A few years ago, I had been attending a small, private college located in a magical town. There were a lot of ups and downs and I know that I would not be the person I am now without the experiences I had and lessons I learned during my stay. I was surrounded by beautiful people, diverse communication, and unique encounters. One of the lessons I learned would be one that completely changed my perspective on life forever.
In 2015, a few days after the new year, my friends and fellow classmates received news that someone we attended school with had passed away. It didn’t seem real. I had never experienced something so sudden and out of the blue, yet permanent. This was the first time I had experienced the death of someone so close in age to me. He was a beautiful person with so much energy and personality that none of it made sense. After months of watching those around me grieve, I came to a realization; as far as I know, I only have this one life and anything can happen at any moment.
I completely changed the course of my life. I dropped out of college the next semester and went home to focus on my mental health. Right now, I am in an entirely different place than I would have been if I kept forcing myself to live life in an unhappy and unhealthy way.
This year I challenge you to take control of your life.
I am a firm believer in fate and the idea that everything happens for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work for what you want. If you want something, go out and get it. Don’t just sit back and expect the universe to work its magic and give you everything you think you deserve. Simply sitting back and waiting for life to happen to you isn’t going to make for a very fulfilling life.
It’s okay to start small.
Sometimes what you are working toward can seem so far away, but you have to start somewhere. If you try to completely change your life all at one time, chances are, you won't make any progress. Think about where you see yourself in the future and take the necessary steps to get to that point.
Accept this life for what it has to offer.
When we do attempt to take control of our lives, things will not always go as we plan. That’s okay. Failure doesn’t mean you have to give up or that whatever you’re striving for is impossible to achieve. It just gives us an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, to get back up again, and to start over. Keep pushing yourself, no matter how many times you slip up, because the more you try to take control of your life, the closer you will be to reaching your goals.
Realize the opportunity that lies ahead of you. Be ambitious. Get excited about the goals you want to achieve. Life can be stressful. Sometimes it seems like you can’t get ahead or that when you do, something happens that knocks you back five steps. Keep thinking big. Don’t become discouraged because there is so much out there for you to experience, explore, and achieve.
Only I am in control of my life. I choose to live in the present and to the fullest. I still struggle with learning when to go with the flow and when to stand up and take control, but that’s okay. I continue to grow and learn everyday and I try to live a life that keeps me both happy and healthy because as far as we know, we only have one life to live.
This Christmas, I was fortunate enough to spend the day with beautiful people. I ate delicious food and sipped sweet wine, laughed with family and friends, and exchanged gifts with loved ones. I spent a lot of December stressing, scrambling for gifts, and planning out how I would be able to visit everyone I wanted to see during the holidays. Finally, the holiday was here and all seemed successful.
That was until the evening of Christmas when I started my car and it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to make it home. I could tell the engine was having a difficult time staying on, the lights were flickering, the check engine light was on, and there was a weird sound that I had never heard before. I became very upset because it seemed that car troubles follow me everywhere, and it wasn’t the first time my car had broken down on Christmas. Fortunately, this time I was with family and had a place to stay. The next morning, I took it to a local mechanic and had it repaired. I was relieved when it was ready by 2 in the afternoon so my boyfriend and I would both be able to make it to work.
However, the night before when all of this was happening, I did not feel so relieved. In fact, I felt defeated. I got upset because I had just gotten this car a few months ago and I have been doing everything I can to keep it in good condition. I felt frustrated with life and the unpredictability of it all. I called my dad to tell him about the unfortunate situation and he said what he always says, “Well baby, that’s life.”
Negative, scary questions were swimming around my mind until I was eventually able to fall asleep.
“Why do these situations always happen to me?”
“Why can’t I ever seem to get ahead?”
“How am I going to afford this?”
“If life is always so stressful, unpredictable, and frustrating, what’s the point of it all?”
Looking back on how I felt during the situation has made me realize I really want to work on going with the flow. Sometimes you have to take a step back. You have to remove yourself from your immediate situation and remind yourself that everything is going to be okay.
