A sustainable way to take control.
Have you ever felt like you’re in a weird state of limbo? Like you’re aimlessly floating from one place to another, not really sure of what you want to do, where you want to go, or where you want to land?
For the past four years, this is what my life has felt like. I’ve lived in four different countries, I’ve worked four different jobs, and I went back to studying for a while.
It was fun at first; I was excited to live abroad, to meet new people, to experience what it was like to work in different industries, to be independent, and to fend for myself!
But for me at least, this constant change began to take its toll. My friends and my family are scattered, so most of the time, I’m alone.
I came to realize that, in my quest to achieve career success, I had neglected other aspects of my life. And they had left a void; an emptiness that I couldn’t ignore.
This emptiness gave me a sense of instability, and I became more insecure and fearful. I doubted my own ability and my own instinct. I was filled with anxiety, and this anxiety became almost paralyzing.
Until I discovered a tool that proved to be particularly helpful: journaling. Your first thought was probably a teenage girl, sat with her back against her bedroom door as she writes about her crush in her diary. But actually, I learned about the power of journaling from a very successful, adult man by the name of Tim Ferriss. So, change of scene.
There are two main reasons why journaling helped me overcome anxiety. Not only did it bring me respite and perspective in the moment, but it empowered me with the tools I needed to overcome suffering in the future. And I hope it will do the same for you too.
Adopt a positive mindset
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Whether you’re giving thanks to something in the past, the present, or the future, doing so has shown to help people feel more positive emotions, build strong relationships, and deal with adversity.
So, I decided to make practicing gratitude a habit. I ordered ‘The Five Minute Journal’ and I keep it on my nightstand. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s effective!
Every night when I get into bed, I:
1) List three amazing things that have happened today, and
2) I reflect on how I could have made today better.
Maybe I could have found more time for myself; to go for a walk, to cook myself a nice dinner… something that I’ll be mindful of tomorrow.
Then, every morning before I get out of bed, I:
1) List three things that I’m grateful for
2) List three things that would make today great, and
3) I give myself an affirmation. My mantra for the day.
It helps me focus on the positive things in life rather than the bad. I go to sleep feeling calm and I wake up feeling rested; ready to face the day. Try it!
Remember the struggle to overcome future hardship
Think of a time where you suffered from anxiety, stress, or perhaps depression… Do you remember what it was that made you feel better?
When I look back at my experiences, I often can’t actually remember what, why, or when it was that I began to feel better.
And the problem is, that I know I’ll go through tough times again. It’ inevitable, we all do. I want to remember how I overcame my struggles in the past so that I’m able to apply the same tools next time.
Hand-writing can help for two reasons.
The first is that we retain more information when we write by hand than we do when we type on a laptop or a phone. The theory is that since hand-writing is a slower process, it gives us more time to analyze and reflect on the information we’re writing. Plus, when we write by hand, the movements involved leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain, which helps us remember what we’ve written.
The second, very simple reason why writing is a good way to help yourself overcome future struggle, is because you’re giving yourself a chance to refer back to your notes. You’re giving yourself a reference to fall back on; a time-machine to the old you, who might just be able to give you the advice you need.
So why not give it a try? Find yourself a blank notebook, a pen, and place them both next to your bed. I hope it works for you, as well as it has for me.