Take the high road. My stomach is churning, my hands are shaking, I want to shout at the top of my lungs in a raging fit. But I will take the high road. You’ve angered me, displeased me, infuriated me. You’ve hurt me, but I will take the high road. I will not succumb to this, this destructive, heinous, conniving way of thinking and living. I feel the rage, the fury, I feel it in full force as if fire-filled blood is rushing through my veins. It’s not fair, it’s not gratifying, it’s not positive or happy and at the moment it doesn’t even feel bearable. But it’s life. This is what we must go through, this is what God has in store for us as we tread through this wearisome life on earth. This is a test, a test of our faith, a test of our character, values and righteousness. Will we succumb to these feelings, these injustices lashed upon us? We say all the right things; “think positive thoughts,” “let the feelings pass,” “spread love, positivity, and cheer,” “be the bigger person.” But in the moment it is SO hard. It feels as though no ounce of my emotion is in my favor. It’s easy. It’s easy to fight back, to yell at the top of my lungs, to dig deeper until I feel that I have conquered. But while easy it is not right. It’s not right to fight back, it’s not right to get the last word, or any combative word for that matter. This is the time, this is when I must use what God has taught me, what I have been practicing, and what I preach to others. This is the time to face the fire head on and fight it with the light, my light, God’s light. So no, I will not fight back. I will not let the burning heat of rage and fury expose itself, and one day I will not let allow this grotesque anger a space in my heart in the first place. But for now, I will learn to cope, I will learn to lead with love, and compassion. I will be the bigger person, not for the gratification of being the bigger person but for the gratification of God, for it is he who is the real judge. I will love until there is nothing left to love, and I will give until I have nothing left to give. I will look you in the eyes and smile, showering you in my thoughtful compassion. Because you deserve it. You deserve to be loved, you deserve to feel important, you deserve my empathy. We all do, no matter how wrong, how nefarious, or atrabilious you are, you deserve respect. So it is respect I will give, and love I will show. I wish the world would be a better place, I wish there were no anger, no combative thoughts, no jealousy. But who am I to wish these discrepancies away? I do not have the power to do so, however, I do have power. I have the power to make my corner of the world a better place, to surround those who wrong me with my utmost respect and patience. To change the tone, change the vibe, and cultivate a space of kindness. I give you my love, I give you my blessing and I hope that one day you can feel the burden lifted off your shoulders, and peace that I have felt in coming to terms with letting go of this anger.
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.
As some of you might know, recently I decided to take a break from the gym. While to some this might not seem like a big deal and maybe even relieving not to HAVE to workout everyday, it was a much different experience for me. I couldn’t tell you the last time I took a B R E A K. Actually, I can it was when I was obsessively working out, not eating enough and needed to stop before my health went plummeting downhill. I’ll save that story for another time. This time was different, this time was because I simply wanted to experience ME. Not the me that depends on the gym everyday, not the me on a high from working out every morning. Simply me, in all my endorphin-less glory.
So here’s the story- I started feeling super stressed with school and pressed for time to workout everyday. I took a few days off and decided maybe I’ll keep this up for a while, you know stay up a little later (studying, hanging out with friends, reading) and sleep in (meaning 8am HA). The first week was fun really, I didn’t have to wake up and meet my demanding daily 7am appointment. But then something interesting started to happen, I stopped focusing as much on my body and more on the way I felt. I ate when I was hungry and admittedly, I let myself eat “non-clean” food every once in a while. AKA PIZZA. And to be honest it felt great. I truly felt that I was tuning into my true self and not this person constantly masked by the effects of working out (good and bad). I believe there are positives and negatives to just about everything, working out included. As great as it is for the mind, body, metabolism, heart, etc. there IS a point of diminishing return. Meaning the constant pushing, mental and physical stress is doing more harm than good. While I have not been to this extreme in a few years, a break was fully warranted and FULLY beneficial.
Fast forward a few weeks and everything began to go downhill. A little back story: when I was in middle school (and a litttttle bit in high school) I used to have SEVERE anxiety in classrooms, only at that time I had no idea what anxiety was. I would be in class and when the teacher closed the door I would feel trapped. I would get myself so worked up to the point where I thought I was going to be sick. I remember having to calm myself down and continually reassure myself that I was fine, and everything was fine. The class would be over before I knew it and I would be able to bask in the fresh air of a crowded middle school hallway (not as appealing now if you ask me). Anyway…the point of this is I haven’t had that feeling in YEARS and honestly I completely forgot about those minor panic attacks until recently. Recently because it happened again. About two weeks ago I was sitting in class, I had gotten up that morning walked to Starbucks and studied for a few hours instead of going to the gym. It must have been a combination of the unmatched strength of Starbuck’s caffeine and a lack of my daily endorphin release that sent me over the edge, but it was happening. I felt a lump in my throat, sweaty palms and a sudden feeling of sickness. I couldn’t stop my thoughts. Over and over I kept thinking what is wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? I’m going to be sick. I couldn’t stop the shaking, discomfort and 100000mph thoughts racing through my head. After a mental battle with myself I got the courage to get up. I walked out of the classroom straight to the bathroom where I looked at myself, took a few deep breaths and told myself I WOULD be fine. Needless to say I didn’t learn much in class that day. What’s even worse? It started happening more. Not just in that class but in all my classes. I was constantly having to leave the room, go to the bathroom and give myself a pep talk to make it through a 50 minute lecture. What was wrong with me? As time went on I noticed various changes in my thought process, the way I felt and most apparent, my attention span.
After worsening anxiety and some contemplation I decided I needed to get back to the gym. What had changed since now and middle school? Well a lot, but one thing I know for sure is my healthy habits, particularly working out. Just a few days after being back in the gym I noticed a change in my attention span. I was able to concentrate for longer periods of time and I didn’t find myself daydreaming as frequently. Most importantly my mood shifted. I was reminded of the empowering endorphin rush I get just after a workout and how beneficial it is for my mental well-being. Not only that but WOW it feels good to sweat. My body was giving me signs that I needed to be back in the gym. I was craving that rush and quite frankly could use some release to tackle my anxiety. While a break was just what I needed at the time, it had run its course and served its use. Moral of the story- workout addiction is real. It is a problem and there CAN be too much of a good thing. Taking a break has allowed me to come back with a fresh start, a new outlook and new goals to work towards. It has taught me that there are aspects of my workout routine I need to focus on and improve. One of the most important things I have learned is the importance of a break. Taking more days off than anticipated is okay. Staying up late one night to hangout with the people you love is okay. Eating that piece of pizza and having that extra piece of chocolate is okay. If the mind isn’t healthy there is no use in focusing on the body. Working out provides me with confidence, ease, and release. It gives me something to work for and something to indulge in other than studying. The benifits of exercise are immense, any research article will tell you that. But a little time off is important too. Know your body, listen to the signs and honor yourself with whatever your needs of the day might be.
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.
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.