milestones

Twenty-Four

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So tomorrow is my twenty-fourth birthday. If I could use one word to reflect on the year that has passed between my twenty-third birthday and now, it would be strength. I have found a strength that helps me to get back up when I fall. I have found an inner strength to do what I know I am meant to do, teach. The road to being a teacher is going to be a hard one but I know that my passion, dedication and strength will get me there.

I have also realised the importance of gratitude and appreciation of the little things that make me happy. It isn’t easy for me to be positive but I always try to think of at least three things I am grateful for each day. No matter how bad my day may be or how I feel about the direction of my life, I always try to step back and evaluate the blessings in my life rather than the imperfections.

Some days I do feel stuck, like the world is passing me by, the clock is ticking and I am no closer to getting the life I want, but I am learning now to stop, notice my negative thoughts, then change them. This is something I learned in therapy and I am starting to slowly apply it to my life.

I have to keep telling myself that my life path has its own timeline and what may take someone one year to do, may take me five, but it doesn’t matter. I strongly believe that in life ambition will lead you to success, perseverance will lead to positive actions and positivity will lead you to happiness. I remind myself on a daily basis of my goals and I always see each day as another small step towards achieving them.

My challenge for myself during the next year of my life (before I reach the grand old age of 25) is to start living in the present moment. This is something that I struggle with and is the root cause of my anxiety. With a combination of studying Buddhism, meditating and practicing yoga, I am slowly but surely on the way to learning how to be mindful and just ‘be’.

Another challenge in my path this following year will be balance. I know that when I start my teacher training in September (if I pass this maths test), I will struggle with the work-life balance. Finding time to relax and enjoy life, with the chaotic, stressful and challenging year of studying, working and learning.

Whatever happens in the 365 days between now and my twenty-fifth birthday, I hope that I find joy in the little things, I hope I learn to believe in myself more, to laugh, love and live each day with a positive attitude because life is passing me by and I don’t want to waste any more time worrying about things I can’t control or choosing to live an unhappy life or surrounding myself with people that don’t allow me to be the best version of myself.

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milestones

365 Days Of Gratitude.

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For 365 days, I have been writing down three things I am grateful for each day and it has had some surprising results.

We all know the power gratitude can have. In the darkest times, if you can find at least one thing to be grateful for, even if it is something as simple as having running water, a warm home to live in or food in your fridge, it can change your perspective entirely. This is what happened to me.

I embarked on a journey of gratitude in 2016. It turns out, it was the perfect year to do it. I have had a difficult year. I won’t go into detail but it’s been really hard to stay positive most days. I downloaded the app Gratitude Journal on my phone on the 31st of December 2015. I wanted to see if writing down three things every day I am grateful for would actually impact my wellbeing and change my perspective when experiencing bad days.

It actually worked. Each night, I would write down three things I was grateful for that day. Sometimes they were very similar – my partner’s name, home and food. However, some days I managed to write down five or even six things I am grateful for. I didn’t feel like it changed anything at first. However, after a couple of months. It started to rewire my thoughts. Reflecting on my day each night with a list of things that made me feel grateful, happy and loved made me realise that life was about the smaller things.

Whenever I got caught up in a negative spiral of I hate my job, why does this always happen to me? and why am I not going anywhere?, I adjusted my thoughts. I  remembered my list. I am grateful for my friends, my partner and my home. It instantly reminded me to be grateful for what I have and not to focus on what I don’t have.

It had such an impact on my life that I’ve decided to carry on my gratitude list into 2017. It may not work for everyone but if you feel like you need to remind yourself every day of all the amazing things you have that make your life great, then start a gratitude list.

milestones

Nothing Lasts Forever

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Credit: Jacob Munro

The thing about life that I am learning is that nothing lasts forever. I’m starting to realise that despite my best efforts, I can’t control everything that happens to me and I can’t predict what will happen in the future.

This might be easy for most people to accept, but for me, it’s hard to let go of the ideologies and expectations I have for myself and other people. My anxiety is taking over a lot these days. I thought I had control of my insecurities and worries after doing weeks of therapy but sure enough, I’m slipping back into old habits.

I sometimes wonder what I would be capable of if fear did not exist. I would be unstoppable if I didn’t have my anxiety holding me back, reminding me of everything that could go wrong in a situation and all of the bad things about the world. I try to be positive and I’m bouncing back much quicker than I used to, thanks to the therapy.

However, when something out of your control happens and throws you back into the bad situation you were in before, how do you deal with it? I got fired last week and although I hated the job with a passion and didn’t want to be there, it was keeping me financially stable. Now I feel like I’m in deep dark waters once more, trying to keep my head above the surface and feeling tired from constant effort required to keep going.

After university, I thought I had it all figured out, I wanted to be a paid writer. Now I want to go into teaching, I’m currently volunteering at a primary school once a week and will hopefully be doing more days now I don’t have my office job tying me down.

