on that mentor of yours when you run into a wall. And hey, that first step is usually the hardest anyway. You may be relieved at how it feels to just go for it.
I hope you go for the change you’ve been wanting. I hope everything works out the way you want.
What is it that you want to do but are too afraid to start? What has been holding you back?
I played Super Mario Bros. on SNES when I was a kid. I played it over and over for years. I had Donkey Kong Country I and II, Tiny Tunes, and a couple of Disney games. That’s all I needed. As a teenager, my experience with gaming was racing games on the original PlayStation and Tomb Raider II, which I never beat. I didn’t touch any more games until a few years ago when Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare II introduced me to shooters…sort of.
From there, it was my gateway game into Overwatch, then Titanfall 2, Battlefield One, Horizon Zero Dawn, Destiny 2, Monster Hunter World, and beyond. I still play today, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to quit this time. Starting at 28 though, I struggle with issues that other gamers mastered years ago–aiming, reflexes, understanding game designs and mechanics without in-depth tutorials, not getting nauseous when I’d switch from a third-person perspective in one game to a first-person POV in another.
However, I maintain it as one of my favorite activities to do, despite maybe not being the best player ever. The experience has been exciting and rewarding. I also realized that you could take away many life lessons from it, if you really looked.
Here’s what video games have taught me.
I’ve heard this one is a virtue. Also, something about good things come to those who wait? It’s because the early bird catches the worm. Ah! I can’t stop talking in cliches! Video games require a certain level of patience for a variety of different aspects. Learning fighting combos, battling difficult bosses, or navigating a jumping puzzle will teach you in a hurry to slow down and accept your fate. If you want to succeed, you have to be patient. Angry fits of frustration rarely make it happen any faster (that hasn’t stopped me from trying that route a time or two).
It’s a good skill to have in life, too. Take your time when doing important things. After all, haste makes waste. Ah! I’m doing it again. But I do have to remember patience when I’m trying to rush through something. I’ve seen the sloppy results of my rushing, and it’s not pretty. I also do this with BIG IMPORTANT LIFE DECISIONS that I should definitely take my time on. I just like to have things marked off as done, instead of waiting around. I have to remind myself that it’s not just “waiting” around though. Being patient can help you make a better decision and help you tune into your rational side, if you’re prone to impulsiveness like me.
I’ve also had to apply this to my mental health. For example, using a DBT skill or a breathing exercise for the 1000th time. It feels so repetitive sometimes and it’s hard to feel like it’s working. Just remember: it’s not about mastery; it’s about maintenance.
You don’t need to have everything figured out
When I picked up a certain popular, massive RPG for the first time (The Witcher 3), I was intimidated by the overwhelming amount of things to explore and do. It deterred me enough to put the game down. I feared I had done it wrong up to that point and had missed out on something. I later watched a video that said not to worry about some of those bigger things and just enjoy the game until you level up. It made me feel so relieved. Why did I focus so hard on having everything perfect, instead of just playing?
This correlates perfectly to the same feeling I get in my life–planning my career, figuring out meal prep, wanting to have a linear progression for mental health recovery. Like that same video game though, I don’t have to have it all figured out. I don’t have to have the perfect resume or portfolio before I allow myself to start applying to dream jobs. I don’t need to have blogger mom-style meal plans and Pinterest boards full of ideas to go grocery shopping. Things just do not have to be perfect in order to get started and to reap the benefits.
I’m detail-oriented, but I like to look at the big picture. Maybe too much. You can take that first step, even if you’re not sure what the whole picture looks like. Ah! Now I’m just mixing metaphors.
Don’t forget to have fun!
I admit I struggle to have fun playing video games sometimes. I play to win and to be good at the game. I’m very focused on my personal stats because that’s what being good at the game is to me. That’s what having fun is to me: empirical data with a measurable way to improve. So when I do poorly, I don’t enjoy playing so much. And if I’m not enjoying it, what’s the point in playing?
That’s when I have to change my approach. Do something less serious. Go work on my form in a practice area. Take a moment to chill out. I don’t want to play if I’m not having fun.
