The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Adaptability

Last year, I made a goal to publish a post to my blog once a week.

And I made it! (all but 2 weeks, which is good enough for me).

I had a lot of fun working on this blog over the last year. I learned a lot about myself, and I gained some skills in writing personal essays, and in doing hand-lettering. When I go back and look at some of the first posts from 2018, it’s really cool to see how far I’ve come. I created a space with a specific style and format, but I also wasn’t afraid to experiment with something new for a few weeks in November. Turned out, I didn’t like the direct address style I tried out, so I went back to the personal essay style. A past version of myself might have given up after trying something new that didn’t work out, but I kept going, albeit out of stubbornness to achieve my goal, but still, I made it. I persevered when I didn’t want to do it anymore, but more importantly, I adapted.

The last fundamental of personal growth that I have for this series is adaptability.

In personal growth, adaptability is the ability to remain flexible in goals and plans and accept when it’s time for change.

Change, even when it’s good, stresses me out.

I think it’s a pretty normal level of stress, to be honest, but I focus so hard on it that I end up blowing it out of proportion.

I’ve always resisted change. I was that kid who didn’t want to grow up. I wasn’t excited to move up to junior high school or high school. I wasn’t excited about getting a cell phone (until I got one). I wasn’t even that excited about switching over to a smart phone (until I did). I wasn’t excited about learning to drive. My dad and I used to get in arguments over my driving lessons; he practically had to drag me out of the house. (Of course, when I finally did learn to drive, I was thrilled at the newfound freedom).

The pattern here seems to be that the hardest part of change is getting started, but once I take the steps toward it, even if they’re small, I start to feel excitement and even relief.

I’m currently at a place where I need to accept that it’s time for change. While I’ve had a lot of fun and success in working on this blog, I’m ready to do something different. I’m not sure exactly what, yet, but my interest in writing personal essays in the self-improvement niche has started to wane. The personal growth and self-help communities have served their purpose in my life, and I’m ready to focus more on my creative interests. I’d like to start taking my writing craft more seriously by spending more time working on my novel, writing short stories or picture book scripts, and engaging with books and essays about the craft of writing instead of the craft of self-help.

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I’m going to keep this space here on WordPress, but I have some percolating plans to transform it. I’m thinking I’d like to start writing about . . . writing, like essays about craft and the progress of my novel. I’m not positive what I’ll do yet, but I do know that I’ll visit this space less often. Posting weekly is a big commitment, and I often spent a big chunk of my weekend planning for this blog. I’m excited to have that time freed up and to experiment with how to fill those hours.

Awareness and adaptability are the perfect bookends for this series.

It takes a lot of awareness to admit when a goal or life path is no longer of service and seek to adapt it.

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What do you hope to focus on in 2019?

 

 

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Trust

When I finished my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I had a literary agent reach out to me and request a full manuscript of my novel. The manuscript wasn’t ready at the time, so I kept working on it, rereading, rethinking, and revising, until I had a solid, workable draft to send. I sent it to her a few weeks ago, and last week, she let me know that she wouldn’t be interested in representing it.

Of course, I was disappointed. It felt like a squandered opportunity. Like maybe I should have worked harder before I sent the manuscript because she reached out to me, after all, and maybe I had disappointed her. Maybe I missed a big shot. Maybe I missed my only shot.

Logically, I knew that wasn’t true, but still, I struggled for a little while with feeling like a failure. Rejection is a part of being a writer, and I will face it 100+ more times if I take the process of getting published seriously, but that opportunity felt different, and I let myself wallow a little bit. Eventually, I realized, that it wasn’t just the rejection that hurt, but the missed opportunity to accomplish something. I told my husband, as he was trying to comfort me, that what truly felt so bad was that I wanted validation through my accomplishments.

