Every day we face battles. Some of these battles are big, some are small, some of them have to do with external things like finances and traffic, and some have to do with internal struggles like anxiety, stress and depression.
These internal battles can be stressful and scary, and sometimes they can leave us drained and feeling flat.So, what can you do to protect yourself and get a bit of breathing room when these internal battles loom?
LIFE MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU EXPECTED, BUT IT’S TIME TO START LIVING IT
Most people grow up with expectations of what their life will be, and if they don’t, society generally rings in with its own ideas about the milestones we should hit by certain ages.
But here’s the secret: life rarely goes to plan. The ‘milestones’ people are so eager to hit are either other people’s opinions about how you should live your life.In truth, you only get one life, so living it by other people’s rules will never make you happy.
If you aren’t living the life that you imagined and are spending countless hours being down on yourself because of it, it’s time to give yourself a break.
Forget all the ‘missed opportunities’ and all the “I should haves”. Regretting your life and choices won’t change them. It’s just a waste of your time and energy, and it only makes you feel bad.
Stop beating yourself up over a past that you cannot change. That will keep you frozen. You need to let that go. When you do, you will start to move again. You will begin to really live the life that you have.
Once you’ve given yourself a break, you then need to drop all the other outside expectations about what your life should be. From society, family, friends, magazines, television, etc. Then, work out what will really, truly make you happy. Once you know that, make that your goal.
SET YOURSELF A CHALLENGE
One really easy way to boost your self-confidence and mood is to set yourself a challenge and achieve it. Now this doesn’t have to be a huge challenge like climbing Mt Everest. It could be a small one like “I will walk for 30 minutes every day for the next seven days”.
Setting small goals, achieving them, then recognising that you have achieved them will work wonders for your self-esteem. It will prove to you that you really can do it and if you can do that, how many other amazing things can you achieve?
One of the best ways to keep on top of your mental health is to regularly check-in with how you are feeling. Often, we are in a deep well of depression before we even realise that we’ve been struggling.
It’s much easier to deal with a small problem than a big one. So, take time each day to just check-in with yourself. Ask yourself how you are feeling, and why you are feeling these things.
If you realise you are stressed, upset, scared or sad, you can work out ways to get some help. These could include having a coffee and a chat to your friend, going for a 30-minute brisk walk, writing in a journal or booking an appointment with a therapist.
Dealing with a minor mood change is much easier, and better for you in the long run, than remaining out of touch with yourself, and then ending up in a much worse state.
STOP PLEASING EVERYONE ELSE, AND JUST PLEASE YOURSELF
We all want to be liked, it’s human nature. It only really becomes a problem when you start to put everyone else’s needs before your own. When you sacrifice bits of yourself to keep everyone else happy. When you only feel valued if you’re getting outside validation, instead of knowing that you are worthy whether people like you or not.
Sound a bit like you?
Well it’s time to stop. People pleasing can have negative effects not just on your mental health, but your physical health as you stress, worry and work yourself into exhaustion to please others.
Tips to help you curb this habit include:
- Write a list of boundaries for yourself. These could include getting enough sleep, avoiding negative people, spending time alone. Once you have your list of what’s important for you, say no to anything that will get in the way of these boundaries.
- Remember that it’s okay for people not to like you, and for you not to like people. It doesn’t make you less of a good person for not being able to gel with someone else. Know that you are a worthwhile person regardless of what others think.
- Learn to say no. It’s okay to say no. People do it every day. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If you feel uncomfortable about saying no, put it in a way that makes you feel comfortable. You don’t need to tell lies. You could say something like “I’m sorry but I can’t do that. I’ve planned some me-time because I’ve been stressed lately”.
- It’s okay to feel guilty the first couple of times you say no. Recognise that guilt, and then let it go. You could do this by writing a list of pros and cons for your decision. It’s likely there will be a lot more pros for saying no than cons.
BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND
It’s highly likely that you would never treat your best friend with the level of negativity that you aim at yourself.
So, it’s time to be your own best friend.
How do you do this?
Simply, whenever you get down on yourself, think, would I say this to my best friend? Then stop and give yourself two compliments.
Also important in your new best friend forever (BFF) relationship is the ability to honour your own needs. Do you need a break? A massage? A night in with a book and a cup of tea. Take time to check-in with yourself and realise what it is that you need, then give yourself permission to fulfill that need.
