Whenever someone utters the phrase “I need a mental health day,” it often comes follow by an eye roll, and the concept that the person is just trying to get out of work. However, I would like to beg to differ, as the need for a mental health day stems from something that’s more than just wanting a day to watch Netflix and read a chic lit novel. It comes from needing it.
Whenever I think about my anxiety and how bad it got in the past year, I can not help but think that if I had taken more time for myself then it wouldn’t have gotten that bad.
While I could never truly know the answer, I believe that taking a mental health day from one of my jobs would have helped me not let it get as bad as it did.
However, let me be the first to admit–it’s not easy to admit that you need a day off or a break. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. I often wonder if it makes me look weak when I say “I need to take a day off to do things.” I also feel guilty, because I often worry about leaving the work that I would have been doing for someone else to do.
But, at the same time, I can’t do everything, and that’s perfectly okay.
The take home message here? Every now and then, it’s okay to call out sick when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or just need a day to veg out on the couch and write. It’s okay to take a day to just take care of yourself, to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather, and it’s okay to just relax. Why? Because to live a life solely made out of work isn’t a life, it’s just a calendar and a bunch of tasks. Take care of you, because you are more important than those lists.
And that is why we should make mental health days a thing.
Between a stressful week at work and another incident in which my car was hit, this week has been nothing less than hell.
As I tried to deal with all that was going on, I noticed myself retrieving in my old habits: where I would basically feel like I was drowning in what felt like a flood of everything going wrong. Negative thoughts began to flood my brain: it’s my fault that things suck, they never will get better, I don’t want to go to class, because I just don’t feel like it, etc.
Of course, then I get frustrated with myself. Come on Natalie, I would tell myself. You’ve dealt with this before, so stop it. You don’t need to have another anxiety attack over this.
Beating myself up for what I was thinking didn’t help much, suffice to say.
On Sunday morning, a lightbulb went off in my head, an aha moment if you will. When dealing with anxiety, not everyday is going to be peachy keen. There are going to be things that are just out of your control that crash in to you (or your Honda Civic, in a matter of speaking) There are going to be stressful days when you feel like you can’t see straight, and there are going to be times when you’re going to feel on the verge of a panic attack because of the day’s events. Just because you haven’t had one in three months, doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing to have one now. It means that you need to take five and reboot.
However, with that being said, there is something that I think that I do have 100 percent control over-me. I have control on whether or not I choose to lose it when I am at work and there is a pile a mountain high of stuff to do that are crumbling me. I have control of my thoughts, and I can control thinking “this will be an awful day.” I can change these things that I do in fact control. I can change my thoughts to thinking that while I am doing something that may not be fun, to think about what I am going to do after work or class.
Furthermore, with that being said, I also bear a responsibility, not only professionally or academically, but to myself. I am responsible for taking care of myself, for making sure that I am taking time to ensure that I am okay, and giving myself five seconds to breathe. I can only do my best, and that’s about it. And, despite the fact that others may not like it, that is perfectly okay. I make mistakes, and that’s not something I should beat myself up about. Instead, I should acknowledge this and move on.
The responsibility I bear to myself is the most important in my crazy, hectic life, because if I don’t take care of myself, it would only make things worse.
So, with that being said, it is important to remember that in dealing with something that is so intense as anxiety, there are going to be good days. There are going to be bad days. And, that’s okay.
And with the bad days, when it’s difficult to think positively, remember one thing: you’ve come a long way. And just like when you struggled before, there truly will be a shining light on the other side.
When dealing with the symptoms of a panic attack, I’ve trained myself to stop what I am doing and write down every single emotion that I am feeling in that moment. While I’ve kept a journal actively for over four years, I’ve soon reaped in the therapeutic benefits of using writing to help deal with the daily effects of anxiety, or any other event that I’ve had trouble in my life, from a breakup to a bad day.
Journaling is one of the number one things that therapists often advise patients of both anxiety and depression (as well as other mental illness that I can not think of at the moment). However, journaling has benefits that surpass just helping your mental health and sanity. According to an article on Psych Central called “The Health Benefits of Journaling,” it stated that according to a study at the University of Texas, journaling can strengthen your immune cells, known as T-cells. The article went onto state that journaling helps reduce the symptoms of both asthma and arthritis.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve kept a journal for about four years, three years before anxiety had ever came into the picture for me. As a writer, it is extremely easy to lose myself in a flurry of paper and ink. But for those who are not writers, writing in a journal can be just as much of a stress as whatever is stressing you out.
