Sometimes I get stressed, I lash out at people I love, I talk down on myself, I compare. Sometimes I’m on top of the world, everything is going right, I’m positive and happy 24/7. Sometimes I don’t say what I really think because I’m afraid of what people might think. A lot of times I do things I don’t want to just to please other people. Contrary to many people on this platform, I’m NOT a liberal, NOT a feminist. I believe in working hard, I know I can achieve what I want and I don’t need to protest for that and that’s just what I believe, if you don’t agree that’s fine. That doesn’t mean we don’t have similar interests, hobbies, and viewpoints. And who’s to say that won’t change? I’m a college student, I haven’t lived through enough responsibility to have formulated a real political opinion. I love yoga. I meditate when I can. I need to workout everyday to feel sane. Sometimes I workout too long and study too much. I believe in God. This is who I am, I won’t apologize for that and I don’t believe it’s something I should hide. Recently I’ve taken a break from social media. I haven’t felt myself, the seasonal depression is kicking in, the anxiety is high. I’ve been thinking a lot about who I want to be and who I want around me. I don’t want this platform to be somewhere I just “show off” my life. I want it to be somewhere I am unapologetically myself. If you don’t agree with my opinions, that’s fine. But we can still be friends. We can agree to disagree and learn from each other. I don’t want to use social media for followers or to please anyone else. And in all honesty, I don’t want to put off an image of being someone I’m not. Social media is not my job, it’s not where I get my confidence. Sometimes I post everyday, sometimes I go months without it because it’s too much and I have to step away. I can’t promise I’ll only post pictures of food, or yoga, or fitness. Sometimes I go into overly-analyzed deep and thoughtful rants. It’s a work in progress, I’m a work in progress. I’m learning to use social media as a space, a place where I can share my journey, connect with like-minded people, learn and grow from others and share my ideas. I am learning to navigate this form of interaction and find that perfect balance between productivity and enjoyment. Finding community is one of the most important things in life, community lifts us up, gives us a safe place and contributes a great deal to overall wellness. I believe social media can be an amazing means of connecting and finding this community if used in the right way. I’m not saying I have all the answers, and I’m not sure if posting all of this and sharing my journey will even pay off one day. But I believe we can learn something from everything and if I can help even five people, or connect to a small group of like-minded individuals that make me feel part of a community, that’s enough for me.
When was the last time you let yourself truly relax? No, I don’t mean sit in front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn, binge on Netflix for a day, or lay around the pool for an afternoon. I’m talking about TRUE relaxation, nothingness, complete silence. Have you ever let yourself do that? Just….be. In this day and age most of us haven’t. We’re constantly surrounded by the hustle and bustle of everyday life, living in big cities, surrounded by people all day long, looking for the next big thing to do. Not to mention the biggest player of them all, SOCIAL MEDIA. Even when we do allow ourselves to be alone, are we ever really truly alone? With the advent of social media, not really.
As I have recently taken up a more serious practice of meditation, I have come to realize the benefits of silence, being in the present moment, and simply being. Not worrying about the next thing on my list, not thinking about what everyone around me is doing, and not spending countless hours looking at OTHER people’s lives on instagram/facebook etc. Don’t get me wrong, to-do lists are important, and an active, working lifestyle is a healthy part of life, but from time to time we all need a break. Allowing ourselves to take this time for silence builds stronger character, patience, and a mindful demeanor. It allows us to approach those busy and stressful situations differently. It allows us to become familiar with ourselves, our thoughts, our values and morals. There is something to be said for pure nothingness. We are often so hyper-focused on everything around us and the sensory stimuli overwhelming our lives that we forget to look inward, contemplate our own lives and enjoy time spent with ourselves. What do your thoughts sound like when you’re alone? Do you look at the glass as half full or half empty? Do you talk to yourself in an uplifting, confident way or do you talk down on yourself and belittle your unique beauty? In many cases we are unsure of these answers, we do not allow ourselves enough time spent in silence to become aware of our conscious and subconscious thoughts. Introspection is a gift, you are your own person, unique, beautifully made, and not a carbon copy ANYONE else. I believe the overwhelming stimulation that has been thrusted upon our lives has damaged our sense of independent human beings. We see these images and videos of other people and in turn we try so hard to look like them, be as successful as them, and in extreme cases-to be “them.” Why? Why do we want so badly to mirror the image of another? Why do we want to spend our lives engulfed in the DRAMA of someone else’s life? What would it look like if we spent time with ourselves, connecting to our thoughts and bettering ourselves through quiet introspection.
