I'm 25, and in my few years of adult life, I've made my share of mistake. I've learned to pick myself up, dust myself off and start again (as Ginger Rogers would say). Like most 20 somethings I'm still trying to figure everything out, but I now know how hard it is to do it all on my own. I surround myself with people who make difficult times more bearable and great times, even more amazing.
It's hard to go through life as a young woman; we have a lot of feelings. And as we grow, so does the list of complex feelings we have. My first encounter with unexplainable emotions was after I had graduated. I was very sad and nervous and couldn't explain why; I had a great job and wonderful friends. I now know that it wasn't just a phase I was going through, I had mild anxiety which brought on occasional depression.
I went through a therapy process called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that helped me get back to my old self. I know what it feels like to have constant anxiety; worrying about how every little thing will turn out. But I am so glad to have done therapy; it gave me the life skills that I didn't have and the strength to face my fears. I learned to deal with my emotions and negative thoughts; my negative thoughts were the only things that could hold me back from living the life I wanted.
My personal struggle with anxiety, experience with heartbreak, and the fears that come with taking risks have made me a true believer in Bob Marley's quote that says "you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice". On my path to finding inner peace and happiness I have learned a few important lessons:
1) Accept myself
I'm not the first person to admit that our strengths and weaknesses make up who we are. The problem is, finding out who we really are is difficult; I now understand why people take trips on their own just to get to know themselves. Acknowledging our strengths gives us confidence and knowing our weaknesses allows us to live more comfortably. I suggest starting by creating a ME diagram of yourself. Jot down your strengths, things you are proud of, and your weaknesses. Be brutally honest and maybe get your best friend's opinion on the diagram. This diagram is a work in progress and you will be able to complete it over time.
2) Laugh harder
Being surrounded by people who encourage you to laugh is one of the greatest privileges of life. Laughing or being able to smile when life throws you lemons gets you through the tough times. I personally feel like when I laugh at a stressful situation it makes it seem less permanent to me. Research has shown that even faking a smile can reduce stress levels and decrease your heart rate, so go ahead and smile!
3) Sleep on it
Time has a magical way of making things better; when I feel really low and can't imagine ever getting better, I sleep on it. I've had my share of heart breaks, when you're hurt and feel lonely and think you will never be the same. But anyone who's ever experienced a breakup can tell you, time heals your pain. Sleeping and starting new the next day has a softening effect on horrible situations. It's like wiping off a thin layer of sadness each day and as the days go by things start to get better, and one day you wake up and don't feel the pain anymore. Time gives your mind space to figure things out and calms your nerves.
4) Say NO to things that don't make me happy
No one has to go through life being unhappy. Whether it's being in an unhealthy relationship, joining a book club -- just because your friend thinks it's a good idea -- or going to the movies when you just want to stay home and watch Gilmore Girls, learn to say no. Remembering that you are your number one priority in life makes saying no easier. Certainly some of us have obligations that make saying no harder, but we can always prioritize.
5) Make health my priority
Unfortunately, most of us learn this lesson the hard way, but anyone who has had health issues will attest to this; a healthy body and mind are essential to anyone's happiness. Taking care of yourself includes eating well, exercising and maintaining good mental health.
I was never an active person, but recently I had a point in my life when everything was falling apart including my health. So with the encouragement of my friends, I started to go to group workout classes. It turned my life around. Not only did I gain strength in my body, it gave me a boost of confidence I never thought I could get. Now I treat exercise not just as a way of keeping my body healthy but as a therapeutic experience that keeps my mind strong through tough times.