Somewhere Along the Way, I Stopped Thinking and Started Being Happy

You have have noticed that my last post was nearly a month ago. Heck, I’m not proud of that. But instead of wiping the blog clean and simply pretending it never happened, I’d like to acknowledge it.

As soon as I made the decision to graduate early, I was feeling lost and confused, and thought I needed to jump on The Next Big Thing to feel complete in my life. I am always on the go and I like to distract myself instead of dealing with my feelings. I pride myself on my productivity, on my many passions and career goals. But this was a time for me to take care of myself, to heal up, and it’s impossible to be real with yourself when you’re always catapulting from one goal to the next.

I’m a total analytical junkie. I love thinking, I love numbers, and I love running through my thoughts. Is this valid? I might think. Am I enjoying myself enough? What could be a better use of my time?

All this questioning made me really unhappy. I knew over thinking was not the answer. I knew it was making me unhappy — I just didn’t know how to stop it. I thought this blog would help me — but in the first week, I fought my thoughts every day. I felt like an imposter, a preacher of self-worth and confidence that I did not have — did not even come close to having. But I wrote, still, tried to keep my head up and positivity on my brain.

I’ve learned you can’t force the cycle of thoughts to stop. I slowly had to ramp myself down from over thinking everything to only thinking about the necessities. It was a total pain. I hated slamming the brakes on my brain — in a weird way, it felt like I was limiting myself,even though in reality, I was freeing myself up to be more productive about real issues. Obsessing can be addictive to me — once I start, it’s hard to stop. So I had to take another approach — I tried not to let myself start thinking at all.

I hung out with people. I buried myself in books. I ran to the tunes of bass-thumping pop music. I wrote fiction — one of the few forms of where I allow myself total freedom. I tried to do things — quite simply, I tried to do things that made me feel like me, things that had fallen by the wayside.

I messed up a ton. I’m only human. But it was only recently that I’d realized that I stopped thinking and started being happy.

I took this month to slow down. I might not have documented it all, but here are some highlights:

  • November 15: I went on a scavenger hunt at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through Watson Adventures. My team won the challenge, coming in first place on a trivia hunt! We were so shocked that we won (we’ve done several and always tied or lost by a point or two) that we started laughing when we heard the results!
  • November 26: I went to the library for fun for the first time in forever and read Insurgent cover to cover in three hours.
  • November 27: I took time to cook and spend some time with my family on Thanksgiving. Watching the parade and the dog show on TV is a must-do (I was totes rooting for the Sammy dog.) I also finished up my final essays and presentations for classes.
  • November 28: Went shopping with my mom very late in the day (no a.m. rushing for us!) and managed some good deals nonetheless.
  • December 1 & 2: Watched the entirety of season seven of Supernatural on Netflix. #noregrets #whoops I also cooked a lot of vegetables.
  • December 3: I remember being grateful for the hauntingly beautiful moon on a late night stroll.
  • December 5: I gave my final presentation for one of my favorite classes — thereby finishing all of my undergraduate work (except going to classes) until my final on December 16. (The presentation, by the way, was on Gluten Free Hudson Valley.)
  • December 7: I met up with a friend from ASME and explored Manhattan. Followed through with the tradition of going to Rockefeller Center and stopped off at the Plaza as well as our old stomping grounds.
  • December 8: I slept for 16 hours (unheard of for me!) and it was glorious.

In between, I caught up on my laundry, chatted with family and generally enjoyed myself. Have I done anything remarkable? No, not really. But I’m recharging my batteries, I’m happier than ever…and I think not writing that down, that sort of progress, would be a damn shame.

I’d be lying if I said I was happy all the time. But I’ve made bits of progress where it counts. The negative inner self-talk is now recognizable, and I’m stomping it out. I try to find the good in situations instead of immediately jumping to the worst possible scenario. I’ve learned there is a time and place for relaxing, and sometimes you need to embrace it, not fall into it kicking and protesting (my usual strategy.)

I’ve come a long way in (just under) one month. Every day feels more possible to live the life I’ve imagined for myself.

I couldn’t have written this post a month ago. I’m glad I can write it now.

Day 33 Mantra: Don’t beat yourself up over the lack of a log — the important part is the result of the journey.

Confessions of a Control Freak: How I’m Renouncing My Ways

I’ll be the first admit it: I have a hard time relaxing. Ever.

You could stick me on a beach in paradise and I’d still be thinking: What if I forgot to lock my hotel door? What if I was supposed to do an assignment before I went on vacation? What if…?

This stream of worrying never shuts up.

Even when I’m hanging out with friends, I tend to be a little high-strung: I want to know all the details: where, when, how long and who’s going to be there. I’m detail-oriented, and that makes me great at getting the scoop in journalism, but as a person — sometimes it makes me a little depressed. It’s hard to admit that. I really enjoy making other people happy, and I tend to keep my worries inside. I’ve always thought — I can’t help it, I’m just a private person — and no one wants to know that I deal with this.

But part of the scary part of worrying yourself to death is the feeling that you are so alone. And truth is, you’re not. People struggle with worrying, anxiety and even depression all the time. Being alone couldn’t be further from the truth. But it’s easy to get wrapped up in this repetition of worries. At first, the worrying is relaxing, soothing, like a repeated prayer. As if repeating the words enough times will make your problem go away.

Worry smothers you, makes you less likely to reach out, makes you feel like you’ve lost your connection to others.

But that’s not true. It just appears to be true. And worrying about problems won’t make them go away — only your attitude can help you deal.

I have a hard time realizing the world won’t end if one new person shows up at a party — or someone who’s promised to show ditches instead. I have a hard time with standing my ground for fear that people will disagree with what I say (um, haters gonna hate anyway?!)

On the outside, I feel like I really  have my life together, but on the inside, I struggle every day with worrying and trying to project happiness into my life.

It’s time for me to stop this. For real.

I’ve been a total control freak every day of my life, but it’s time to stop worrying and start living.

That’s why I’m beginning my own 40 Days of the Worry-Free Challenge. I’m going to identify exactly what is making me stressed, tackle it, and move on with my life. To hold myself accountable, I’m going to talk about it here. No filter. If I have a bad day, I’m not going to b.s. it — everyone has a bad day every so often, but we need to unite to cope with them. I don’t expect every day to be completely worry-free (after all, I’m trying to undo 21 years of social conditioning and anxiety here), but I do expect to be able to deal with it better at the end of this experiment.

Why the sudden change of heart? After all, I’ve managed to successfully live like this my whole life. Why now?

I finish my undergraduate college education at SUNY New Paltz on December 16th, 2014. This is exactly 40 days from now. I’ve heard it takes a month to form a habit — but just to be sure, I’ll do so for 40 days. There is no running from this — I’m always on the move, but doing something every day and actually (gasp!) talking about it openly and honestly is bound to make something happen.

I’m going to blog every day about stress management, my life and things I’m learning along the way. Taking care of yourself is such an important priority — but it’s never been my main one. Now, it has to be.

 Mantra for Day 1: Just do it.

I’m taking a cue from Nike here. I tend to obsess over absolutely everything I’m doing. Eggs for breakfast? Maybe I should’ve had yogurt. Handed in the essay in Times New Roman 11.5 point font to fit within the page limit? Maybe I should’ve left it at 12, after all.

Seriously, it gets that silly. For a person who prides herself on her logic, my worries have no logic. In the long run, none of these things matter. Today, I’m focusing on not second-guessing myself and simply flying through my to-do list. Just do it.

I believe I can. I’ll report back tomorrow.

Stress less and smile more,

April