I’m exciting about the new career path but at the same time, I’m terrified. The days I’m in the school, I feel overwhelmed because it’s new but happy because it’s a place where I want to be. The days when I’m not at the school are long and sometimes I slip into depressive moods and feel like I’m going nowhere.

Nothing lasts forever. I knew the job in the office I had was going to be temporary but I didn’t expect to lose it and be forced back into unemployment. Maybe this is life’s way of pushing me in the direction of a new career? I was getting too comfortable and I needed to be vulnerable again to really go after what I want.

The problem is, I have lost my motivation. After so much rejection and disappointment, I have no burning desire any more to fight for a purpose. That’s how I feel on what I call a ‘bad day.’ On a ‘good day’ I feel positive, ready for whatever life throws at me and content with the ways things are but those days are few and far between.

I want to believe in a bright future, I only have to see beyond the grey clouds and some days this is easier than others. I’m sure I will get everything I want in life but it will take time. Life is full of tests and I believe that this is just another test, a chance for me to prove that despite how bad things get, I can find the strength to be positive and keep on going.

 

 

 

 

milestones

Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

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During the past few years, I have struggled with my mental health. I have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which means I constantly worry about everything and experience high amounts of anxiety for no reason at all. It took me a long time to accept that my anxiety was part of me, something that I couldn’t erase, something that couldn’t be ‘cured’ with a prescription of pills from the doctor.

A few months ago, when I reached a dark place with my anxiety and depression, I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. I would go days without leaving the house, I would sometimes sit and stare into space, pondering on the bad things that have happened in my life or bad things that ‘could’ happen in the future. I felt like I was trapped by my own mind, it’s a horrible feeling and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

Having an anxiety disorder is unpredictable. You may go through periods of time without any anxiety at all and then all of a sudden, it’s back and suffocating your thoughts like a dark cloud. I thought I was strong enough to battle my mental health issue on my own and convinced myself that I was ‘in control’ and my anxiety would get better over time, but it didn’t.

I had tried all of the ‘self-help’ options and nothing worked. I was crippled by anxiety, always worrying about the future or feeling sad about the past. I reached a dark place, where I thought medication was the only option for me to proceed. Then, a shining light appeared and everything changed for me. I found the strength to ask for professional help. It was a waiting game but I finally got on the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I have to be honest, I was sceptical at first. I had convinced myself that my natural way of thinking, the negative way I approach life and every situation couldn’t be reversed. After a few weeks of therapy sessions, I started to notice a change. I had unconsciously started to think more about my ‘unhelpful thinking style’ and started to rationalise with the voice in my head when negativity surfaced. The great thing about CBT is that it strips back to the bare bones of how you think, how this effects your behaviour and how you can change this in the future.

David, my therapist was amazing. He was honest, critical and helpful in our sessions. Always sending me home with ‘homework’ to do, such as thought diaries and weekly schedules, he discovered what my triggers were and how to remove them from my life. For me it was during my alone time that I experienced more anxiety and more depressive thoughts. The answer for me was to always keep myself busy and distract myself by colouring, reading, doing yoga or simply doing some meditation.

Ever since I started CBT, I managed to pull myself out of the depressive state that I found myself in for months, started to fight against my negative thoughts and made small changes in my life that were going to improve my overall wellbeing. I am going to do yoga as often as I can, learn how to meditate, practice mindfulness and make sure I find time to relax each day. I’m going to still have bad days and now I realise that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s normal to worry, as long as it doesn’t take over your life.

I feel like I am reaching a mental health milestone. I have learnt in the past few months that anxiety cannot be ‘cured’ it can only be ‘managed.’ I have discovered that if I give attention to my anxiety and say to myself that I am mentally ill or there is something wrong with me, it only fuels my negativity and it will probably erase any progress that I have made.

I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of understanding. I accepted my anxiety was a problem, I asked for help and now I no longer feel alone on this journey to achieve a positive mindset. I have a long way to go but I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of a dark tunnel of worry, insecurity, anxiety and doubt. Like a butterfly, I feel free to go anywhere I want to go and do anything I want to do. I want to believe in hope instead of fear. I want to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. My anxiety will never ‘go away’ but I’m confident that I’m now in control of how I think, how I feel and how I behave.

 

Opinion

Like My Status, Like My Life

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Photo by Tobias Dziuba on Pexels.com

Facebook is part of our daily lives, it’s a mechanical process to scroll down our newsfeed every morning and see what our friends have been up to, but do we realise the truth behind the façade? Do we have the ability to step away from the virtual world and live entirely in the real one?

