It was around January when I came to the decision that I needed to start doing what I wanted to do, for myself and no one else. I had spent the past year of my life consumed by work, graduate school applications, job searches and resumes. When I look back now, I realize that somewhere along the way I had stopped doing the things that I loved and stopped taking care of myself because I was so focused on being â€śsuccessfulâ€ť so soon after graduating from university. Ultimately, this took a toll on my health and well-being. My days were centered around emails, applications, and coffees. I lost sleep worrying about whether or not I had done enough to advance myself during the day. Ultimately, I neglected my own feelings and desires for my future. After experiencing one of the most overwhelming days of my life, I decided to take a step back and walk away from the routine I had gotten myself into for the past few months. I decided that something needed to change because my happiness had become so inconsistent.
The first thing I did was I bought a blank journal from our local bookstore and wrote down all the activities I wanted to try during my spare time. Soon after, I found a volunteer position at my old yoga studio, where I could attend as many classes as I wanted to in exchange for helping out the instructors a few times a week. As you will soon realize, I love yoga and I swear by its magic-like remedies. Practicing yoga is something that Iâ€™ve been doing since I was young to help with my anxiety, as it helps me find clarity. In addition to yoga, I began swimming again, a sport that I started soon after I learned how to walk. Equipped with a waterproof iPod, it has been my go-to activity when Iâ€™m feeling stressed. I also decided to take up rock-climbing, which to my surprise is something that I look forward to challenging myself with every week.
After filling up my time with activities I enjoyed, I proceeded to write down my goals for the future and how I was going to achieve them. Doing this helped me realize that some goals were too unrealistic and some were goals I had outgrown. It helped highlight the goals that felt intuitively right and it gave me a place to start. With advice from a friend, I then wrote down what I most wanted to achieve. After looking at my list, it became clear that I wanted to spend more time with my family and friends, so I now dedicate my Sundays to spending time with them.
Now donâ€™t get me wrong, these changes did not happen overnight. However, I took the time to think about what I really wanted to change in my life in order to move forward in the best possible way. I had to learn how to clear my mind and dedicate time to learn about myself and figure out what makes ME happy. But most importantly, I had to learn how to accept the place I was in and not rush things. This doesnâ€™t mean that I no longer have bad days, because I do, but rather that by making these changes Iâ€™m slowly learning what I need and Iâ€™m at a better place than where I started.
Going through this transition, I have realized that learning how to take care of ourselves is one of the most important skills we can have as individuals. Taking care of our bodies and our minds helps keep us resilient, independent, and motivated to overcome the struggles we are faced with and achieve the goals that we set for ourselves, without taking away from our happiness. So if youâ€™re ever feeling overwhelmed or feel that your heart needs a little TLC, first take a break. Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we arenâ€™t able to see the big picture or think clearly about what we need to feel better. Sit and think. Make a list. Try new things (e.g., rollerblading down the lakeshore, joining a pottery class, anything youâ€™ve ever been remotely interested in doing). If it helps bring your stress level down, itâ€™s worth it!
Next, remind yourself that you can only do so much. This is so important. If something is weighing you down, sometimes letting go is the best thing to do in order to start feeling better. We often hold onto too much, try to do too many tasks, or set too many goals. Try to set one goal at a time, the one you want to achieve the most, and tackle it! Focusing on one goal helps you achieve it faster and better because youâ€™re not exerting all your energy being stressed.
Finally, listen to your intuition. Your body knows how much it can handle and it will let you know when youâ€™re doing too much and neglecting self-care. When you start feeling overwhelmed or stressed, that is your body letting you know that it needs a break. If you remain mindful of your own needs, than youâ€™ll be happier and more productive in the long run!
By: Eliza Watts
Eliza graduated with a degree in Psychology and a specialization in research from Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a passionate mental health advocate whose goal is to help others through her own personal experience.