I’m not saying it’s easy, my own troubles with this sparked me to write this post. At times when I sit down to have time to myself my heart starts racing, my mind wondering. I feel as though this is not right, I shouldn’t be sitting alone in silence. I have a to-do list, I need to be active, I don’t have time. But once I adjust and feel comfortable with myself in the present moment I am able to reach a higher state of consciousness, turning inward and watching my thoughts as they spiral through my mind. Reaching a higher level of consciousness allows for awareness of thoughts, and eventually the ability to cultivate control over the way you think. Introspection is important and for many it is a lost (or never present) art. It doesn’t have to be a guru-yogi experience. It can be as simple as setting your phone down 30 minutes before bed and not touching it for 30 minutes after waking up in the morning, or as extreme as spending a weekend alone, out of the city with no technology or distractions. Do what works for YOU, and maintain a conscious awareness of the types of thoughts and self talk you are feeding yourself.
As a college student I feel as if my whole life is spent worrying and obsessing over my future, particularly my career. That is the point of obtaining a university education, right? I am constantly contemplating where I want to be in my career as I get older, what I need to do to get there and most importantly, what exactly I WANT to do. In all honesty, this chronic reflection and pondering drives me crazy. I will humbly admit, I am extremely dedicated to my future and the aspirations I have for my life, however I do believe there is a bit of an unhealthy cloud of anxiety following me around. I feel as if my whole life depends on my future, if I am not successful everything in my life will fall to pieces. I believe the competitive nature of modern education has implanted these thoughts in my head and left me with a permanent feeling of angst and unease.
My ultimate goal in life is to overwhelmingly depict the powerful benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. I want to shed positive light on everything and anything there is to learn about health, from the food you put into your mouth, to the products you use on your body and the atmosphere of your home. Health encompasses more than just exercise and food. Every single second of our lives has the power to be healthy or unhealthy, and is something I could spend hours, days, even weeks discussing. As I spend a copious amount of time with my head buried in books, and just about every single day stressing over achieving my goals, I lose some of the healthy qualities I so often promote. Constant stress, and anxiety is detrimental to the mind and the body (a very powerful connection) and the costs are monumental. Stress is becoming the number one cause of health problems and has yet to be addressed in conventional medicine. So what? What do we do, just let ourselves become immersed in this whirlwind of stress and say “Oh well, it’ll be worth it, I’ll be successful one day!” NO! We must take control of our health, prioritize cognitive balance, mindfulness, and a healthy mentality. I truly believe everyday is a choice, you can choose to make time for yourself, you can choose to wake up on the “right side of the bed,” and you can CHOOSE to have a healthy lifestyle in the midst of the stress and constant pressure society engulfs us in.
De-stressing looks different for everyone, there is no “ONE SIZE FITS ALL.” Experiment with different approaches-exercise, meditation, reading, cooking, spending time with loved ones, whatever makes you feel you and devoid of the stressors of everyday life. As is the case with everything in life, the first step is to acknowledge the problem, and then make a conscious decision to take action and make changes. When incorporating these habits note that everything takes time and the mind is a powerful tool. While you might not feel the benefits immediately, change IS taking place on both a conscious and subconscious level. Sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes weeks, or even months. Be patient with yourself and mindful of your choices and your thoughts.