Lastly, you will need a healthy dose of compassion for yourself. If your friend had a problem, you bring them down further. You would be compassionate and work out a way to help them. Being your own best friend means you need to turn that compassion inward and be kind to yourself.
What is it that you love doing but have always put aside as frivolous or something for a later date? Drawing? Knitting? Soccer?
Whatever it is, make now the time that you do it.
Your hobby should be just for yourself, and just because you love doing it. Give yourself a few hours a week. There are 168 hours in a week, surely you can squeeze a few out just for you.
Treat yourself. Budget a small amount each week to buy yourself little treats that have nothing to do with practicality, and everything to do with self-care. This could be a good quality chocolate, a good book, some creamy moisturiser, or a hair mask.
It doesn’t have to cost the earth, it just has to be a little bit of special to brighten your week.
START A MEMORY JAR
You have a whole store of amazing memories, but sometimes they get dampened by the darker ones.
It’s time to change the tables!
Every day for the next 30 days, write down one good memory and stick in a jar. At the end of 30 days tip them all out and read them.
The memories can be monumental, or they can be small. You will be surprised at how powerful it is to focus on positive memories, even if it is just for a few minutes a day. If you love this exercise, you can continue with your memory jar.
CUT TOXIC PEOPLE FROM YOUR LIFE
You wouldn’t sit in a room full of toxic air, would you? Then why surround yourself with toxic people? You know the ones: they manipulate you, are passive aggressive towardsyou i.e giving you silent treatment occasionally, completely ignoring you, refusing to answer any questions from you, and perhaps even refusing to acknowledge your presence randomlyso you cannot really tell whether it is deliberate or not , put you down, gossip behind your back, make you feel bad or guilty and don’t support you.
Really think about why you have them around you. What are you getting out of it? Likely you will find the answer is, very little.
Therefore, it’s time to get rid of them. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, but a few tips for kindly cutting them out of your life include:
- Set boundaries. Let these people know your boundaries. If they cross these, politely but firmly let them know they’ve crossed a line. If they continue to push you, tell them that you need a break from them. Don’t put up with their manipulation when you say this, just walk away.
- Go cold turkey. Cut off all communication. Block phone numbers, drop them from Facebook and don’t respond to emails. They’ll get the message eventually.
- If you can’t drop them all at once, set a time limit for when you won’t see them. Start with a week, then two weeks and work your way to a month. After this time, work out how you will limit future interactions.
- Spend the time that you would have with this person, hanging out or chatting with positive people in your life. The ones that support you, encourage you and care about you.
If you hurt your back, you would probably go to the doctor, take some time off work and care for it. It really should be the same for your mental health.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and often they are intertwined. So, when you start to feel yourself in mental distress, it’s time to take yourself home, to a doctor, and to take care of yourself.
Taking a small amount of time out for self-care will really help you in the long run. Often, if you deal with the issue when it first surfaces, rather than letting it fester, you can get on top of it quicker.
You wouldn’t stand in the rain on an evening with a cold, you would likely get pneumonia. The same goes for mental distress. If you feel the aches of distress, don’t make it worse by ignoring it and continuing to battle through the stress. Instead take care of yourself.
You are not your boss, or your friend, or your co-worker. Nor are you a Kardashian. You are uniquely you! And who that is, is a collection of amazing qualities and gifts.
There’s an old saying which holds true to this day: comparison is the death of joy.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
Firstly, when we compare ourselves with others we are looking at all our faults and all their wins, it’s not a fair comparison.
There are millions of people in this world who are talented, beautiful, rich, etc. You could spend your whole life comparing yourself to others and feeling bad, or you could live your life according to your rules and values.
Secondly, no two people are the same. Even genetically identical twins are different from each other. You are a total individual. What you have, from your fingerprint to your personality, your laugh, and your imagination, are completely individual. There is no comparison. You can’t compare an apple to a puppy, they are totally different things because one is a fruit and the other is an animal.
Take stock of who you are, what your gifts are, what you value in this life, what you find funny and how you measure success. Celebrate who you are, and then start living your life striving for what you believe in, and what your values are.
Once you let go of comparisons you will find your happiness levels soaring!
Take Care of Yourself and Each Other!