I tend to write in spurts, so after a long hiatus, here is another blog delivered to you in less than 24 hours after the last one.
In the last blog I wrote, I eluded on all I’ve learned about how to get out of rock bottom.
Someone asked for some tips, so without further ado, here y’all go (in no particular order).
- Listen To How You Speak to Yourself and Be Kind.
This is the cheapest, easiest and most high value way to feel better instantly.
I was at a very low point, in a relationship with someone that would say really nasty, mean things to me and one day the realization hit me as I listened to myself saying really horrible things to myself that I needed to be my own best friend. I needed to be the kindest person to myself, because if I wasn’t that way, how could I expect anyone else to be. I had been criticized a lot growing up and that had turned into my normal self-talk.
Changing how I spoke to myself was the most important turning point for me in starting to turn things around. It’s free, it’s easy, you can start right now and I promise you’ll be amazed at how quickly you see the benefits.
2. Be Still
This one is hard. Probably the hardest one from a practicality standpoint, but it’s crucial for change.
Most of us have a hard time in just being still. In doing absolutely nothing and quieting our mind down. I think for most of us, because we are scared of what is in the room of our mind if we let all the distractions fade away.
We make excuses about why we can’t be still. People have stressful jobs, stressful relationships, kids they need to keep alive.
But a lot of people also are busy looking at what other people are doing. Worrying about things that have nothing to do with themselves. Trying to do something to get ahead. Scrolling and commenting incessantly on social media. Checking every few hours what kind of insanity Trump is tweeting and wondering if the world is going to fall apart (#guilty).
Chaos is a state most of subconsciously get ourselves to, because one of the benefits that chaos gives us is that we don’t have to think. We don’t have to go into those painful little corners of our minds. As a lifelong habitual do-er, being still, has been by far the hardest but most game changing thing I’ve done in my quest to untie myself and take peaceful steps moving forward.
I can’t recommend it enough as a starting point in getting to a peaceful and purposeful place.
3. Consume Knowledge That Benefits You
All of us everyday are consuming all sorts of content. Some of us read books. Some of us scroll social media. Others of us, that are slower in the game, (hi, what’s up!) have recently discovered and listen to podcasts. Something that I’ve really come to recognize is how important what we consume is and how important it is to consciously consume things that are beneficial to us.
Delete social media if it makes you feel shitty in any way, and there were times in my lowest moments that I could actively feel myself go even lower after a scroll through photos of everyone’s perfect looking lives and families. If you do choose to be on social media fill your feed with people that inspire you and not pages so intent on curating perfection that it leaves you feeling shitty about yourself.
Ask yourself after a scroll through if it made you feel better and act accordingly.
4. Help Others
On my worst days, I always found it helpful to get out of my own head and do something to help someone else. I wrote about privilege in my last blog. No matter how bad things are for you, there is likely some form of privilege you have in your life. Share whatever it is with someone else.
5. Practice Gratitude
I have found this to be instantaneously helpful to getting myself into a good place. At times, if I wake up feeling low, I will scribble on anything, things I am grateful for. And the interesting thing I found is that no matter how bleak things felt, there were ALWAYS things that I could be grateful for. And once I found them, it was a foundation that I could use to build my day on or snap out of the shitty mood that I was in.
6. Learn to Set Boundaries and/or Say No
Last year when I was on my way to Phuket (#missya2019) I had a nasty 10 hour layover in Shanghai where I slept on a floor until I was shooed away by someone trying to clean it. I got on the flight exhausted, and couldn’t believe my luck when I had 3 seats to myself for the 5 hour flight. I had also just learned to start practicing saying no.
A woman excitedly looked over from her packed row and asked if she could sit in the row with me. And I said no that I was going to use it to sleep.
Now I cringe and feel like a massive asshole as I type that example, but funny enough it was the first time I actually just said no to something I felt like I should say yes to, but didn’t and man did it feel liberating (not to mention the amazing sleep I got).