“It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it”
I haven’t slept. Two weeks to be exact, I’ve been bombarded with the stress of finals, followed by excessive “de-stressing,” i.e. family time, late nights, lagging workouts, cheat meals, and Netflix. Yes, I push myself as hard as humanly possible throughout the semester, admittedly depriving myself of enjoyment at times, and this may be the reason for my excessive “de-stressing” as I call it. Throughout the past few weeks I have immersed myself in social media, socializing, and relaxation. While it has been a wonderful break on my drained mind, it has inevitably brought me to a stalemate. I’m stuck, I feel out of it, groggy, irritable, emotional, and malnourished. I find myself longing to just feel normal again and reevaluating what I need to do to get there. My solution; re-grounding. There are various versions of “self help,” “self medicating,” or “me time” if you will, all of which fall under my umbrella term of re-grounding. I consider myself an introverted extrovert, I love being around people and couldn’t survive without the help of my friends and family, but at times I just need some time to MYSELF. I haven’t gotten a lot of this lately, can you tell? The older I get (i.e. the more overloaded with stress I become) the less time I have for self nourishing. Sure, I workout everyday, I eat healthy, and I stick to a fairly regular sleep schedule, but with all of this in place I still need that relaxation time to stay sane. Before the overhaul of school fell into my life I had a lot of this time. I would take a night once a week and just read, or write, maybe take a bath and do some yoga. Recently these days are few and far between and now that I’m caught in this excessive relaxation stage I’m turning to these habits as a solution to the rut. I’m taking a few nights to myself to read, draw, embrace scripture, meditate and simply mindlessly listen to music. I’m turning off my social media, putting down my phone and allowing myself to nourish myself. Getting stuck in these ruts is extremely common for people today, particularly due to the constant “go! go! go!” attitude and persistent pull from social media. We’re constantly caught up in a world that is not our own and sometimes we just need some time to re-establish ourselves, re-connect to our bodies and allow ourselves to fall back into our true nature. For some people this might be a long bath on a Friday night, for others it might be a daily yoga class or picking up an old hobby. Whatever it is, I encourage you to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of this thing we call life and take some time for yourself to reestablish your sanity.
Life. It’s such a beautiful thing isn’t it? We start off young and invincible as a child, we grow excited, full of anticipation to see the world and do something with our lives, then slowly we reach an age of stress, anxiety and tension only to then return to an old age of carelessness and disinterest in most everything. This whirlwind takes us through ups and downs, and throughout it all we do everything in our power NOT to reach that final point of aging, of looking and being old.
Throughout this time we spend hours, days, months, years exerting our energy to ensure we age as gracefully as possible. Anti aging creams, surgical procedures, fitness, and healthy eating are all a part of this barricade we use to fight our physical age. But why is it that we focus SO heavily on this physical aspect? Has anyone ever thought to focus instead on what manifests on the inside? After all, it’s this beauty that lasts forever.
Recently I heard a quote that really stuck with me. It was actually in a movie, in the midst of a conversation but for some reason something about it really resonated with me.
“Inner Beauty Doesn’t Age”
This really made me think about everything that we (and I personally) do in an attempt to postpone/avoid physical aging. Yes, I eat healthy and workout and I will admit that part of that comes from motivation to look healthy. But what about the inside? Every encounter we have, every year of our life impacts the person we become, and that person stays with us forever. What would happen if we made a conscious effort each day to work on our inner beauty? The world would be a little bit of a better place in my opinion. Generosity, courage, kind heartedness, a sense of humor, these are the characteristics that stay with us for the rest of our lives. Society has molded us to into image oriented beings. There is a societal obsession with looks, beauty, sex, and fitness in the unhealthiest way. If you take a moment to think about it, some of the most beautiful people are not necessarily the most “beautiful.” The people that radiate with their big smiles, generous hearts, and courageous personalities THOSE are the most alluring people in the world. We all know that one person that can walk into a room and instantly win the heart of a crowd with their grandiose personality. They are bold, confident and captivating in such a way that their physical “imperfections” are unnoticed. These are the types of people that never age.