I started a new job last month, and it’s different from any other job I’ve had in that it isn’t focused on tasks. For the most part, I am in control of my schedule and I get to decide how to spend my time. I’ve been having difficulty acclimating to this because I go in to work feeling like I have nothing to do since no one has assigned me a specific task, and I leave work feeling like I did nothing to contribute to my team since I didn’t complete a specific task. The rejection from the agent came during the height of my anxiety about this new job, and the two experiences really held a mirror up to my insecurities.

Even though I’ve worked hard on self-acceptance and personal growth this year, I still seek esteem through what I do, rather than who I am.

If I’m too busy focusing on tasks and results, then I will miss chances to be creative and innovative.

When I started to rethink my approach to my new job, I gained some confidence to be curious. I gained some trust in myself to approach my supervisor with ideas, instead of asking her for more tasks. I redefined my work day as a chance to experiment, instead of an obligation to produce something.

That newfound trust is something I’ll have to keep working on in every area of my life. I’ll have to keep trying new things.

I’ll have to keep going for it.

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That trust won’t be static. Some days, I’ll still feel anxious. Some days, I’ll still ache for validation through accomplishment, and that’s okay.

When it comes to writing, this trust is highly valuable.

If I miss opportunities to create and innovate because I’m too worried about creating a product, then I miss the whole point.

If I trust myself to write the story that’s in my heart (sorry for the cheesy cliché, but I can’t figure out any other way to say that), then I’ll write something that matters; then I’ll know when enough is enough and my manuscript is ready; then I’ll trust myself to go for it.

Some days, I’ll let rejection wash over me, and some days, it’ll get me down. Some days, I’ll sit down to write and feel great about even just a few words, and other days I’ll feel shitty for not finishing something; regardless, I can keep training myself to trust in the process.

I can teach myself, through my words and my actions, that I’m valuable with or without an accomplishment to show for the day.

I can redefine what accomplishment means.

I can trust that my definition of what’s good is good. I can let less productive days be merely blips in my existence.

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What could you gain from trusting yourself? What insights could you glean from focusing on process over product?

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Development

I took piano lessons in the first grade. I picked up the basics pretty easily, but as soon as it started to get challenging, I wanted to quit. And I did.

I played volleyball in 5th and 6th grade, and then joined the school team in junior high, but I was put on the c team and I never went to another practice.

I played the violin in elementary and junior high school. In seventh grade, the orchestra teacher forgot to assign me to a chair. I cried from being forgotten, he scoffed at me and harshly cast me to the back, in second violin. I looked up toward the first chairs and felt like a big failure. In elementary, I had been so good. I’d been the best.

Instead of working hard to get myself out of the back and be among the best again, I gave up.

I rarely took my violin home, and by high school, I’d given up altogether, with excuses aplenty like I hated the orchestra teacher, or I wanted to pursue art instead.

Having given up on the violin, I picked up the guitar and took lessons in high school. I had a really weird teacher who believed his spirit animal was the buffalo. He had little buffalo stamps all over his car. His house was full of buffalo motif. Like many weirdos I have met, he was a skilled musician, and he was very adamant that I practice every day. I didn’t, so I got a new teacher who was much more relaxed. He would be annoyed with me for not practicing, but he kept working with me. Then eventually, I quit again.

A buddy from college wanted to start a little band. He played the banjo, and I played the ukulele. I wrote our songs and sang, but I only kept up with it because of him. He nagged me to practice. He helped me learn new chords. He signed us up for an open mic night and kept us on track when we practiced the few songs we played that very quiet Sunday night at the bar. I don’t remember explicitly quitting on that. It just kind of faded out of existence, but I did quit to the extent that I never gave it my best shot.

The only skill I’ve never given up on is writing.

When I decided to invest in it by taking creative writing classes, submitting my poetry to literary magazines online, and eventually getting my Master of Fine Arts, I felt proud for finally committing myself to developing a skill.

All my past failures had a lot to do with perfectionism.

I would always pick up the basics really quick, and then get mad when I couldn’t master higher level challenges. When my buddy would riff on the banjo like it was in his DNA, I felt unbelievable silly practicing my scales.

I didn’t want to have to practice or put in effort. I just wanted to be naturally good.