I think life should be similar. Not the exact same. Like, don’t go quit your job because it’s not fun or fulfilling. You still need that. But start looking for a new one! Build skills for a job that you really want, even if you have to do that on the side for awhile. Keep your dreams alive. Say yes to more fun things. Say no to more things that weigh you down. Don’t do everything out of obligation, instead pick and choose what’s worth your time.
If people judge you or criticize you for not being a “team player” or being too selfish, remember that this is your boundaries and mental health at stake, not theirs (if you’re accused of not being a team player in a video game though, probably should listen to that a bit). You are not responsible for everyone else’s problems or feelings. It’s a crazy concept for someone like me, who took years of adulthood to figure out to put my needs first. It’s not selfish; it’s self-care. You can take care of your needs, while also being a compassionate, empathetic person. It’s about boundaries. That doesn’t sound like “fun”, but it helps you set limits for yourself and it can help you create parameters for yourself to make more time for things you enjoy.
That’s right. You can order yourself to have fun.
Know who to talk to
Knowing the right NPC to speak to can literally be a game changer. It can move the story along or give you valuable items, completely changing the course of the game. I admit I’ve been stumped while playing a game until I realized I needed to speak to the right person or do something in a specific order, in just the right way, to get it done.
You should also know who to talk to in life. Know when to ask help, know when to reach out, know who your resources are. It feels awkward and uncomfortable. This big ole world feels small and lonely far too often. But you do have those who care and who will listen and support you. There’s always internet strangers in various forums all over the world, too, right at your fingertips. It can feel weird to just reach out to someone and say, “Hey, I need to talk to someone,” especially if you don’t feel like any of your friends are “that kind of friend”. So the internet is a perfect solution to this problem! I’ve used it myself many times.
This can be applied to other things as well. Knowing who to talk to you at your job when you want to move up the ladder or get a raise. Or perhaps, like me, you fancied a career change and you needed outward advice and opinions on what to do next. You would ask people who are in that field or who have made similar moves and seem knowledgeable about the job market as a whole.
It all comes down to knowing who is in your corner. I’ve found it useful to communicate with people on Twitter, as I’m learning the blogging world and what’s “meta”. Just like I do on Reddit when I’m learning a new game.
All that matters is you get through it and you enjoy it
My boyfriend has told me repeatedly that a game he loves, Bioshock, would be enjoyable to me even if I played it on “easy” mode. Playing on easy is sort of taboo among hardcore gamers because it means you didn’t earn your way through it properly. It’s almost seen as cheating because you aren’t of the same skill level as other people. To this, my boyfriend offered: “The point of the game is to have fun. If you have to do it on easy, then who cares? It’s a video game. That’s what it’s for.” He’s right. I hold myself to such high standards when gaming (as I mentioned) and I hate using any crutches or advantages that might make me look less legit. But what he said about this really clicked with me.
Similar to the point about having fun, all that matters about your choices in life is that you’re getting through it and doing what you want.
You don’t have to do things “the right way”, like I mentioned above. You don’t have to do what you don’t want to do, just because you think you should.
This is your life. You can do or not do what you want. Your decisions are not set in stone. It is not too late. You’re not too old. It’s not impossible.
I say this not as some successful career person who has had an illustrious life filled with amazing adventures and meaningful endeavors. I’ve been here and there. I’ve made good choices and really, really bad ones. I’ve done things I’m proud of, and seemingly far too many things I regret. Nothing really sticks for too long, it seems. I find somewhere I belong and then I’m gone when it no longer fits me. I haven’t let that stop me from having a passion, from having goals. I still cherish experiences and connections above all else, and I can look at those moments from my past and present life as things that warm my soul the way nothing else can.
I sometimes do feel like it’s all over. It’s too late. I suck at life. Wallowing in that sentiment will not help me feel better about it. It won’t change anything. I try to focus on the positive, great memories, while also keeping my eyes firmly on the future. I am always in the pursuit of that which fulfills and enriches my life. From people and connections, to experiences and events, to passions and hobbies.