That woman is still probably talking about the raging bitch that wouldn’t share her row, but it was the first time that I started to practice saying no if I didn’t want to say yes. A practice that continues to get easier every time I practice it.
The fact is, a lot of us (especially women) have never learned how to set boundaries and say no. I say this as one of the most former chronic people pleasers on the planet.
People with no boundaries have low self-worth (hi my name is Ciara and this is where I operated from for a very long time). We learn from what we see as kids from influential people in our lives, from messaging that we pick up around us and I saw behaviour modeled that said being “nice” was more importantly than honoring how I was feeling and what I wanted to do.
Setting boundaries is literally telling yourself through your actions, that you matter, you’re worthy of being treated well, and you have enough confidence in yourself that you will simply walk away without needing to explain yourself if the boundaries you’ve set are crossed.
It’s like building a palace for yourself to live in and in one fell swoop it takes away an awful lot of noise, and swaps in peace and harmony inside and out.
7. Let Relationships Go That No Longer Serve You
If we are actively growing, sometimes friendships and relationships change. And it’s ok to let them go. At this point in my life, with everyone I let enter, I ask myself, do they bring me peace? Do they make me feel good? Are they happy for me and encourage my growth and accomplishments?
Your touch points may be different, but the point is that it is really important to take inventory of those that are close to you and that it is ok to let people go no matter who they are or how long they have been in your life.
8. Learn New Words
Part of my healing has been reading and learning a ton. There are words such as gaslighting, narcissism, and others that have named and described behavior that I used to experience but have no words for. You don’t know what you don’t know, and a great way to understand the world around you is to actively learn and understand human behaviour. It takes the mystery and power away especially from things that don’t serve you.
9. Observe and See Your Patterns
An ah-ha moment for me was when Dr Nicole LePera (the.holistic.psychologist – a must follow!) wrote about how as children we have 3 primary needs – 1. To be Seen. 2. To be Safe 3. To be Loved. And how we adopt behavior as kids in order for these three needs to be met. For me, being the best in school and sports checked all 3 boxes.
To be honest, upon reflection, I really don’t know what would have happened as a kid if I had rebelled and decided to be really bad at everything. It just wasn’t an option in my brain, and it’s no surprise I worked so hard in school and sports because that’s where I perceived being seen, being safe and being loved to lie.
In the last few years I had a friend who was really struggling. We’d get into deep chats over beers on trying to pick apart our individual train wrecks, when both of us had played international soccer and done really well in school and seemed to be on solid tracks in our 20’s.
One chat she told me how her grandparents had escaped the Holocaust. One generation removed from her, was one of the most traumatic incidents in recent human history. In conversation one day we stumbled over that fact and marveled at the fact that it’s not like her grandparents ever went to therapy.
In fact in this point of time, it seems to be the first time, that talking honestly about mental health, even seeing and acknowledging it’s effect doesn’t insure that you are immediately shunned. Can you imagine all the shit that’s been passed down from generation to generation that we’ve inherited and taken on as kids.
We are born with blank canvases. We grow up as children being painted on by our parents belief systems, anxieties and fears. We adapt as small children to stay safe, seen and loved within those systems of our parents. And if we don’t become aware of them, we just mindlessly adopt them and ingrain them in our own selves.
Maybe your parents were beacons of emotional wellness and stability and their behaviours work for you, but it never hurts to actively seek out and observe what they are. And embrace the ability to actively repaint yourself if what’s been passed on to you isn’t serving you.
Another eye opener was realizing that we subsconsciously seek what we know. It actually blew my mind at times, when I realized that people I was involved with and interactions that I had literally mimicked those of which I grew up with.
In the words of my therapist: If you don’t actively understand your trauma and work to change your patterns, you could be in a room of 100 wonderful people with one who’s bad news, and you will always find each other in that room and replay that trauma over and over again.