I have always felt connected to water and I think I could learn a lot about going with the flow from it. A river still flows when there is something in the way, it simply goes around the object. The currents may change direction because of the wind, but they still keep moving. Water boils when it’s hot or freezes when it’s cold, but it still exists. Water is not afraid of unpredictability or change, it simply goes with the flow.
I have a lot of intentions for the new year. I think that in order to successfully manifest these intentions, I first have to learn how to let go and not try to control all aspects. Whatever wants to leave I will let go of and whatever wants to come my way I will accept. I truly believe that 2019 has a lot to offer and I hope to experience this new year one moment at a time.
The seasons are changing, travel plans are piling, and family is visiting; the holiday season can be a particularly stressful time. If you do not take care of yourself, physically and mentally, it is going to affect your mood. Self care, in general, is extremely important to remain happy and healthy all year round, especially during the end of the year. If you would like to know more about the tips I use to remain jolly during the holiday season, please keep reading.
Take Care of Your Body
If you want to be happy and healthy mentally, you have to be happy and healthy physically. The holiday season can make it difficult to find time to go to the gym and the colder months make outdoor activities less inviting. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be the healthiest you can be during this time of year, especially considering all of the holiday goodies that are offered, but try to be active a little bit everyday.
If going to the gym or taking a class doesn’t fit in your schedule or isn’t your thing, maybe do a ten minute yoga flow at some point during your day. Try going on walks with your dog. Get some friends together to go roller skating or bowling. Something as simple as stretching once every day helps my mood stay uplifted and it also allows me time to listen to my body.
This time of year means I am always on the go and, often times, my body needs extra care. The cold weather is hard on my joints and I always seem to have a case of the sniffles. Try not to ignore the signs your body gives you. If you are feeling extra sore or you feel like you might be getting sick, go to a doctor. Do research for DIY or at-home remedies. Your body worked hard to get you to the end of the year so make sure you take care of it.
I feel it is easier to recognize when I am happy and in a good mood. However, when I am cranky, annoyed, depressed, or in any other negative mood, I don’t always realize until it seems like it’s too late. I find that trying to be mindful of my moods helps me to get out of the negative ones quicker.
For example, I know that if I haven’t eaten or slept well, I am eventually going to become cranky. Because I am mindful of this, I try to eat well and frequently enough and I try to sleep as routinely as possible. Sometimes I am unable to do so. Being a server means my hours are rather hectic and, of course, I have a life outside of work so, sometimes, an all-nighter is needed to accomplish everything. When this happens, I make sleep my number one priority. I will change plans if necessary, sleep a whole day away, do whatever it takes to get me back to the happiest and healthiest I can be.
The winter months can be especially difficult, depending on where you live, because you might spend less time in the sun. Talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement to make up for the lack of sunshine in your life. The effect it has on your mood may make a world of a difference.
Being mindful of how I spend my time and whether or not I am taking care of myself helps my mood tremendously. I also find it helpful during this season to remind myself that soon the new year will start and I will have the chance to refresh, restart, and welcome a new year.
The holiday season can be an exciting and loving time. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally will help make it more likely for you to have a have a happy, healthy, and jolly holiday season.
When I was younger and on a camping trip with my grandparents, I remember my grandfather telling me to always leave a campsite in better shape than it was when I arrived. For some reason, that stuck with me and I have always tried to keep things in order, especially among all of the chaos that life brings on a daily basis. Recently I have noticed that the more organized and purposeful I keep myself, the more motivated and successful I am able to be.
With 2018 coming to end and the new year beginning, I think it is important to declutter your life and create space. When we allow ourselves to become enveloped by the disorganization and extra clutter in our lives, we limit what we are capable of becoming. If you'd like to know more about how I remain organized and purposeful, please keep reading.
