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How to Be Okay
Do you feel lost, upset, or overwhelmed? Do you find yourself forcing a smile and lying when people ask how you're doing? Sometimes, you don't feel like you're okay. It can be stressful when you're going through a hard time. Luckily, things can get better in time, and you don't have to face this alone.
Letting Go of the Past
Moving on can be difficult. If you aren't okay because of something that happened to you, it's time to confront the past and then let it go.
Reflect on what happened.What happened, and how did it make you feel? How did it effect you and others? What is the big problem here—the difficult part that makes it difficult to get over this particular memory?
- You may find that writing about it helps.
- If the event was particularly traumatic, talk to a counselor, therapist, or doctor. Sometimes, trouble letting go of the past can be a sign of mental health disorders like Acute Stress Disorder or complex PTSD. These are treatable, and a therapist can help you learn new coping skills.
Give yourself time to wallow.Take a warm bath, eat ice cream, watch movies, and cry. Try designating a weekend to experience your unhappiness. Wrap yourself in blankets and indulge in self-comfort. Sometimes, you just need to let out all your emotions before you are able to move on.
- It may take hours, days, weeks, or even months, depending on how bad the thing was that happened to you.
- If you get stuck in the wallowing stage, then something is wrong. Talk to a counselor or trusted adult right away, because there may be going on than meets the eye.
Do something nice for anyone you hurt.If they are open to seeing you, give them gift, write them a nice note, or apologize in person. If you broke something, ask if you can help fix it. You can mend relationships and overcome guilt by being kind to people you wronged.
- Respect their boundaries. Sometimes, the best way to help is to listen when they say "please leave me alone."
- Ask how you can make it up to them. Focus on their needs, not your guilt.
Make peace with your past.Your past is part of you, and it has shaped who you are. What you faced was rough, and now you are a stronger person. Acknowledging it is important to being able to stop focusing on it.
- Recognize that you did the best you could at the time.
Symbolically move on to your new life.Redecorate your room completely. Get a new haircut. Update your wardrobe. Do something nerve racking for you, but still something you can laugh at if it fails. Now you have accepted your past, so it can no longer haunt you, and you can move on as a whole person.
Being Okay Long-Term
Focus on being yourself.Just like an orchestra is comprised of all different instruments, life is full of different people. Your uniqueness adds value to the world. Come to terms with who you are, and recognize that you don't need to change the fundamental aspects of your identity.
- Your gender identity, race, sexual orientation, disability, skin color, clothes preferences, and size are all valid. You should not need to change them (or hide them) in order to get basic respect.
- You are allowed to like whatever you want. Don't listen to elitists who say that something is "too girly," "too childish," or otherwise "not good enough."
Make peace with your faults.Self-improvement is a good thing, but so is recognizing that you are fundamentally human. It may not be practical or possible to please everyone all the time, constantly suppress your temper, or whittle your curvy figure down to a size 2. Accept that you can't control everything, and that it's okay to have flaws. Instead, focus on whatisunder your control, and let the rest go.
- You are allowed to make mistakes sometime. Everyone does. Learn from them and move on.
- Not every opinion, social message, or piece of advice is valid.
- People tend to judge you less than you think.
Make a gratitude journal.Grateful people are happy people. Every night, write down two things you are thankful for about today. Are you happy about your friend's kind words, your awesome science project, the nice weather today? Write in it every day, and you will feel yourself slowly becoming a happier person.
Balance your life.Your day shouldn't consist of mainly work. Give yourself plenty of time for hobbies, loved ones, and general relaxation. Set aside a specific time each day where you can do something you enjoy.
- Place a reasonable limit on time spent browsing the web, as this can overtake more important things like friends and hobbies.
Tackle big problems one step at a time.Large tasks can feel overwhelming and may cause you to panic or freeze. Instead, do one small part of the task: write a rough draft of one paragraph, spend 20 minutes on calculus, or sketch the outline of your presentation. This will help you feel better, and by breaking it into pieces, the task becomes more reasonable.
- If you often feel overwhelmed by your troubles, tell your doctor. You may have an anxiety disorder, a treatable condition that may affect your ability to work.
Master the art of the study break.After about an hour of intense concentration, your neurons get tired and stop working as well. You can fix this by taking 5 minutes to do something else: stand up and stretch, get a drink, talk to a friend, or do something fun. This will help prevent burnout. When you sit back to work, you'll be more focused and productive.
Spend time outdoors.Fresh air and sunlight are important to your physical and emotional health. Something as simple as a 10-minute walk after supper each day can give you a significant boost.
- Try setting up a basketball hoop and shooting hoops when you're stressed or you need to think.
- Bring a loved one on a walk around the block so you can catch up with each other.
Do something meaningful to you.This may be your job, a volunteer opportunity, or your personal relationships. Find a way to help others. When you are making the world a better place, you feel better too.
- Consider how you can use your unique skills. For example, an engineering student probably couldn't do a good job building a school for impoverished kids, but she could work to design infrastructure, or teach kids about her field.
- Everyone has some sort of skill. Maybe you're good at mentoring kids, selling things and donating part of the profits, or writing work that inspires others to do good things.
Being Okay Now
Let your emotions out.Find an opportunity to be alone, where you can cry and let your feelings loose. Let yourself punch the couch cushions and scream into pillows. Call a friend to vent if you need to.
Spend the next two minutes on calming down.Focus on your surroundings, take deep breaths, and try something that calms you.
- Distraction:Count by sevens, list as many synonyms for a word you can think of (e.g. kindness, compassion, caring, etc.), or name as many capital cities as you can.
- Sensory experiences:Listen to music, look at pictures of nature or animals, touch something soft, smell a nice soap or perfume, or eat a food you like.
Make a plan for how you're going to get through the next hour.Don't worry about anything beyond that. What are you going to do? Choose something reasonable. When you have planned a designated time to work, and a designated time to relax, you can feel less anxious. Here are some example plans.
- Spend the next half hour on drawing pictures and relaxing. Then do a half hour of the lab report.
- Draft one body paragraph of the essay. Then take a long, relaxing bath.
- Write a draft of what you want to say to your boss. Then stop thinking about the conversation, and play with your cats.
Do something for yourself.Indulge in a favorite hobby, invite a loved one to see a movie with you, or go get some frozen yogurt. Recognize that relaxation is part of being prepared and successful.
Reach out to someone.Emotional support can help you overcome your struggles, or at least make things a little easier. Don't be afraid to ask for help or companionship. You deserve it.
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