That’s what my 2019 is going to be about–people, passions, and a lot more video games.
In my pursuit for better mental health, I’ve found a lot of self-help and recovery resources that recommend comforting activities for when you’re having intensely negative emotions or massive anxiety. The purpose is to calm you down and distract you from the negative or uncomfortable situation. I’ve also seen mental health tips like, “do something that you love” or “take up a hobby,” to encourage emotional happiness and decrease stress.
These both sound great and all, but it can be frustrating if you don’t see any practical application, or if the given examples don’t actually do anything for you.
When I tried to create my own list of comfort activities and pleasure activities, I realized that I was confusing comfort and pleasure. I’m not very good at self-care, and it became difficult to connect to someone else’s generic list, much less find the difference between comfort and pleasure. I decided to sort out the differences so that, when I needed it, I’d engage with the proper self-care technique.
So in order to better serve my mental health, I have to distinguish between comfort and pleasure. It looks something like this:
Comfort is soothing, distraction, calming, and healing
While it can certainly be enjoyable, the main benefit is that it is soothing and calming. It will both comfort me and distract me from any harmful stimuli (especially negative thoughts). Something can be distracting, like Facebook, but not necessarily comforting though. Or it may be comforting to stay in pajamas and underneath the covers, but that isn’t distracting you or helping you with your difficult situation.
I also realized that other people’s definition of comfort, like reading a book, might not match mine. I had to figure out from experience what things actually calm me and heal me.
Some comforting things to me would be:
Listening to soothing, relaxing music (smooth/chill EDM is my go-to)
Tactile comforts like playing with kinetic sand or a fidget cube
Funny videos, especially stand-up comedy (maybe not classically comforting, but laughter is good for the soul, and it can change my mood so quickly)
Lighting a nice-smelling candle
The smell of printed magazines or books, speaking of nice-smelling things
Taking a bath with Epsom salt or Eucalyptus oil
Using face masks–i like to feel clean and taken care of
Opening the blinds during a sunny day or stepping outside for a moment to absorb some sunlight
Going on a walk, if I’m able to
Looking at the stars/galaxies (outside or pictures online)
Pleasure is fun, enjoyable, rewarding, exciting, and enriching
Like I said before, pleasure and comfort can cross paths, but the main benefit of seeking pleasurable or enjoyable activities is ultimately about increasing happiness. Seeking hobbies and interests which you’re passionate about gives your life purpose and fulfillment–or they can just be an enjoyable way to unwind and have fun.
Here are the activities that really get my blood pumping:
Music – especially listening through a good pair of headphones or a nice speaker, while I do chores or some other mindless tasks with my hands
Connecting with people who make my heart happy, who make me laugh, who really get me
Playing video games
Learning new things
Making videos/short films to tell the stories I envision
When to Use These Activities
Now that I know the difference, here is how I like to utilize the items in each category:
Being upset or sad
Feeling listless or restless
Being in a rut
What are some things on your comfort list or pleasure list?
“I hate drama,”I tell my friend, dramatically. “I’m just a chill kind of person” (I’m not). “I just can’t stand all the negativity around here,” I tell another friend on another day. “It’s just so awful. No one knows how to do their damn job!” I keep complaining and slowly lose the will to give anything beyond like 60% effort. “Have you heard about ole what’s-her-name? She did something subjectively terrible, and even though I don’t even know her, I’m going to judge her harshly and say nasty things about her. Yeah, she’s the worst. I’ve never made any mistakes.”
While this fake dialogue may be just slightly dramatized, it does represent a problem I’ve noticed with myself. Far too much negativity. I’ve been the reason someone has rolled their eyes. I’ve been the person that maybe has been avoided because of my attitude. I’ve been guilty of being the type of person I complain about.
Venting and complaining are necessary outlets and I engage in them frequently. However, I’m still victim to my own feedback loop of commiserating and the “high” it produces. After all, dopamine doesn’t care if it’s a positive or negative emotion.