Minimalism is an interesting concept. When many people first hear the word, they believe that minimalism means having little to no materiel items. That is not the case. Living with a minimalist's mindset simply means that everything a person owns serves a purpose and is useful in their lives. That does not mean that they use every item they own every day. Obviously having a winter coat is necessary for the colder months, but you are not going to bundle up in the middle of the summer. Someone that lives a minimalist lifestyle just doesn't hold on to things they do not need or do not use.
So go through your belongings. Get rid of the things you don't use or need. Clothes, for example, was an issue for me. I held onto so much clothing that I had the intention of wearing. However, most of those items didn't flatter me and realistically, never would. Over a span of a couple of weeks, I went through my clothes and I collected items that either did not fit properly or that I did not like. Some, I was able to sell at second hand stores, while the rest, I donated. Not only did I clear up space in my drawers and closet, but now, when I go to get dressed, I see only clothing that I am excited to wear.
The same goes for everything else. Make-up, skin care, books, and other miscellaneous items I have collected over the years were just taking up space. Why was I saving a face wash that I didn't enjoy using? Why was I saving books that I had no intention of reading again? Often times, certain things hold sentimental value, but that means it has purpose. I kept my favorite books, I kept the make-up and skin care products that I use for special occasions or for times when I want to take special care of my skin, but I got rid of the things that served little to no purpose for me.
Important papers and financials
The next task for me was to go through the rather large collection of papers I had stuffed into a box. I knew that a lot of the paperwork and bills in this box were important, but I also knew a lot of it was just junk. I bought a cheap, plastic, multi-pocket folder and went through every piece of paper that had been thoughtlessly stuffed into this box. Now, things like my birth certificate, tax paperwork, diploma, and insurance information all have a safe place to be stored.
Money is a constant stress for many people. Organizing your bills and at least acknowledging them is a big step in the right direction. It can be daunting to deal with, but stuffing them in a box or letting them pile on the kitchen table only prevents you from dealing with them sooner.
A majority of people spend at least a little bit of time on social media everyday. Wouldn't you rather see people and posts that are relevant to you? Every so often, sit down and delete the people and pages that are unfamiliar to you or that do not bring positivity onto your feed. It might not seem important, but limiting what pages you like and who you follow can make a big difference in how you experience social media.
Everyone lives differently. There are some things that I don't think I could live without that another person has never even thought about once in their lives. What's important is to create a lifestyle that allows for you to grow. If you are being held down by the clutter that surrounds you, you're going to continue to drown. Do not stifle your abilities. You can't expect to move forward if you are holding onto items and junk from your past. Create space in you life for growth and possibility.
It is December and the air is crisp and chilling.
The trees stand naked and vulnerable.
The sky is overcast and gloomy.
The birds have flown south and their songs are a distant memory.
The sidewalks are hard and bare.
There are no flowers sprouting from the cracks.
The salt from the last snowfall left a chalk-white stain all over town.
People stay inside, trying to keep warm, and the streets are lonely.
This is winter.
That is to say, even the weather feels a little gray sometimes.
New Year's resolutions and intentions are exciting. While they may feel daunting or difficult, there is a sense of newness and aspiration that make them a fun way to welcome the new year.
Most of us wait until the first day of January to begin our resolutions. Why wait? Why not start early and get the snowball rolling? The holiday season can be a stressful time, so fully emerging yourself in your resolutions may not be practical, but starting to at least toy with the idea of them could make or break their success.
A lot of us make resolutions that have to do with our diets. Whether you want to cut out sweets or start going to the gym, being a healthier version of yourself is always a good idea. However, we all know that the holiday season is not necessarily the time to stop eating sweets, our busy schedules may not allow time to go to the gym, and the weather limits our options for activities like hiking or going on a bike ride. That doesn't mean you can't start working toward your goals now. Do research on what lifestyle changes are right for you. Make a schedule for how you plan on fitting workouts into your schedule. Buy some new or thrifted workout outfits. Make little changes that don't entirely take away from the joys of holiday dinners and all of the sweet desserts this time of year has to offer. Drinking more water or eating smaller portions of the food you love might seem difficult at first but will make the transition after the new year much easier.
