Last year brought some of the biggest changes in my life so far. Throughout the upheaval, I resolved to make my mental and emotional health a top priority.
However, that has not always been the case. Changing 28+ years of habits and patterns is challenging to say the least.
Up until recently, I was simply trying to do the best I could with the coping skills I had. Hint: they were not the healthiest coping strategies.
That has to change.
I’ve written before about going to therapy and living with anxiety. Anxiety can be isolating and I find that reaching out to others immediately improves my constitution. I hope in some way, it can help you too.
While no blog post will sum up my entire experience navigating through those challenges, I want to share two strategies that have helped me grow and work on negative patterns and habits in my life.
Deeply Feeling Hard Emotions
As humans, our natural tendency is to take the easy way. It’s a basic survival skill.
I was chatting with a new friend the other day over kombucha and pizza and she said something that lit a light in my brain (allow me to paraphrase): when I let myself actually GO THERE, to those sad, dark, hard feelings, it’s never as scary as I’m making it out to be. It’s not unbearable, I’m still alive.
The bottom line is: these feelings are survivable. The only way out is through. Our thoughts and emotions produce physical responses in our bodies, and constantly stuffing them away and not facing up to how we’re are feeling (however hard or ugly that may be) does not allow those emotions or thoughts to be released from your body. The tension just sits there under the surface, boiling, until one day someone forgets to take the trash out and all hell breaks loose. That’s not how I want to live.
Recognizing + Redirecting
It comes down to this: Recognizing toxic thought patterns and redirecting.
My inner dialogue can be the ultimate mean girl directed entirely on myself. I would never talk to others the way I talk to myself, and I’m learning to push away the negativity and show myself some compassion and care.
Treating Myself Like A Friend
I don’t have much patience with myself. I don’t allow a margin for error. Learning to treat myself with the understanding and patience I would extend towards a friend is just being a decent human being. If I’m kind and caring with others in my life, that should also include the person I spend the most time with, aka me.
What does success look like to you? Is it a certain house? Paycheck? Number of passport stamps? Making more money than your parents did?
What if success were instead focused on emotional and mental health. What are the three emotions that you feel the most often? Mine are anxiety, worthlessness, and joy. What if success looked more like feeling joy, contentment, and stability 80% of the time instead of those other awful feelings? THAT’S what success looks like. Navigating life in a healthy and sustainable way.
I hope you find these strategies helpful, as I have. But still the most important “strategy” that has made a difference in my emotional wellbeing is connection. Connecting with other people and talking through life problems. THAT is a game changer for me. I hope you take the time reach out to someone, it can work wonders.