So what’s the answer? Be positive and happy and shit, right? Wrong. I think the opposite of negativity and toxicity is empathy and compassion. Understanding where someone else is coming from before writing them off as a fuck up. The ole “walk a mile in their shoes before you judge” kind of thing. I certainly know I’d like some empathy if the situation were reversed.
I think I’m a pretty empathetic person in general, but why is it at work, or with family, or with close friends, I can be so negative and judgmental? Shouldn’t I cut people some slack, especially those I am closest to or those I’m around the most?
That’s what I’m working on. Empathy when I want to complain. Saying something nice, when I want to say something mean. Not saying anything when I can’t be nice (there’s an old adage in that statement, too). I’m obviously completely imperfect at this, but it’s a start. I’m aware of it now, at least, and I’ll keep getting better.
Are you guilty of being toxic sometimes? What do you do about it?
I am afraid of fear itself. I’m afraid to feel negative emotions in any situation whatsoever, afraid to encounter something that I can’t handle, afraid to face the unknown–I fear anything that I think might make me feel afraid of any of these things. That should be anxiety’s mantra: already afraid, so you don’t have to be.
There are many sources now that show how facing your fears can actually help reduce anxiety. It’s called exposure therapy. It’s proving to your brain that there actually isn’t a threat when you’re safely secure on a bridge, looking down. It’s showing you that you can get through a crowded DMV and handle your business there without having a breakdown. It’s putting fear back in its place for things that are actually threats to your well-being.
So what fears have you faced recently? Here’s some of mine.
Drove to Kansas City (8 hours away) for a gig in a highly competitive industry for little money to do a high-pressure job during a huge event.
On a number of occasions, I was able to address issues with coworkers without lashing out in anger or cowering behind guilt and shame for feeling how I felt.
Was able to ask for help at work and not feel afraid, or if I did feel afraid, I stood my ground to get answers/clarification in order to properly do important tasks.
Moved into a new place that I had never seen with roommates I didn’t know due to an immediate need for moving out of my old place
New living situation has forced me to reevaluate my expenses and work harder to keep up. It’s extremely intimidating and I put off this change for a long time due to fear.
Initiated friendly conversations with strangers.
Made calls that I needed to make, to leasing offices, to renters, to doctor’s offices, to customer service help desks.
Spoke up when my order wasn’t quite right.
Asked for help with a couple of things in my personal life that were difficult to ask.
These are just a few of the fears I faced. Some are specific and only happened once, while others are broad and recurring. The ones that I had to face multiple times lead to me mastering that fear and I never had to feel–oh, wait, no. That’s not how that works. I still feel fear. I’m still an anxious person. I probably always will be.
That’s the biggest thing I learned. Facing my fears, even a list like this that I’m proud of, didn’t make me some master of conquering my fears. I’m not a whole new person who courageously knocks down every obstacle that comes up because I feel no fear. Rather, I learned how to handle scary situations, despite the fear. I can survive even with the knot in my stomach, even when my heart races, even when I feel the pull of dread dragging me the opposite way. That’s what bravery is–not the absence of fear, but standing up to the challenge in spite of it.
I’m already looking forward to 2019. By that, I don’t mean I’m eagerly anticipating it. I have my sights set on the future. In 2019, I will be in a new apartment with new goals. A sudden change in my life forced me to change my perspective. It shattered me at first, but I bounced back and now have taken a good, long look at myself.
Therefore, I’m focusing on what my priorities are–and figuring out what they even are now. I feel like I’ve sort of lost myself along the way and though I’ve attempted many times to right the ship with minimal success, this change in my life is forcing me to follow through. I refuse to just be swept up in the madness of all these transitions. I can still enjoy myself and fulfill my desires.
So if you want to reflect on yourself and what you want for your future, you can use these points that I used!
What Gives You Light
This is about what makes you “you”–something that both gives you contentment and peace, but also energizes you with passion and fire. For me, it’s connecting with others, usually one-on-one, or in small groups, either over a common interest or career field or through a good chat and a laugh. It also gives me light to help others/benefit the world in some way, most prominently through volunteering.