Which leads to the next point:
10. Time Does Not Change Anything, Only Work Does
I remember as a kid thinking that time made you smarter or made things better. And I can say with absolute certainty, that without work and actively trying to change anything, all time does is imbed patterns of behaviour deeper into your DNA.
I like thinking about emotional growth like working out.
If I ate chips and lay on my couch my whole life, the amount of time I did it would correlate with the affect it had on my body. But at any point I could get up and change my behaviour if one day I decided I didn’t like being 300 pounds and not able to do things. And it would take practice and time and energy, but ultimately with even small amounts of efforts every day I could remake myself completely.
But first I’d have to be aware of it, and then take small steps to do something about it.
All time does is compounds actions, both good and bad.
11. Be Careful with Your Vat of Energy
Some Christian folk have a bracelet that they wear that says, “What Would Jesus Do” that helps them in decision making.
A game changer for me was looking at my day and subsequently my life as a vat of energy. I am given a full vat every day and everything I do will take a little drop out of that vat.
I used to run my life on a Conor McGregor -esque mentality. Namely beat the shit out of anything that came up to me and pissed me off.
Sooner or later I realized in my old age that there are far more efficient and effective ways to take the world on (obviously while simultaneously battling my Irish instincts).
Everyone I engage with, takes a drop of energy. Everything I read, takes a drop of energy. All of a sudden in looking at that energy as my most precious resource, my decision making changed. Recognizing and shutting up my ego as a crucial way of preserving my vat of energy means I know who I am, I like who I am, I don’t need to defend myself to anyone, and I can actively just ask myself at every interaction is this a productive use of my vat of energy whether its work, or friendships, or anything really.
Simplicity is a key tenet to peace and protecting your vat of energy is crucial.
12. How You Feel on the Inside Will Be Reflected by What’s Going On on the Outside
Chaos used to rule my world. This was reflected in my finances, my work life, my relationships both intimate, family and platonic. Really everything.
At this point I aim for Boring. Simple. Peaceful. And it’s still really uncomfortable for me to have my life be those things because it’s so different from how I have always operated, but I know that’s where happiness lies and so I stay in it.
And because I am feeling that way on the inside, things are starting to move and feel good and stable and prosperous in every capacity, for the first time on the outside.
13. Trust That Everything is Going to Work Out Perfectly
One of the biggest belief systems that I have had to change that I adopted from childhood (without realizing until recently) is the belief that everything is going to work out perfectly. And by perfectly, I mean, that no matter what happens, I will be ok.
Through my recent unraveling, I have realized that I always had fear and anxiety about the future. When you grow up in the emotional equivalent of stockpiling and fearing a future war, you realize that it’s only natural that you’d adopt that as well into your psyche.
The consequences were extreme anxiety in my playing career, and also just a ton of anxiety around life in general that made living in the present moment really difficult. I was always ten feet ahead of whatever was happening in the present moment trying to suss out everything that could possibly go wrong.
Gratitude and trusting everything working out perfectly, and that I would be ok no matter what happened have been absolute game changers.
And finally I’ll throw in a 14.
14. Struggle Causes Growth Which Should Be One of the Official Markers of Success
I’ve seen a lot of friends struggle around me in various ways.
Marriages and significant relationships ending. Fertility Problems. Health Issues.
What I can say to anyone that is going through something hard, who feels like a “failure” is… you’re not.
While my markers for success used to be very influenced by the upper middle class mostly white world I grew up, nice house, good education, good resume, accomplishing things … the longer that I am on planet earth the more I truly believe that our true purpose is to grow and to learn. And unfortunately none of that comes, from living in perfection.
I like to think that the end result of going through struggles is the emotional and mental equivalent of getting to see the most beautiful of views from the highest of mountains. You don’t get that from walking on flat ground all the time.
The fact is that the one certainty and one thing that we all have in common is that we all entered the world by ourselves with nothing, and so that way shall we leave.
Growth is something that we will pass on to elevate the world around us in the time that we have here.