As I mentioned in a previous post, I like to choose words and phrases to live by that help me to feel grounded. I think we can all agree that it is far too easy to get swept up in our day to day routines. There are times when we go into a sort of auto pilot mode and do just to do. I have found that when I run on auto pilot for too long I start to feel anxious. This is why whenever I start to feel this way I choose a word or phrase that means something to me and center all my thoughts and actions around it. I find that when I do this, I switch out of auto pilot and feel far more in control of my own life. And friends, when it comes to mental health, control is very very good.
Since this is a particular technique that I use often and I find very effective I have decided to share it with all of you. Below I will share some of the words that I use or have used in the past. There isn’t necessarily an exact amount of time that I use these words for, or even a set way in which I use them. What I like to do is find a word that means something to me and which I would like to exemplify in my actions. First, I come up with the word and decide how I’m going to exemplify it. Once I have done this, I like to write it down so that I can see it in front of me. Often times when I am using the word for the first time I will write it on the inside of my wrist. I usually have it written on my wrist for a few days as a constant reminder that I am trying to live by that particular word. Whenever I look down and see it, I remember my plan. It usually takes a few days of me seeing that word on my wrist to really begin to use it in my day to day actions. Once I get into the habit of using it, I stop writing it down and just keep it in the back of my mind.
This is just one of my many coping techniques to help me feel less anxious when life seems to be moving too quickly or things begin to feel out of control. You are more than welcome to use it or adapt it as you see fit. See below a list of words that have helped me in the past.
Enjoy: This was a really great word for me which I used during my last semester of college. At that point in time I was extremely stressed about what I was going to do with my future. It got to a point where I felt like every second of my life was dedicated to figuring out what to do next. I was so wrapped up in planning for the future that I wasn’t enjoying what was around me. Not only that, I was so anxious about my future that my planning wasn’t getting me anywhere. Essentially I was spinning my wheels and definitely unhappy while doing it. One day I realized that no matter what I was going to do next, this was my last semester of college at UGA. I realized that whether I was working full time, living in a different country or laying on my couch at home after college, I was never going to get my college experience back. Yikes! Upon this realization, I decided that whatever was going to come next was going to come, but above all else I wanted to enjoy my remaining months at UGA. So, I stopped planning for my future and just enjoyed the little things about being a student. I enjoyed walking through campus. I enjoyed getting coffee with my friends. I enjoyed the long nights studying for tests. I found something to enjoy in every situation because at the end of the day, this was time I wasn’t going to get back. This was an experience I wasn’t going to get twice.
Purpose: This was a word that I used for some time after college. It took A LOT for me to be okay with the fact that I didn’t have a plan for life after college. I am very much a Type A personality and I need to have a plan and feel in control. Up until this point in my life, there was never a time when I didn’t have a plan. Out of elementary school my parents picked my high school and by my grade 11 year I was committed to UGA. In other words, I always had the next 4 years of my life planned out at least 1 year in advance. There was never any ambiguity surrounding what I would be doing. So yes, convincing myself that it was okay to NOT have a 4-year plan was challenging to say the least. I was able to do this (go me!) but following university I moved home and was now stuck again. Now it was time to figure some things out. There I was starting a new job at Starbucks and then another in customer service at Desjardins. Needless to say neither of these roles were overly fulfilling. The longer I worked in these positions, the more I knew I wanted to be doing something else. I began to get frustrated because it felt like I was again spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere. At this point in time I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and pick a new word. The word I settled on this time around was purpose. With my actions being centered on this word, I decided that everything I was going to do was with a purpose. I was going to go to work everyday and develop my interpersonal skills. I was going to network with my coworkers to see if I could find a field that interested me. I was going to save the money I was making so that I would have more freedom when I finally decided what I was going to pursue. I didn’t change my situation but I did change my perspective and soon, walking into Starbucks didn’t seem so bad.
Still: This is actually the word that I have used most recently. I use this word these days to remind myself to slow down, calm down and be still every so often. I think that as an athlete, this can be a very tough concept to grasp at times. So much of my life has been go, go, go, GO. I have always been running from class to practice, to lift, and back again. There never ever seemed to be enough hours in the day for me to accomplish everything, and I think that as a result, I learned to live my life in what sometimes feels like fast forward. I was (and still am) so used to a fast paced lifestyle that when I began to have downtime I didn’t know what to do with myself. Even now, I work two jobs and have two volunteer commitments on the go. When I wasn’t working or volunteering I was frantically trying to figure out what career path I wanted to pursue. Through what felt like two years of soul searching I finally settled on the fact that I want to pursue a career in the mental health field (super yay!!!). I very recently came to this conclusion, and once I did I felt this fire ignite inside me. I was so incredibly excited to finally have a career path that I was confident in. With that being said, that excitement and drive that I was just talking about tends to make me a little bit crazy at times. I spend countless hours researching online the best placement or volunteer position or internship that can help me get my foot in the door. I google program after program at different schools in different countries trying to find the best fit. I feel like a hamster on a wheel trying so desperately to find all the answers. So, that’s where my word comes in. Still. I need to be still. I need to accept the fact that I am 21 years old and not “behind”. I need to stop rushing myself to do everything at once and instead take it step by step.
Give: Of all the words I’ve used to ground myself this might be my favourite one. I’ve used this word when I’ve noticed myself getting fixated on my own problems. I’ve mentioned in a previous post how humans are inherently selfish beings. So yes, we naturally fixate on our own issues. Now at least for me, this fixation doesn’t feel good, nor does it usually do much good for my mental health. In times when I’ve caught myself fixated on my own issues, I’ve turned to the word give. When I use give, I take my focus off of myself and place it on others. I focus all my attention on giving to those around me. Sometimes it’s something small like sending an appreciative text that might make someone’s day. Other times it’s something bigger like going out of my way to do a favour for a friend. Sometimes it might even be giving something to a stranger. The ways in which I give vary day by day and situation by situation. It may be time, money, friendship or kindness. There is no set script that I follow. My gauge for giving is if I did something that day or in that moment that I wouldn’t have done if the focus had been on myself.