While the outside is still important, it does not take excessive skincare products, starvation and unhealthy exaggerations of fitness to beat the aging process and be deemed a beautiful person. It’s the inside that we should focus on crafting and strengthening. My humble advice to make the world a little bit of a better place is to practice cultivating beauty within, and be conscious of judgmental perceptions based on appearances. Remember appearances will fade but our souls are forever.
In today’s age of the millennial our society has blossomed an obsession with the health and fitness world, and with it has come a host of ever-changing fads. The most recent being Yoga and this concept of becoming a meditating, tofu eating, kombucha drinking “all is good” hippie. While I do admit it is a fad of the times and will likely come and go as it is destined, it does have a multitude of benefits if carried out to it’s fullest potential.
I decided to adopt a practice of my own just over a year ago. I was (shocker) going through a difficult time and decided I needed something to change. One day I woke up and decided to drop everything I knew about working out and instead practice yoga for one hour every morning. I saw a world of a difference, not only in my physical health but in my mind. My thoughts, feelings and outlook on life dramatically changed. While yoga may not be the answer to everyone’s pain and suffering I will elude you to everything it has done for me.
1. Cultivate Mindfulness
Whether you are overwhelmed and stressed or having a seemingly normal day just going through the motions it can be difficult to take a step back and approach situations with a sense of mindfulness. We tend to see life through our own eyes differently than everyone else. We hyper focus on situations and do not allow ourselves to look at things realistically, without expectations or judgment. When practicing yoga it is essential to be mindful of every move you make and breath you take in order to get the full benefits of your practice. As you start to do this more often it will carry over into other aspects of your life. For me personally adopting a practice of mindfulness has allowed me to look at life as a bigger picture. Instead of incessantly worrying about little things, or over evaluating situations I am mindful about the actions I take in my life and address situations with ease. I have learned to approach my life on and off the mat with breath and intention instead of judgment and anxiety.
- Just Be
When practicing yoga one of the many mantras you will hear is to practice living in the moment. When you step into a yoga studio and onto your mat you are expected to leave everything at the door and enjoy an hour to yourself. We are constantly caught up in our next task, our next meeting our next meal. Instead of harping on and obsessing over what is going to happen next or what has happened in the past we should be giving ourselves more time to just be. Just live in the moment, enjoy being where you are and who you are in that second. Yoga has taught me to let go of the idea that every action must have an outcome. I am doing something for myself, without any intentions or expectations, just to connect with my body and enjoy being me.
- Feel Accomplished
For as long as I can remember I have been searching for a sense of accomplishment. Not in a prideful sense, but in the sense that what I am doing will make me a better person, make me stronger and bring something better to my own or someone else’s life. Yoga is such an amazing practice when it comes to feeling this accomplishment. You step on your mat and forget about the rest of the world, yet when you step off you feel strong, physically expended just the right amount and mentally refreshed. Walking out of class or off your mat you have the assurance that you did something for you today and how often can we say that?
Yoga is such an amazing practice, and a habit everyone should adopt into their lives. Whether you’re a devoted marathon runner, gym junkie, businessman, or couch potato I guarantee yoga has something to offer you.
As Halloween quickly approaches we find ourselves surrounded by eerie stories, haunted houses, and some seriously menacing decorations. There is one purpose, one common thread branding this anticipated eve, and that is fear.
It’s that feeling you you get when you turn off the lights and run upstairs, the pounding in your chest when you wake up from a horrific nightmare, the racing thoughts in your mind when you get that phone call.
It is all around us yet we are constantly trying to mask it and shove it in a corner to be dealt with at a later time. For some of us it is more than a mini heart attack, or a wave of goosebumps. It engulfs our lives prohibiting us from existing to our full potential. It leads us to second guess every decision, every occurrence, fostering insecurity and a lack of motivation. We find ourselves out of touch with the now and lost in a repetitive cycle of worry. For others it’s the little fears that sneak up and hinder our success. A lot of us fear rejection, failure, and embarrassment. We fear that we are not good enough, that no matter the effort we will never live up to our expectations or reach our goals. Why do we as human beings allow these feelings to manifest in our lives? Is it simply human nature or is it the result of an ill mannered society?