I see how wrong that is now, and I wish I had been given some guidance back then. I kind of wish my parents hadn’t let me quit so many things. It would have been nice to be good at a sport or to be able to play more than a few chords on the guitar, but I can’t go back and change the past. I can only work to develop skills now.

I have chosen to put my efforts at skill development into writing and calligraphy.

Instead of beating myself up for not being a master, I have learned that it is gratifying to see progress.

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I’m currently working on rewriting a novel I wrote four years ago for NaNoWrimo, and it’s so cool to see how much more knowledge I have about what makes a good novel. And when I go back and look at some of my earliest attempts at calligraphy, I feel so proud that I didn’t default to my perfectionist precedent and give up, because man, those early attempts were awful, but I continually put in the effort to practice.

Developing skills requires a growth mindset, which is the idea that we can improve our skills and intelligence through hard work. I have had to recognize that while I might have some natural inclinations or be driven toward certain things like art or music, it does not mean that I am or will be naturally good at them; that seems like a lesson I should have learned earlier on, but here I am, 26 and learning to work hard to achieve the outcomes I want. I’m glad I got here, even as a late bloomer, because the more I work to develop my skills, the more confidence I gain, and the more confidence I gain the more I feel firmly rooted to myself, my opinions, my dreams, and my passions.

borderWhat does growth mindset mean to you? Did you develop skills early on in life, or were you a quitter like me? What are some of the skills you’re developing right now?

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Appreciation

It may not be in the best form to start off a piece of writing with word definitions, but I’m going to do that today because there’s a lot of overlap in acceptance and appreciation and I want to determine the difference.

While both accept and appreciate, denote some kind of action, I think of appreciate as demonstrably more actionable than accept. Accept, which means to give approval, is, in my opinion, more of an inner choice; while appreciate, which means to be grateful for or value highly, is, in my opinion, more of a behavior.

Appreciation is synonymous with gratitude.

When I’m grateful for the sunrise, I stop to watch it. When I’m feeling grateful for my husband, I let him know. When I’m grateful for a clean house, I light a candle and melt into the couch. I express my gratitude for beautiful things and people, but it’s a little harder to do that for myself.

Appreciation, in regards to personal growth, is a little bit like self-care, and self-care is a highly personalized routine or process, so rather than generally suggest ideas, I’m going to share some things that I do to appreciate and care for myself.

1.Keep track of my positive qualities

I have a habit of glomming onto the negative, and because I’ve been doing it for so long I have to make concrete attempts at noticing the positive. It feels hokey and cheesy to say phrases like “I’m good at ____,” or “I’m proud of myself for doing ____,” but the more I’ve practiced it, the more genuine it has become.

“Your real self moves with inconceivable rapidity as your thought moves.” – Prentice Mulford

2.Focus on my strengths

Besides just keeping track of my positive qualities, I try to focus on them above my weaknesses, which is a difficult balance because I have a habit of ignoring, too, but if I can tip the scales in favor of my strengths, then I have more motivation, energy, and peace.

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3.Express gratitude for who I have been and how that has made me who I am

There are times where I find myself in deep regret over my past. In high school, I completely withdrew from the world. I thought my social anxiety was a phase and that I’d grow out of it in college, so I waited. I didn’t grow out of it. Sometimes I wish I could go back and shake myself. Sometimes I wonder who I’d be if I had tried harder to have more friends or do more normal teenager things, but then I realize that it’s probably all for the best. I was so lonely in high school I probably would have done anything to fit in. That shy, timid girl made me who I am today. Eventually, she showed me what it means to struggle and overcome. She gave me some unwavering values, and I can be grateful for that.

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This was a short post because, I have to be honest, I ran out of steam. I think that the last fundamentals I have lined up for the year will be more varied and provide more interest. I hope.

What do you do to appreciate yourself? Besides trying to be positive in your self-talk, as I’ve outlined here, I’m curious, do you take yourself out for coffee? Run a hot bath? Order pizza?