Saving money or getting out of debt is another common resolution. Buying gifts and traveling may not make those goals easy to achieve at this time. Make a budget for yourself. Start thinking about what necessities you have to pay for like food, gas, and rent. Try to figure out how much you should put aside for personal spending. Be realistic so that you have a better chance of sticking with your budget, but if you do this now, you’ll have all of January to tweak what isn’t working. Many of us make the mistake of waiting until January which means we lose time, and in this case, money.
Instead of spending the first month setting yourself up for success, you'll have already done so. Whatever your intentions for the new year are, I hope you are able to stick with them. Get excited about the changes you plan to make after the new year and get started now.
I know it is not always easy to leave someone you love, but if you are truly meant to be together, the universe will make it happen. I know that breaking up does not mean you will never be together again, but sometimes, you both need time to learn and grow individually before you can be happy together. When I have these conversations with friends, the question always poses itself, “why do people choose to live miserably?”
Earlier this week, I met up with a close friend. We sipped wine and ordered take-out and talked about our lives. We spent a lot of time talking about her relationship and the problems she has
been facing. This is not the first conversation we have had regarding this topic and I always tell her the same thing; break up with him.
It is not because I don’t like her boyfriend. It’s actually quite the contrary. I am good friends with both of them. Their happiness is extremely important to me and seeing them both struggle to maintain a happy and healthy relationship is hard. They’ve been dealing with the same personal issues for about a year with little to no relief. Every time she calls me or texts me to talk about what’s going on, I tell her the same thing. Break up. Each time I tell her this, I remind her that I love both of them and I just want to see them happy and if that means not being with each other, than so be it.
If there is an aspect of your life that is making you unhappy, do something. Don’t be afraid of change; embrace it. Welcome new opportunities and experiences with open arms. We are each given one life. Why waste it being unhappy? If there is something you can do to change the situation you are in, do it. It might be heartbreaking, or scary, or stressful, but if it could ultimately bring you happiness, it’s worth trying.
Be smart about your decisions though. When you’re unhappy, it is easy to be impulsive. You might feel like you have nothing to lose. Don’t just quit your job without having another one lined up or at least a plan of action. Don’t leave your unhappy relationship and jump straight into another one before taking time to learn about the last one. Don’t drop out of school only to spend months in bed. Yes, it is vital to take time for yourself to rest or to heal. But it is also vital to keep moving forward.
Even if you have to fake it till you make it, keep trying. If you quit your job only to work somewhere else that doesn’t immediately make you happy, take it as an opportunity to meet new people or to expand your qualifications and experience. If you decide to leave a relationship and you feel lonely and like part of who you were is missing, take it as an opportunity to fall in love with yourself. If you drop out of school and feel misplaced or like you don’t have any idea what you’re supposed to be doing, take the time to rediscover what you love. Set little goals for yourself to accomplish everyday to remind yourself that you are still a success. Go to work, read, water your plants, make breakfast, clean your car, volunteer, work out, do yoga, meditate, learn something new about anything at all. These are all little achievements that should be celebrated.
We are instinctual creatures. We know, in our hearts, what is best for us. Eventually, your life will begin to morphe around the changes you make, whatever they may be. Don’t let the fear of the future or the “what ifs” hold you back from being happy. Don’t spend the rest of your life making decisions based on comfort and simplicity.
Choose to be happy before anything else.
Are you happy?
After work one night earlier this week, I was waiting in the incredibly long lines of my local Walmart. It was a little after midnight, and usually I become rather impatient, but that night I just accepted the situation. I read a magazine about mental health and observed the people around me having conversations among themselves.
I took the time to reflect on myself. Recently, I have been attempting to be more positive. I may not always be bubbly or in a good mood, but I have been trying to take control of my thoughts and actions. Instead of becoming upset or immediately thinking negatively, I have been trying to train my brain to have a positive outlook.
