“In our lives, change is unavoidable, loss is unavoidable. In the adaptability and ease with which we experience change, lies our happiness and freedom.” - Buddha
Let’s face it. We live in a stressful, competitive and sometimes cruel world. People are hungry or losing their jobs, they are getting sick, they fight with each other. Sometimes, it’s a mess. We have so many reasons to be overwhelmed. There are days that everything seems depressing and the world is just a scary place to live in. But there is always another side to the story. And if we feed this side and invest in it, it can be okay. We can be okay. Because, in the same world, at the same time, resources are increasing. Professionals are there, willing to help you, the world starts seeing the importance of self-care and caring for others, volunteers are helping everywhere, millions of studies about mental health are being conducted. There are always two sides of the coin. You just have to flip it.
First, I will shortly present a real-life example, where ESN volunteers flipped the coin and paid attention to the other side of the story. They showed their interest in mental health and tried to sensitise about it. This initiative began by ESN Thessaloniki and then spread in ESN Greece. The volunteers got in touch with HelMSIC (NGO of Medicine Students) and Efpsa (NGO of Psychology Students). The goal of this cooperation was to raise awareness about people who suffer, stop the stigma and change the bad way we, sometimes, treat ourselves. Volunteers and Erasmus students attended AIDS, mental disorders and addiction workshops and educational activities of HelMSIC and also, the “Mind the Mind” Project of EFPSA, that had to do with mental health. Lastly, both the NGOs participated in the National Training Event of ESN Greece, delivering workshops on Crisis Management, Empathy and Mindfulness. Τhis was just one of the amazing steps happening in favour of a better world .
Below you will now find some tips you can practice to endure everyday stress with greater ease. It will be like putting an emotional Band-Aid to take care of your wounds. It will be your commitment to yourself and to the positive side of the story.
1. Take care of your physical needs
A sound mind in a healthy body. You can’t wait for your mind to work properly and help you cope with anxiety or any other struggle without you treating it properly. You need a healthy diet, good sleep and regular exercise. Ordinary things sometimes can save us. It is more about giving yourself love. There are moments when our stomach is tied in a knot and maybe we unconsciously think we don’t deserve nourishment, we leave ourselves without the necessary movement or we let insomnia and overthinking win the battle. It is human. But we can make the conscious choice to forgive our mistakes and make ourselves a priority, because we deserve it no matter what. So, hop on your mat, do your thing, dance your pain away and then cook yourself a delicious dish.
2. Yoga and meditation
I can’t stress enough the importance of taking some time for yourself to focus on your breathing and on what’s going on in your mind and body. It can be ten minutes a day or one hour. It is entirely up to you to find what feels good. Yoga and meditation offer life lessons and can prepare you for moments when you will need some extra calmness. Just for the record, a study showed that the happiest person on earth meditates every day! Maybe it’s not a coincidence. As we can read in the work of Hölzel and his colleagues, meditation literally builds brain tissue and strengthens our brain. Other studies have shown that meditators have a boost in their positive emotion, not only at the moment they are meditating but also in their daily lives. Another important effect of meditation is the fact that it helps us prevent our minds from wandering all the time, an annoying habit we all would want to steer clear of. This way we can focus on the here and now and live more fully. Last but not least, specific kinds of meditation help us increase our love, kindness and social connectedness, all three leading to a happier life.
Yoga and meditation help you discover a whole new path in your life. It’s like a pill without side effects. They are appropriate methods to deal with anxiety, panic attacks, chronic pain, lack of concentration and so much more, as well as a nice and healthy way to start your day with some yoga exercise or closing a busy schedule with a relaxing session of meditation. You can find free videos on YouTube.
3. Bibliotherapy and video-therapy - In general, knowledge-therapy!
There are so many wise books and videos out there with which you can educate yourself and ignite the spark of life. You will read or hear about new and fresh ways of confronting a situation, you will feel like you are not the only one struggling and you will boost your repertoire with positive daily practices. Below are some examples of inspiring books and videos:
- The monk who sold his Ferrari - Robin Sharma
- All along you were blooming - Morgan Harper Nichols
- The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle
- Why we all need to practice emotional first aid - TED Talk
- The person you really need to marry - TED Talk
- The Importance of a Breakdown - The school of life
- How to Be a Friend to Yourself - The school of life
4. Practice gratitude and savouring
The online course “The science of well-being” by Yale University talks about practices that have been proven to increase our happiness. One of them is savouring. This is the act of distancing ourselves from a situation to review and appreciate it more. So next time you have fun at the beach, take a moment to see the beauty of the experience or talk about it later with a friend. Gratitude is also crucial to our well-being. “Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.”, says J. H. Jowett. You can certainly find some minutes at the end of the day to journal about the wonderful things that happened during the day. They can be pretty simple, like a hug or a shirt that felt really comfortable. Beauty is everywhere!
5. Talk, share, bond
We are neither robots nor superheroes to keep up with everything and solve every problem on our own. The tips mentioned above are great and will help you a lot, but there is nothing like sharing your pain with a loved one. You are not alone and even if, sometimes, you feel like a weirdo or a drama queen, you are certainly not the only one. Find the courage to open up to a friend, family member or a specialist. Invest the time to hang out or skype with your group, cook with your grandmother, jog with your father and play with your little cousin. Relationships can improve the quality of our lives so much. They give us all the things that money can’t buy. Love, trust, emotional security, forgiveness, a safe space to be ourselves… and the list can go on and on.
But if you see that things are getting out of hand and you can’t cope with what you have, seek the help you need. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We live in the 21st century and you have the right to be properly cared for. Not all problems can be solved with a yoga class, some cheesecake and a hug. But if you take yourself seriously and are brave enough to confront your fears, some bright day, a yoga class, a cheesecake and a hug will suffice.