How to Escape the Burden of Time

Throughout the course of my day, I find myself frequently looking at the clock and thinking about what’s next. With the exception of the morning, when time feels limitless, I’m stuck on the numbers on the clock.

Time begins to feel like a cage.

This is a little contradictory to my post last week, where I mentioned that I like structure and routines, but I think that, like all things in life, there is a balance.

While I find freedom in routine, I also have a tendency to create harsh, arbitrary rules for myself within that routine.

I’m able to find some balance, and escape from this self-made prison, when I allow myself to live in the moment.

One way I can cue into mindfulness is by asking myself sensory questions about my surroundings:

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This particular set of questions is best for when I’m taking a break from my routine so that I might recharge and find focus again.

It takes a little bit of effort to stall the racing thoughts in my mind, and redirect my attention to the world in front of me because my thoughts have become so routine and habitual that they feel familiar, even when they aren’t comforting. The effort to focus my thoughts is well worth it, though.

When I can bring myself to the present moment, time becomes less relevant.

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In the practice of mindfulness, my heart rate slows, I appreciate each sensation for what it brings me, and I gain energy.

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I find the eternity in the moment when I’m reading a good book, finding my flow in a creative project, cuddling my husband, snuggling the dog, watching the clouds, graciously sipping coffee, marveling at nature, or spending time with the people I love. Where do you find your eternity?

How to Spend Time Meaningfully

My husband likes to give me a hard time about supposedly not being able to relax. Whenever I fall a slight bit ill, he is quick to blame it on my stress.

The thing is, while I acknowledge that he is partially right, I also find it hard to totally agree because I have had a tendency to merely maintain an appearance of business by wasting time, rather than actually working to get anything meaningful done so that I can fully relax later.

I have to give myself credit, though, because I’ve been getting a whole lot better with time management as I’ve been seeking employment, as I’ve become more serious with my writing, and as I’ve gotten to know myself better, but wasting time is still something that plagues me. Now, though, it’s more because I have a broad definition of what it means to waste time, than because I’m actually still sitting around wasting a lot of time.

When I’m honest, wasted time is only time that’s spent on things that don’t bring me joy.

When I’m being a harsh self-critic, though, wasted time is anything that doesn’t produce some sort of quantifiable result.

This is where my husband likes to prod at me about relaxing, and this is where I can agree that he’s right.

I picked up this desire to remain ever busy, or appear to be ever busy, from my dad, who picked it up from his dad. I admire my dad and grandpa, and I want to make them proud, but they are a little too extreme in their efforts to spend their time purposefully.

My grandpa has been the property manager of a block of apartments for as long as I can remember, and he always has a project to do over there. When he’s not working hard on the apartments, he’s got a project at home. My dad has a long list of projects, too, lest he be caught idle for one second. I have a distinct memory of him, having just barely recovered from back surgery, hastily planting a tree in the backyard. He didn’t further injure himself, but if he had, then he really wouldn’t have saved any time by getting to work on the yard sooner than the doctor recommended.

When I was younger, if I didn’t have something that I had to do, I was constantly bored.

I even had a list of activities, much like my dad and grandpa have their lists of projects, so that I could stay busy when there wasn’t anything to do. But, I didn’t usually enjoy the way I spent my time. It always felt like I was doing things just to fill the hours until there was something I had to do, which is a habit that stretched long into my adulthood.

As I’ve discovered more about myself through writing and challenging myself to try new things, I’ve grown less anxious about wasting time.

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This is largely because I’ve developed hobbies that aren’t mindless scrolling or binge watching, and because I actually enjoy these hobbies, I’ve stopped seeing them as ways to waste time.

I can now sit down to read, more often, without thinking “I should be working harder on my own novel,” or I can sit down to write without thinking, “I should be doing the dishes,” or I can sit down to practice my calligraphy without getting antsy to clean the house, or do those chores that I used to feel were more important.

Plus, in getting to know myself better, I’ve learned that I thrive in a more structured, routine environment, and I can relax better at the end of a day if I’ve accomplished a few goals. Sometimes those goals do involve cleaning, but more often, now, they’re creative or personal goals.

