It has been a while since I have written for a couple of reasons. First and formost, I have been occupied writing my senior thesis for which I put everything, and I really mean EVERYTHING else on hold. The second reason is that for all my desire to start afresh, I was paralyzed with anxiety about the future compounded with the distress resultant in interacting with the one who got away.
After we broke up, we have kept in loose contact, and he had promised to visit me sometime soon. I was both looking forward to and fearful of the visit, but we had never decided on a specific weekend. Every time we tried to make plans, there were schedule uncertaintys and so we agreed each time to just wait and see. Of course he never came, and I never forced the matter. One day when we were chatting he indicated that he was seeing someone else. I had assumed this, but it was the incredibly crass manner in which he brought it up that stunned me. I told him something had come up and I had to go. I logged off immediately and spent the next half hour crying, curled up in the bottom of my running shower.
I am telling you this because it brought me to an important realization: sometimes you can’t stay friends. That man means the world to me, but when a careless world from him can wreak such havoc on my emotional well being it isn’t healthy. Maintaining the relationship, even as friends, was keeping me from letting go.
And so I took a long overdue and positive step:
This time, I really let go. I threw away his pictures, and took all the pictures and files relating to him off my computer. I even deleted the programs he had transfered to me and reloaded them or bought them myself so I wouldn’t have to see his name when I updated them. I could not throw away his key with the keychain he had given me, so I gave it to my friend to hide away somewhere I will never see it. I have written dozens of emails to him telling him how I felt without sending them. I wrote him one more, saying that we could not be friends and this time, I sent it. Then I blocked him from skype and g-chat.
I had completely cut him out this time, and while I could feel I was doing the right thing, it was like breaking up with him all over again. Two weeks later I received a long email from him, explaining himself and his behavior toward our relationship. This sent me into another wave of grief.
Durring this time, I finished up my thesis and turned my attention again to the impossible pile of work that had accumulated durring that time and to the daunting task of finding a job. Most people in my year are finally signing offers and planing last trips and excursions before they enter the real world. I have decided to stay here in this city after I graduate if I am not yet employed. I will sublet summer housing while I continue my search. School will soon be over and there is much to be done in the meantime leaving me little time for my job hunt. The inevitability of my summer purgatory was disheartening.
Between my sense of loss and my yet undecided future I felt like a failure. I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t thinking clearly, or using my time well. I wasn’t eating much because the anxiety had caused me to get too many kanker sores to have much more than soup.
I decided it was time to make a real shift in my daily life.
The shift has been small, but powerful. Its based on the idea that if I keep doing what I’m doing, I will keep feeling what I’m feeling. I felt like I was already doing everything I could, and no matter how hard I worked, it would never be nearly enough. The last time I felt that way and made a shift, it changed the entire way I looked at life and myself for the better. However, it was a change made by increments.
I realized I needed to start at the beginning. I am starting out with some very small, basic changes.
Objective 1: Regaining mental and physical health
This sounds self-evident, but before you can make more positive changes in your life, you need to have the mental and physical energy. This was something I was already short on and so my changes start here.
1. Sleep more. I can not stress this enough. I don’t care how much you have to do. Skipping out on sleep is more damaging than helpful unless it is in a rare and isolated situation. If you are regularly under-rested, you are only waisting more time and energy. Your body can’t recover, your mind can’t recover, you tend to make other self destructive choices in what you eat, drink, and do as a result. Get. Sleep.
2. Reduce your dependance on (fill in the blank). Drugs that get you through the day are typically unhealthy, but are habit forming because you build up a tolerance to the drug. If you are taking a drug just to get you to a basic level of functionality, it is time to ween yourself off. For most of us, our drug of choice is some kind of stimulant, whether in the form of coffee, soda, or even energy drinks. Not only are these things bad for you, but they often take the place of necessary water throughout the day. Coffee itself is a powerful diuretic and can further dehydrate you. Durring my time in college, I have become a coffee addict. I mean, get headaches, can’t think strait or do anything without multiple double shots of espresso a day. I have spent the last couple weeks weaning myself off, but it has been well worth it. Combined with the other steps I’ve taken, I don’t need the caffeine anymore. I still have a cup on occasion because I believe in all things in moderation, but I now have less coffee in a week than I used to have in one day. I feel better and I’ve saved a lot of money.
3. Drink more water. Now that you are drinking less coffee or other less than healthy beverages, you may find yourself casting around for something else to drink. Water, drink lots of water. Yes, you can hydrate with other drinks but there is nothing better for you than strait water. As an athlete I am very aware of my hydration levels and I will tell you that one of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue. If you are looking for ways to have more energy in your day, drink, drink, drink. I have a 1L. water bottle that I carry with me everywhere. This may be a little big for the average person, but I highly encourage making a reusable water bottle your companion. By doing this you’ll save money, save the planet, and save your body.
4. Forget the diet plans, go for nutrients! Instead of thinking about what you shouldn’t eat think more about what you should eat, what your body really wants. This is a much more positive way of thinking about your food and it makes meal decisions much easier. Your body wants vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. It wants protein and complex carb that are going to give you long lasting energy. If you make your choices based on how awesome its going to make you feel, you will appreciate your food a lot more while making better choices.
5. Take your vitamins. Sure, your making awesome food choices now, but you are also a busy person working within a limited food environment, and you still probably gravitate more towards some foods than others. A good multi-vitamin can help fill in those holes. I take a few extra supplements for special needs such as my joints.
6. Meditate. This is the most important component of improving mental health and reducing anxiety. Even if its only for 5 min. I usually go for about 15. There are loads of meditation techniques on the web. Choose what works for you. The point is to focus your mind. I personally like to focus on my breath and my body. There is a whole body of science demonstrating the benefits of incorporating a daily meditation practice into your life. It improves a number of factors contributing to your health, well-being, and daily performance.
7. Dress for success. This is a little step that makes a huge difference. It signals to the world as well as to yourself “I care.” I don’t mean this in a shallow way, but in a very deep and significant way. By transmitting this signal you are demonstrating you are ready to invest in yourself and others. This is an easy way to elevate your mood, and the way you feel about yourself. This is transmitted to the people around you who will be more inclined to react positively and invest their energy in you. This becomes a positive cycle.
8. Keep a record. None of these are huge changes, but what is particularly important about them is the mindset behind them. An active and positive mindset is the biggest driver of positive change. While these little actions will go a long way in improving your life they are also important signals to yourself that you are taking an active role in moving your life in a better direction. This can be very empowering and can make way for further positive changes. I like to keep a notebook where, at the end of a day, I list all the positive actions I have taken that day. “Today I…took my vitamins, ate a nutritious lunch, spent time connecting with an old friend, cleaned out my desk, meditated, etc.” For me, this has become a powerful psychological exercise.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t take your vitamins or don’t meditate one day. I don’t. That is what the list is for, so I can focus on what I’m doing right, rather than what I’m doing wrong. If you aren’t good at keeping a record, no sweat. Remember, each little step you make is for you. There is no falling off the wagon here. Just you. One step at a time.