Facebook has been around for a while now and it’s no surprise that it’s the most popular social media site, it is a great way to connect with friends and family that you can’t see every day, it enables us to like pages, photographs and statuses and it can keep us entertained for hours. Conversely, there is a negative side to social media and Facebook can be psychologically damaging for many reasons, entertainment can quickly turn into and addiction.

Facebook is also a false elucidation, a prism that only shows the sides of our life that we wish to share with the rest of the world. Unconsciously, we build a fictional wall, on Facebook we show the person we so badly want to be but behind the wall, a flawed person stands with many insecurities about how imperfect their life actually is.

It’s human nature to want attention, we crave it and not everyone will admit it out loud but we all want to be liked. Facebook is a platform for this. People, wait for their friends, family members and even strangers to like the events that have happened in their lives. When somebody likes our photograph or status, we get instant satisfaction. Liking a status means that somebody else, whoever that may be likes you and in that moment, that is all that matters.

Delusion is a side effect of being on Facebook. There is an unhealthy gap between reality and the online persona that we create online. We might share our engagements, the birth of our children and our new jobs on Facebook but we don’t share our deepest thoughts and feelings, we keep all the important thoughts to ourselves. There is nothing genuine about our online selves, seeing picture perfect profiles doesn’t only create bad self-esteem but can bring other negative emotions to the surface, such as jealousy, resentment and general unhappiness with our own lives.

It’s almost too easy to manipulate others and pretend to be someone that we’re not. Facebook has many advantages but its biggest disadvantage is its ability to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. Social media sites are slowly killing society, the current generation and the ones that follow will no longer know how to communicate and this is worrying to say the least. Facebook and other social media sites have substituted our need for real conversation. I’ve seen it happen, people looking down at their screens at a party because they have no social skills and no awareness of those around them.

How many Facebook friends do you have? Two hundred, three hundred maybe? The important question to ask yourself is how much do you really know about them? You might know their job status and that they have been in an on and off relationship for four years but does it go deeper than that? Do you know their biggest fears? Do you know that they bite their nails when they’re nervous or that they are unhappy with their lives? Facebook creates an illusion that you know lots of people but do you know the real person behind the online façade?

The only way to free ourselves from the grasp that Facebook has is to realise that it isn’t real and it is okay to not be liked by everyone. Facebook can be a great way to connect but don’t forget to connect with real people and live in the present moment. I too am guilty of letting Facebook turn into my whole world when really it should only be a fraction of it.

I know that Facebook is just an illusion and if people want to get to know the real me, then they should look away from my Facebook profile as it only illustrates the highlights that I choose to reveal. Facebook is a great way to document snapshots of your life but as long as you step away from the screen and see the rest of the world around you, well, I guess it won’t do you any harm in small doses. Just remember that life is happening right now, so look up from your smartphone and enjoy it.

Opinion

Change

Everyone in life is a victim of change. Some changes are good and some are bad but we all face them one way or another. I was once afraid of change, I have to admit. I liked the way my life was and I didn’t want change in my life, I was worried that it might jeopardise my happiness. I’m the typical negative thinker when it comes to any drastic changes and I know that there is other people out there that do the same. Whenever we have to make any decision we think about the positive and negative outcomes naturally but some people favour one outcome. I am ashamed to say that I favour the negative and I hate this about myself.

Whether it be starting a university, a new course with new people, scared and living alone for the first time or losing a friend that you thought would be there for you always. Whatever the change is in your life, it’s the way you deal with it reflects you as a person. If there is one thing I could change about the way my mind works it would simply be this, stop thinking negative thoughts. The first thought that came into my head when I moved away from home was – how am I going to cope? Not very positive considering it’s the biggest change that has took place in my life, so far. I have tried to change the way I look at things in life but I just can’t seem to silence the negative voice in my head. It niggles away at my self confidence, stops me from believing in myself and most importantly it doesn’t open my eyes to the opportunities that could arise in my life.

If I have any advice for anyone who is reading this or is feeling the same way I feel about change then simply think positive! It sounds difficult and trust me, it is. I wish that I could think positively rather than negatively, I would be a much better person and I strongly believe that. There are no bad choices in life, if you go down the wrong path or make a decision you shouldn’t have made, you will learn from it and use that lesson in the future. I don’t regret any of my decisions in my life so far because they have made me who I am today. I’m on a thoughtful day today. I was reliving in my head all that I have achieved in the last, lets call it a year of my life.

I’m no longer afraid of change, but the negative thoughts still swim around my mind when I think about the future. I know I have a full life ahead of me, new people to meet, new places to discover and a whole world to learn from. I have a clear picture in my mind of my future and what frightens me the most is what if the visions I imagine don’t happen? I hope that one day I can let go of the demons that pull me down, the negative way I approach decisions and changes and most of all I hope that one day, when I’m faced with a bigger change than I have faced already, I deal with it in a positive light.

In the words of James Allen.
Change your thoughts, change your life.”