Commit to doing what gives you light, even if it’s the smallest opportunity.
Self-care for me, like I imagine it is for many others, is difficult. I didn’t really “get it”. I thought it was about pampering yourself and living up the “treat yourself” motto. To a degree, it can be. But it’s all about what works for you. At first, I didn’t know how to take care of myself. It was a startling realization that I didn’t know what truly relaxed me and nourished my soul. There’s quite a difference between things you enjoy and things that are good for your physical or mental health.
For instance, while I love to write and have several fictional works that I enjoy writing, it doesn’t relax me or make me feel “taken care of”. Accomplished? Sure. Excited about possibilities? Absolutely. It’s fulfilling, but not exactly nourishing. However, I found that I love baths and face masks. Simple, relaxing, rejuvenating. I enjoy being outside, too, even if it’s just for a light walk. Listening to music is another tactic I use to just zone out and decompress.
This kind of self-care can put you in the right frame of mind to continue on with your day, especially if you feel frazzled or overwhelmed. It’s also a great way to wrap up a busy and full day. You just have to find the right way to take care of your mind, body, and soul.
This one is less fun, but it keeps in perspective what you can do to grow and change. It may not be your favorite thing to reflect on, but it’s necessary sometimes. There are plenty of workbooks and resources online to help you tackle almost any issue, like self-confidence, self-esteem, anger management, or establishing healthy boundaries. I also find going to specialized forums helpful, too, because you get a lot of great anecdotes and personal advice. I especially like the ones that are mental illness-specific.
I literally have a list of hobbies and interests in one of my journals. It’s important for me to see it in writing so that I “remember who I am”, so to speak. I tend to get swept up in stress or depression and drift along. It’s nice to remember the things that are fun for me or interest me because honestly, the haze of a mental illness can make you forget so much. Sometimes I search for classes or workshops regarding that interest, other times I will look up videos, as appropriate. It doesn’t mean I’ll pursue it, but it’s fun to learn more about it, at least, and see the possibilities. If it’s a hobby I can personally engage in, of course, spending time actually doing it can make me feel more connected to myself and overall more fulfilled.
My big obstacle here is mental and physical energy. It’s in short supply lately. Surprisingly, the list is comforting. It’s nice to know those things will be there for me when I’m able.
Taking all the above into consideration, what are my priorities? The facts for me are as follows:
I’m moving (which is super stressful and very involved)
I have little energy when I’m home
I do know what I like to do, what fulfills me, what nourishes me, and what I need to work on
So with all this in mind, what is feasible for me in order to feel more rejuvenated, more connected, more alive, even during a time of stress?
Start volunteering again, even a very minimal commitment.
Make one “friend date” and go through with it before making any other social plans
Make more of an effort to connect and network online with other mental health bloggers
That’s it. These are the small, short-term goals I’ve decided to make for myself. Anything else is a bonus. But these are the things I can work toward in my current state, without feeling overwhelmed by all the things I should or could be doing.
I’ve certainly had my ups and downs this year. I just hope I can make the ups last a little longer next year.
I have stumbled upon a mental crisis. I’m talking deep, dark place, code red, talk me off the ledge crisis. Thankfully, I didn’t do anything destructive or harmful, aside from some yelling. What pulled me back down to earth a little from my downward spiral was the thought that if someone else were in this crisis, I’m sure I’d piece together some solid advice to at least help them de-escalate. I figured I should do the same for myself.
This is a guide for a time of crisis, when you feel overwhelmed or pushed to your limit, where you think you might break something, hurt yourself, or just scream and cry and wish for the cold, eternal embrace of death.
How to Deal with a Mental Crisis
Seriously, just cry a lot when you need to. Let it out.
Embrace any and all emotions, like a wave washing over you. Don’t hide from them or repress them. In fact, listen to music that enhances this feeling. Angry music, melancholy music, whatever underscores that emotion.
Can’t solve your problem immediately? Drink a lot of water. Like chug a bunch. Yay, you’ve accomplished one good thing!