I’ve been able to create an effective structure for myself with these four strategies:

1.Set Intentions

At night before I fall asleep, and/or in the morning while I journal, I make a plan for the day. It doesn’t have to be in-depth, and it’s usually nothing more than: “Today I will ___ and ____ and ____.” But, even having a few intentions for the day helps me to accomplish meaningful things, which helps me to relax easier when I’ve fulfilled those intentions.

2.Limit or eliminate multi-tasking

I’m terrible at multi-tasking, as I think we all are, but it’s always a good to have a reminder to stay present in the moment and focus on one task at a time. The more energy I put into the task-at-hand, the more I can get out of the process, and the sooner I can move on.

3.Experiment

I’ve tried different kinds of daily routines, different browser applications to block the Internet, and different timer techniques. Nothing has stuck, but I continue to experiment. Some days, I need to set a timer to get things done, and some days I don’t. I used to have email and other distracting sites consistently blocked for several hours during the week, but I would just find workarounds by going to different browsers, so now I only use the option where I can block the Internet for an hour or more at a time when I’m really struggling to stay focused, but, to be honest, since I took the daily block off the Internet, I haven’t needed to to block the Internet much. I guess it’s the whole, what is forbidden becomes more appealing concept.

I continue to experiment with ways to avoid distractions, and I have found so much freedom in allowing myself to try different techniques, rather than relying on one.

4.Stop to reflect instead of deflect

I mentioned something similar in my last posts about goals and procrastination, but I’ll mention it again because it has been working so well! When I start getting incredibly distracted, it’s most helpful when I shut things down or turn things off, and consider why I’m having so much trouble focusing, because when I deflect, I waste time.

It seems like reflecting would be the real time waster, but it’s not.

Maybe I’m working on the wrong thing that day. Maybe I need to take a prolonged break. Or maybe I just need that moment to reflect, and then get back to working on something meaningful (or those occasional obligatory tasks).

Having a structured routine in which I can accomplish some goals has, paradoxically, given me freedom.

When I went about my days without any intentions, I was much more rattled by anxiety about “getting things done,” and by the evenings, I would feel bad that I hadn’t accomplished more with my day. While I don’t think it’s wise to only permit myself to do things I enjoy after I’ve accomplished a certain amount of things, I do find so much more joy in relaxing and exploring my hobbies when I’ve worked at a few goals or fulfilled a few intentions. When my husband badgers me about relaxing, he’s not saying that I should sit around and do nothing, he’s saying that I should invest my time in things that bring me joy, and I can agree with that.

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I’m curious to know about your relationship with time and routines. Do you find yourself worrying over wasted time, or does it not phase you? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

I Like Working Toward Goals – 19 Before 2019

I like doing nothing. I like having no plans.

My favorite weekends are the ones where I stay home and do whatever I want whenever I want.

On the other hand, I like feeling accomplished. I like knowing that I’ve completed something.

I’m incredibly task-oriented and I feel exhilarated by crossing something of a to-do list.

But, I am a very inconsistent person.

Having goals and plans also causes me anxiety.

Realistically, it’s a normal level of anxiety. It’s completely manageable, but sometimes the pressure of having something to do keeps me from setting goals.

The more I learn to manage that anxiety that comes with having goals, though, the more I want to set goals. The more I want to accomplish something worthwhile, or truly, just anything at all.

When I worked at the library, one of my jobs was to shelf read, which was exactly what it sounds like. Each month, I’d be assigned a section of the library to keep in order. This wasn’t my favorite job, but I became motivated to do it as I learned to appreciate the beauty of a freshly read shelf. All the books pushed forward. All the spines in line. Mmmm. Such a beautiful sight.

I’ve learned that I am happiest when I’m working toward something.

It doesn’t have to be huge or earth- shattering, having a freshly organized row of books on a shelf certainly isn’t changing anybody’s life, but I like that feeling of making progress on a project or task.  I like that feeling of stepping back when it’s all done and seeing the results of my hard work.

