The holiday hangover is a hangover worse than any hangover infused by alcohol. As an over 30 year old, unmarried and childless, OCD and generalized anxiety sufferer, the holidays were a reminder of how alone and inadequate I felt. I used to place tremendous pressure on myself for not being who or where I wanted to be at this point in my life - in my relationships, my career, and the amount of food and wine consumed over those few weeks. Underlying feelings of loneliness, self doubt, fear, anger and lack of self worth were overwhelmingly intoxicating to say the least.
Fortunately, this year - life has been quite different. I rediscovered the positives in life, instead of focusing on the things I don't have or things I can't change. I've been able to see my life through gratitude, joy and love and live life in the enjoyment of the present moment. Changing my perspective allowed me to attract a healthy and loving relationship with myself and gratefully, a relationship with an amazing man showed up in the process. These relationships didn't come easy and I am still on a hard road to my final destination. Yet, with some in depth self work, uncovering difficult truths and becoming familiar with accepting what is, I have developed a few useful coping strategies.
1. Call a Friend or Loved One
Have you ever felt a huge sense of relief after sharing something that is bothering you? Some times a good heart to heart is necessary and let's be serious - a good cry too. Whether it's with your mom, sibling, best friend, coworker or your pet, sharing your feelings with someone who cares allows you to recognize and call out your negativity. Revealing these emotions, releases tension and blocks that are holding you back from the happiness and joy trying to enter into your life. Having the support of loved ones, provides a sense of comfort and safety. Not only that, most times they know how to make you feel better (or at least try). Better yet, they can make you laugh and redirect thoughts your focus to happier ones. If you do not have a close support system, find a local social group that you can join such as The Mental Health Awareness Support Group. These groups specialize in dealing with those who are suffering with negative thoughts. From experience, you'll be surprised at the amount of support you can feel from a stranger who is willing to listen. If you think of someone who may be feeling the same, reach out and connect. You never know how it might shift their day or even their life.
2. Do Something You Love
One of the things that gives me the most joy is painting. Painting allows me to float away from the world for a little while, when I need to find clarity, calmness or pure joy. I'm also a fan of playing ambient music while painting, writing or focusing on a passion. It encourages my creativity to flow and my focus to be solely on the current moment. It's crucial to set time aside for the things you love. Book time in your calendar, block a couple of hours, turn off your phone and really immerse yourself in your hobby. No matter how busy your work schedule is or how many practices your kids have, finding time for your happiness is essential to your mental health. It connects you back to your inner soul and your truest self - the one that only you know. Whatever you do, give yourself time to slow down, breathe and fully enjoy what you're doing. You won't get those moments back.
3. Reading for the Soul
I cannot tell you how reading has changed my life over the past year. It may seem like a small and insignificant activity, but trust me, it will enhance your life in many ways. For an hour every night, I get into my cozy bed and open a book. The book you choose doesn't have to be the same book you continuously read every night, it does have to be one that awakens you and doesn't bore you to sleep. I have many friends who read a few paragraphs of a boring book and it helps them fall asleep faster, but I believe the opposite - choose a book that completely amuses you, takes you away from your world and transports you to another. I find when I'm anxious or feeling down, a good book can change my perspective, distract my mind, or encourage new ideas and thoughts. Most importantly, it takes my mind off the daily stress and anxiety, and calms my nerves so I'm able to rest more soundly.
4. Get Outside
When people are asked what their favourite season is, winter is likely not to top the list. Cold weather and grey days don't encourage most people to get off their warm couch, especially if they are feeling down. The struggle of putting on your winter jacket, your boots, scarf, long johns, mittens, heat packs and all your additional layers is an adventure in itself. I'll emphasize that once you're fully dressed and step outside, breathe in fresh air and feel your brain and body revitalize, the effort will be worth it. The benefits of being in nature are endless including reduction of anger, anxiety and sadness as well as inspiring the mind creatively. The exposure to nature infuses feelings of happiness and joy to not only make you feel better emotionally, but physically as well. Take your dog, husband, friend or imaginary friend and enjoy the beauty that is the earth around you. Don't worry - you will thank me, even if you do catch frost bite :)
5. Be Grateful
The new year is a time that I am able to reflect on life more than ever. Time is slower and life is quieter, which means you have the mental space to think about the past year and your experiences. I find writing a list of all the experiences and people I am grateful for in the past year, makes me happier. In addition, I write a list of all the things I will be grateful for in the new year. This allows me to start positively thinking about how I'm going to shift negative experiences into positive achievements. These positive achievements will be born out of the very things I've projected to be grateful for in the new year. As a result, I end up with my goals! Amazing, how I did that right? When you have goals, you become focused on the goals and less focused on the things that don't matter. Whether it's to repair a relationship with a coworker, enter the dating scene again, spending more time with your kids, adding self care in to your life, all of these things can be added to your grateful list. Once you complete one goal, you build momentum to keep checking them all of your list. After a few months, you'll be amazed with your success. Positive motivation at it's best!
One of the major goals I have set for myself is trust. Trust in myself, my values and in my abilities and most importantly that the universe has my back. To me, life is a game - a video game, if you will. We're all on an adventure, one with many checkpoints to pass and goals to achieve in order to move to the next level. During each level, there are key challenging tasks, fire breathing dragons, painful breakups, job loss, or loss of a loved one, a multitude of difficult lessons we need to learn. I truly believe the universe arms us with the right amour, tools and strategies to assist us in moving to the next level, if we are willing to see them. These strategies make the game of life a bit easier to conquer and move through Not only that, we will gain all of life's treasures in the process. Yet, in this game of life, you only have one - you might as well make it amazing.
Lots of love,