For example, working in the service industry, I spend my day tending to people’s needs. Everyone is different and some people can be rather difficult. A lot of the time, I become frustrated and I begin to think nasty thoughts in my head which starts a snowball effect.. Our minds are powerful places. When we have negative thoughts, a black cloud blankets our brain and our entire perspective becomes that of negativity. So, when I catch myself thinking negatively, I try to immediately change my thoughts to positive ones.
Instead of being annoyed that someone has modified their dinner order immensely, I think about how lucky we are to live in a world with so much food variety and deliciousness. When some of my coworkers needed help getting their shifts covered, I worked for them. I implemented the mindset of doing for others what I hope is done for me. When my manager asked me to stay late on a Saturday night, I said yes even though I was exhausted. If I had not stayed, I knew my coworkers would have struggled throughout the shift which would, in turn, cause an outburst of negativity.
So I am standing in line, rather proud of myself for truly trying to control my perspective, when a man gets in line behind me. I am looking at a unicorn chap stick and deciding whether or not to get it for my youngest sister. We begin to make small talk about the long lines and the temptation of the impulse buys. Neither one of us is overly friendly but we are also not forcing our conversation. As the cashier scans my items, we talk about how delicious the cake is that he is purchasing. The cashier tells me my total and as I am getting the cash from my wallet, the man says to just add his two items to my bill because he is going to take care of it. At first I didn’t hear him correctly. He then said, “I’m serious, just put it all together. I’m going to take care of it.”
I felt tears in my eyes. My first thoughts were, “What did I do to deserve this?” But he insisted. I thanked him over and over again, still in disbelief. I walked to my car and called a friend to tell her about the amazing act of kindness I had just received. As he was leaving the parking lot, he drove by and and the words he said will stick with me forever. He simply said, "Remember, good things happen to good people."
Take a deep breath. Not just a surface level breath. Breathe in through your nostrils until the air has not only filled your lungs, but has made your stomach expand, big and round. Seriously, do it. Now do it again. Repeat until you feel yourself a little more at peace. Life is short. And yes, anything can happen to you at any moment, but do not think about that. Think about right now. Focus on the magic that surrounds you.
There are some days when the stress in our lives seems to be suffocating us. It could be stress about anything. Letting bills accumulate because, no matter what, there never seems to be enough money in your bank account. Or the fight you had with your family member. Maybe it is stress from not dealing with the minor toothache that has now manifested into a monstrosity.
Such is life.
So much time is dedicated to worrying. We miss the seasons changing, relationships begin to crumble, and the simple pleasures of life are often overlooked. We bathe in the immediate problems we are facing and forget to take a step back. We forget to remember that life is a precious thing. One day, the problems you are facing will be a faint memory and new problems will be waiting. Finding things to do that bring you peace when you feel the stress begin to build in your body can help ground you and create a sense of freedom.Learning to cope with stress is not only important, it’s life altering.
Take a shower. Exfoliate your skin and deep condition your hair. Go fishing. Spend hours on the water and smell the air around you. Sip a glass of wine or a warm drink and feel your cheeks become rosy. Feel the life inside of you. Remind yourself that you are alive, be thankful. Write a list of what’s causing some of your stress. Then write a plan of attack. Yes, there are times when you are handed situations that you cannot control, but that does not mean you have to succumb to the weight of it all.
It’s just life.
Whether we like it or not, we will continue to face new challenges every day and it is up to you to decide how you plan on handling it. Do you want to spend your days worrying about the what-ifs? Or do you want to take a few minutes or an hour out of every day to center yourself, find some inner peace?
Light a candle and think of all you have to be grateful for. Call your mom and tell her you love her. Listen to your favorite song and scream the lyrics. In those moments, when you forget about all that has been causing you so much stress and anxiety, you will feel free. Chase that feeling as often as you can.
And remember, just breathe.
Laura is passionate about the power of words and she hopes to share her advice and experiences in an artistic and interesting way.