I don’t use to-do lists to get that exhilarating feeling of accomplishment much anymore, because of the aforementioned anxiety, but I have begun the practice of setting intentions before I go to bed at night. It might seem like this practice in it of itself could cause anxiety, but I limit myself to only choosing three things I’d like to do the next day, and it is  a helpful practice because it ceases any worries I have about tomorrow and knowing that I have a plan allows me to rest my mind before sleep. It’s also helpful for waking up in the morning because I’m motivated by the intentions I set.

For the next 3 and a half months of this year, I’m motivating myself beyond daily intentions with the mega to-do list – 19 before 2019.

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My intention with this to-do list is not to panic over getting these things done. Most of the tasks I’ve put on here are simple tasks that can be completed in an afternoon or less (3 and a half months isn’t really that much time, anyway), and the ones that aren’t quick to complete are tasks I had intended to do anyway, like finish my novel and send out 5 queries! Now, I simply have the added bonus of being able to check that box when I finish it.

I’ve done a strange thing all my life, which is to resist my desire to be organized and accomplished. I attribute that to paralyzing perfectionism, but I’m learning to fail without it completely stunting me from ever trying again. I may not finish all these 19 tasks, and that will be okay. The point is to give myself something to work toward.

The point is to learn and grow.

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What are some goals that you’ve set out to accomplish before the new year? Or, are you waiting around for that fresh-start feeling that comes with January? Or, have you transcended the temporal and markers of time mean nothing to you? (Please tell me your secret).

I Went to a Concert Alone

I don’t like to admit to this, because it’s a little embarrassing for me, but I have anxiety about going places alone.

I know that it’s common to have anxiety about being alone in public, but it’s the last piece of my anxiety that I feel is really holding me back.

I don’t do as many things as I would like to do because I don’t have friends nearby that I can call whenever I feel like going out for brunch, taking a hike, or hitting up that concert.

Over the weekend, there was a big free music festival and one of my favorite musicians, Katie Herzig, was playing an evening set. It was a little last minute to invite a friend and my husband was out of town, so I decided to go by myself.

Well, I tentatively decided to go by myself and then spent the whole day making up excuses about why I wasn’t going to go.

My excuses were pretty pathetic:

  1. I don’t want to drive forty minutes to get there

  2. It’s going to be difficult to find parking because everyone will be downtown

  3. I don’t want to leave the dog alone

  4. I’m going to be leaving around dinnertime and I don’t want to spend money to eat at the concert

  5. My student loan payments are coming to maturity soon and I shouldn’t be doing anything fun at all because I’m a big fool who spent an obnoxious amount of money on school and I don’t deserve to do anything but be miserable until this debt is paid off

That last excuse almost kept me from going, but in the end I recognized it for what it was. A bullshit excuse.

I decided to treat these plans I had made with myself as though they were plans I’d made with a friend. I needed to take them seriously. I needed to get there on time. I needed to be there for myself.

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And you know what?

  1. I listened to an audiobook on the drive over, the traffic was light, and I was there in no time.

  2. I only drove around for about 10 minutes looking for parking and it wasn’t that far from the stage.

  3. The concert was only an hour, so the dog was alive and perfectly fine when I got home.

  4. I had a quick snack before I left so I wasn’t hungry at the concert.

  5. My student loans don’t have to keep me from enjoying my life. I can’t go back in time and take out less money or skip school altogether. I can’t escape paying back the loans. I was privileged with a good education, I enjoyed the experience, and there’s no point in being miserable while I pay off this debt.

Most importantly, though, it was freeing to be at the concert alone. I felt so proud of myself for going that it erased all the anxiety I’d been feeling earlier that day. I was able to relax and have an even better time alone because I didn’t have to worry if my company was having a good time, and I didn’t have to make any compromises for anyone. I simply enjoyed the experience just for myself.