It could be a little bit of both.
There are two types of fears: innate and learned. Innate fears encompass those of which we are born with. These include the fear of falling, and the fear of loud noises. Yes, these are the only two, which means every other fear is acquired from our experiences. As children we are extremely susceptible to new knowledge and behaviors. We have nothing in the way of experience in the world and that means that every occurrence has some sort of impact on our mind. Parents play a major role in this development. Seemingly insignificant events such as scolding, negative talk, and threats instill the first traces of fear in young children. Now this is not to say that parents who reprimand their children are poor parents. It is natural to lead children down the right path and astray from improper behaviors, but it is important to be aware of the emotional future they are being set up for. Moving on from childhood and into adulthood fears continue to manifest through negative experiences. When we encounter events that stimulate troublesome emotions, our mind holds onto that feeling and associates it with the specific event. This way when we are reminded of the event or faced with a similar situation the same feeling of pain is triggered, leading us into fear. Fear then becomes a survival mechanism. The fight or flight response is activated and we search for a way to avoid the discomfort we anticipate. These feelings are natural, and play out in the lives of all human beings, the true test is wether or not we are able to conquer them.
Overcoming fear is a huge and daunting task, seemingly impossible for many. Fortunately, there is a way around it. When we encounter fear we often tell ourselves to simply get over it and move on. We reassure ourselves that we are not afraid, and believe that somehow if we continue the fear will magically disappear. Hate to break it to you but it doesn’t work that way. Conquering fear is similar to learning to walk, or ride a bike. It can not be done in one simple step, it requires a series of learned strategies and tactics in order to achieve the goal.
Here are a few proactive steps you can take to move toward letting go of fear:
- Become Aware-the first step in restraining fear is to full heartedly accept it. Bring yourself to terms with the fact that you are afraid and consciously recognize what it is that you are afraid of. Remind yourself that you are not your fears.
- Find the Roots-one of the most important aspects is looking into what causes you to manifest these fearful feelings. What are you thinking when you find yourself feeling scared? Which thoughts trigger the fear? Once we are able to locate the source of fear we can then look into ways of addressing it.
- Work With Your Imagination-our subconscious mind is unable to see the difference between imagination and reality. Buddha once said “what we think we become.” Picture yourself repeatedly overcoming your fear. Use all of your power to make the experience feel as real as possible. Eventually, this will flow over into your subconscious mind.
- The Power of the Present-focus your thoughts on the present moment, do not dwell on the future or past. Center yourself. Take a deep breath and immerse your mind in the moment at hand.
- Put it in Perspective-Avoid looking at your fears through tunnel vision. We often focus too much on the negative and fail to think of all the possibilities for success.
- Focus on the Positive-Everyone has had failures. It is human nature. Instead of dwelling on failed moments think about your success. Recognize your ability to be successful and cultivate a sense of confidence.
- Prayer and Spirituality-seek refuge and comfort in your religion. Consider your belief system and address your fears in a spiritual way.
- Take Action-Take a step in the positive direction. Do something productive and worth your while, avoid sitting around and letting negativity engulf your life. Think of everything you have to be grateful for, read a book, watch an insightful documentary, release your mind of tension.
- Plan-this one can be a little difficult. Some of us are planners, we plan every minute of our lives down to the second. Others go with the flow and avoid preparation at all costs. If that’s you, ignore this one as it will do you no good. For all the planners out there, use it to your advantage to precisely work through your fears. Plan out the steps you are going to take to address your insecurities. Make a list and check each item off as you complete it.
- Just Breathe-The breath is a powerful tool. It is the key to freedom and relaxation of the mind. When you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed bring yourself back to the basics of the breath. Focus on each individual inhale and exhale, and allow your mind to find peace.
Surmounting fear takes time. Do not rush into conquering your biggest fears in a short span. It is about learning to cope with fear that will lead you to relief. Listen to yourself, focus on methods that work for you, and take action necessary to move forward in your journey.