Speaking of water, splashing your face with cold tap water is very effective at helping you reset your emotions temporarily. There’s something about the shock of cold water that just recalibrates your brain. It’s science.
Reach out to someone, if you can. Maybe you don’t have a ton of close friends, like me, and you feel awkward reaching out to someone and saying “hey, I’m struggling. Can I talk to you about this?” If it’s too uncomfortable and you don’t feel like you can do it with your current friend group, there are plenty of internet strangers willing to lend a helping hand (or a listening ear). There are free chat sites available out there for talking about this sort of thing, but I’ve always found the mental health community on Tumblr to be very supportive and willing to talk to complete strangers. There are also some great specialized subreddits on Reddit and support groups on Facebook that are for specific mental illnesses. I’ve found each of those communities to also be supportive.
Distract yourself. Right now, you don’t need to have it all figured out. You need to relax and take your mind off it. Your mind and your body will be better off if you can decompress for a bit and then revisit it. You can’t solve anything when you’re tense, frustrated, overwhelmed, or on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
For me, distraction isn’t just mindless scrolling of social media on my phone. At least, that’s not positive distraction. I like to completely immerse myself in a hobby or interest, like writing or video games. I also distract myself easily by learning new things (watching a documentary or reading an article), looking up classes for things that I am interested in, even if I have no intention of going, or just playing around on vocabulary.com or Duolingo. Another good distraction is diving into some big, unpleasant task that I’ve been putting off, like cleaning out my dresser drawers or my closet (usually involves some deep cleaning, for me). Probably the best and greatest distraction though is watching something that makes me laugh. I love vine compilations especially, but a good comedy special is great, too, or an episode of my favorite show.
Finally, when you’ve done all these things, try to get some sleep. Throw on a podcast or ASMR video, if you need help. Take 3mg of Melatonin, or half of that, if you’re inclined to use sleep remedies. You can see things with a fresh perspective tomorrow. It’s that simple. There’s a reason that the phrase “sleep on it” became so popular. The brain can reorganize all the thoughts and information it received throughout the day. Maybe it all can’t be solved with sleep, but it definitely will help.
I hope you get through your crisis and feel a little better. I hope we all do.
All the way back in February, I talked about how to pull yourself out of a rut. It’s a discussion I’ve had with myself numerous times. Battling mental health problems is like repetitive like that. You think you’re on a good path and that from here on out, it’ll be smooth sailing, but the truth is, like anything, self-improvement takes discipline, consistence, and perseverance.
A few months after that post, I bought a journal to help me focus on the next step. Often times, I get lost in the muck and mire, overwhelmed by the big picture. I sometimes feel I’m drowning in the details (the devil is in them, you know) and it all feels like too much. I feel like I’d rather give up than just try.
So I started breaking it down into doable steps in my journal. I have four major categories that I like to track: mental health, physical health, careers and hobbies, and giving and helping. For each one, I write a goal, and then, what the next step would be. It’s just a practical, simple way to visualize what you can do to achieve your goal.
For example, physical health.
Goal: make a workout routine
Next Step: research yoga channels and beginner videos.
Goal: Eat healthier, plan meals Next Step: research foods to incorporate and those to avoid; look up recipes (For me, I’m going for anti-inflammatory foods).
Another example, careers and hobbies.
Goal: Secure more freelance work Next step: check all my online resources for gig listings
Goal: Spend more time doing enriching hobbies/learning skills. Next step: one lesson on Vocabulary.com, one lesson in Duolingo, two paragraphs of creative writing.
It’s all about the next step. Actually, it’s all bout doing the next step because the idea is that taking a step toward your goal will help you feel more accomplished, fulfilled, and overall happier. The doing is the hard part sometimes though. I know some of the things on my lists have sat there for months. But if I’m serious about pulling myself out of the rut, I need to continue to look at the list and push myself to do a small part for one of my goals. I’ve been better about some of the steps than others.
I encourage you to think about your goals and what your next step would be to get there, no matter how big or small. All goals look the same size when you break them down into small steps.