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Sometimes it feels like I’ve been on this journey to overcoming my anxiety forever, but going to the concert by myself put things into perspective for me. I used to struggle being in crowds even when I was with my family or friends. I would clam up in fear that I would lose sight of familiar people. I would practically tether myself to whoever I was with so I didn’t get lost. But, I navigated through the big crowd at this music festival, all by myself. I stood in the middle of a crowd surrounding the stage, all by myself. I feel a little bit like a five-year-old being proud for doing something “all by myself,” but whatever, I’ve earned my pride.

I’ve come a long way and I deserve to feel accomplished.

While I know that the next time I go somewhere alone I’ll still have a little bit of anxiety, I will be far less wrecked by it.

Plus, the more things I do alone, the easier it will get until I’m hardly even fazed.

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What’s something that’s holding you back? What can you do to begin the journey to overcoming it?

8 Positive Benefits of Life Changes

Change has always been an anxiety inducing experience for me. I remember being terrified about the nitty gritty details in changing from Elementary to Junior High School. I was most worried about who I would sit with at lunch, for example.

Change brings with it uncertainty, and that makes me uncomfortable.

I’ve been writing a lot about how I don’t like change and how much fear and anxiety it causes me, so I decided to work on re-framing my thoughts. That way I can start taking action to combat the anxiety, instead of complaining about it and dreading it.

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1.Opportunity to Grow

I have long attributed my first step toward overcoming my paralyzing social anxiety to my first job working with kids, as a skills trainer. The job presented many challenges, but I overcame them. Besides having to interact more with my co-workers, kids, and their families, I also had the most autonomy I’d ever had in a job. It was a scary change, but I wouldn’t have grown in to the person I am today if I hadn’t made the leap to take the job and harness the opportunities it gave me to grow and become a better person.

2.Progress

I can’t achieve any of my goals without progress. Change forces me to make progress. Whether it be on myself, our financial situation, or a creative endeavor I’ve been working on, change makes me aware of what needs tended to and invites me to do something about it.

3.New Experiences

I’ve always been a big scaredy cat with a hidden sense of adventure. I want to be the person who can say she’s been sky diving or got lost in a foreign country, but I’m too scared to do it. Recently, I challenged my scaredy cat heart and went zip lining. I may not be any closer to signing up for a sky diving session, but change happens through a continuous progression of new experiences and events.

4.Shake up a Stale Routine

It doesn’t take much time for me to get comfortable in a routine, even if that routine isn’t particularly fulfilling. Life change forces me out of my practiced habits and daily drudgery and invites me to try new things.

5.New Choices for Happiness and Fulfillment

When change occurs, I’m presented with new opportunities to seek personal fulfillment. Sometimes, the fulfillment might come in a form I never expected. Back when I worked as a skills trainer, I never expected it to be so rewarding – I just wanted a job that wasn’t in a stuffy basement office – but the job ended up being so much more than new scenery and a better paycheck.

6.Learn Something New about Myself

To continue the running theme here, when I first started working with kids I had no idea that I would like it as much as I did. At first, I was so scared. I thought I’d be terrible at it because I’m quiet and I didn’t feel like a leader, but I quickly learned that I can reach a level of being myself when I’m working with kids that I never reach when I’m interacting with adults. I learned that I can be silly, playful, and way more compassionate than I’d ever known I could be.

7.Discover New Places

Change has always forced me out of my familiar haunts (mainly my house). I see new parts of town through work or meeting new friends. Recently, I was driving a friend home and we were on a road that I always take to get to the grocery store, but I never knew it was a through street because I’ve never had to take it that far. My friend busted up laughing and said, “I feel like I’m blowing your mind here.”

8.Arouse New, Fresh Motivation

Whenever I have a big life change I go through the following phases:

1. Excitement

2. Dread

3. Some sadness, sometimes depression

4. Everything becomes routine again

During the excitement phase, I become incredibly inspired by things I’d long forgotten could inspire me. Music, nature, movies, books, antique stores, food, crafts, fashion and almost any form of creative expression I encounter. It’s a wonderful phase that is quickly dulled when the overall effect of the change on my life becomes more apparent.

Now that I’m aware of the way I cycle through periods of change, maybe I can hold more tightly onto those excited inspiration strings. I can pull the kite through the tunnel of dread, reel it in for comfort when the peaks of sadness hit, and cast it back out into the wind for inspiration when the routine settles in.

The overall sentiment that I’m taking away from this re-framing challenge is that change is scary, but so is the alternative.

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What are some positive benefits of change that you can search for when it all starts to feel chaotic or overwhelming?

I Hate the Afternoons

If I could create my ideal day, it would be one that obliterated the afternoon.

In my ideal day, if this could somehow be possible, the whole day would be a morning.

To me, mornings feel limitless. 8:30AM feels like it could be 8:30AM forever, in a good way. It’s like I have no idea that time is moving forward.

I don’t yet feel any pressure or guilt for what I haven’t accomplished.

I feel a heightened sense of calm because I’m not yet plagued by anxiety. My heart rate is slow. My breaths are deep and my sense are alert.

Mornings carry a sense of possibility.

rise-and-shine

The thing is, because time feels so limitless to me in the mornings, I am more easily distracted and I don’t always accomplish all that I hoped to do. Mornings might feel like they’re full of possibility, but that means nothing if I don’t act on it.

Once the afternoon hits, I begin to feel guilty for what I never accomplished earlier.

My heart rate increases as anxious thoughts invade my mind.

The guilt and anxiety make me feel tired and sluggish, and though I would like to accomplish what I never got to in the morning, I have such little motivation.

Afternoons are the time of day when I’m most fraught with indecision and apathy, and it’s exhausting.

I’m tempted to adopt the practice of afternoon siestas.

Some mornings I wake up to anxiety provoking thoughts, like what if I never accomplish my goals or what if I’m a talentless hack and I’m just fooling myself? but it’s easy to swat those thoughts away as I make my coffee and take the dog outside for his morning stroll and plug away at whatever needs to get done. It gets harder and harder to fight my harsh self-doubt, sense of uncertainty, and spiraling anxious thoughts as the afternoon creeps in.

I know that I’m not alone. Many people experience an afternoon slump. There are plenty of commercials marketing products like energy drinks which seem to have the sole purpose of helping us through this time of day. My playful dog even seems to get the afternoon blues between the hours of 2 and 4.

Afternoons should be full of possibility, though.

They’re just an extension of the morning.

Sometimes, I’m able to trick myself, in a way, into believing that a new morning has started by mirroring my morning routines, like making a cup of coffee or washing my face.

Here are some other strategies that have either worked for me or that I intend to practice to make it through the afternoon:

 Journal

  • Write about my day so far – acknowledge all that I have already accomplished
  • Write down what I’d like to accomplish with the afternoon
  • Spend 10 or 20 minutes writing down my worries, then choose one or two of the most pressing ones and create an action plan
  • Write about my dreams and aspirations

Get moving

  • Do some simple stretches
  • Do a quicker-paced Yoga practice like Vinyasa
  • Take a walk
  • Play with the dog
  • Get out of the house, run errands or walk the dog at a park

Refocus

  • Practice mindfulness or meditation
  • Sit outside with no technological distractions
  • Take a shower
  • Write a letter to a friend
  • Listen to inspiring, up-lifting, or energizing music
  • Mindfully eat a healthy snack, focusing on the smell, taste and texture of the food

Since I currently work part-time, I’m either home for the entire afternoon, or I’m leaving for work right as the afternoon begins. On work days, I don’t have to struggle through the afternoon blues because I’m occupied, but as I’m leaving for work I still experience that sense of guilt or anxiety for having not accomplished all that I wanted in the morning, so I have one last strategy for combating the afternoon blues:

  • Set realistic and actionable goals for the day

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Do you experience an afternoon slump, or do you get full-on afternoon blues like me? What are some strategies that you have tried or that you currently use to power through the middle of the day?