Because of my consistent journaling, I am able to express every emotion that I am feeling in a matter that is both healthy and private. I can write down whatever I am feeling in the moment, good or bad, and it won’t ever be read by someone I don’t want it to, which is a much healthier approach than a sub-tweet.
While journaling is a helpful and healthy way to express angry emotions and upset emotions, it also serves as a great release. Writing down everything I am feeling when I am about to have a panic attack is one of the only things that stop them. During this time, I am scribbling every single emotion that is flooding through my head, and by the time I am calm again, the page has become a flood of my emotions tattooed onto the paper by the ink of my pen. Out of all of the ways I’ve tried to deal with my anxiety, I’ve found that this is the method that works. And I am not alone. Many anxiety patients find that using this journal helps center themselves and express themselves when having emotions, such as my friends Gabu and Kari.
Furthermore, while journaling can be used to express emotions, it also can be used as a method to help check in with yourself and promote healthy habits. For the ten minutes that I spend a day journaling, it’s ten minutes that I am devoting to myself for ‘me-time.’ At the end of a hectic day, I look forward to spending a few minutes writing about it each day. Journaling not only on a bad day, but on a good day helps create a habit of both meditation and reflection, which in turn is crucial in trying to change one’s life for the better and help combating anxiety and stress.
While I’ve mentioned three reasons why one should journal, there are several more out there, such as stress reduction. With that being said, if you’re ready to pick up a pad and a pen, but are unsure to start, here’s some prompts to help get you started:
Write down what happened today. Did you have a good day/bad day? Why was it good/bad? What did you do, eat for dinner, etc. Basically, keep a day to day log of what you’ve done today.
When anxious, write down what you’re feeling when you’re upset. Express every emotion that you’re feeling. Why are you upset? What caused it? What can you do to change it?
Write down a list of ten good things that happened today. By doing so, even on the worst of days, you can see that there is some good in everything, even on the darkest of days. Furthermore, try every once in a while to write down a list of all of the good things in your life. On my worst of days, I’ve discovered that not everything is as bad as it seems.
If these tips didn’t help you, there’s still a ton more resources out there on how to get started with a bunch of prompts. One of my favorites is the book “50 Ways to Yay”by Alexi Panos, which is filled with both reflection and causes you to look at yourself in a critical way to invoke change.
However, with that being said, there’s no right or wrong way to journal, and it is something that everyone does differently. It’s a way to relieve stress, not cause it, so be patient with yourself to find something that works for you.
Recently, I’ve read this article on the Odyssey called “To The Boy I’m Going to Marry.” The article was inspired by another blogger, who wrote a letter to her future husband. I decided I wanted to write my own letter to the lucky person I will eventually get to marry. So, without further adue, here’s my letter:
Dear Future Husband,
As I am writing you this letter, I am curious about your identity, and our story. What is your name? How did we meet? What is our love story? Are you tall? Are you agnostic? Are you in my life now, in 2016, as I am typing this letter to you? Perhaps you’re even reading this letter and wondering what I was thinking when I was writing this (and if you are, hi darling how are you?) Well, whoever you are, I am looking forward to meeting you, even if I have yet to meet you.
I sometimes think about you. I sometimes wonder if I will ever find you, as I swipe left and right for dates. I wonder if you’ve thought about me, who I am and how you’re going to find me. However, as I think about you, I realize that I’m not actively searching to find you, as I am not fighting the impossible currents to reach a guy that is not meant to be. Instead, I wait for you to come to me, and work on being a better me, for well me. You’ll come eventually, so why should I stress out about finding you?
However, this doesn’t change the fact that I still wonder about you. But, even though I am about to graduate college, and head into a new phase of my life, I realize that despite not having a solid guy in my life doesn’t mean that I’m never going to find you. It just means I haven’t found you yet.
So, whoever you are, if we haven’t met, then I can’t wait to meet you. If we have met, then I am surely looking forward to it. I am looking forward to the excitement of our first dates, the touch of our lips that very first time, and the countless smiles and laughter. I am looking forward to meeting you, as you will be the person who helps me float, rather than is the reason why I sink. I am looking forward to learning about you, why you laugh the way you do, and what you like the things that you like. With that being said, I hope you are enjoying your life, whatever you’re doing. If you’re in school, I hope you don’t stress out about it as much as I do. If you’re done with school, I hope work is something that you actually enjoy, versus a place that you dread to go to every day.
And most of all, whoever you are, I hope you are just as excited to meet me just as much as I am to meet you. But, until then, enjoy life.
For over two months, I had a boyfriend. For privacy purposes, we’ll name him Mike. During those two months, I neglected to update my relationship status on Facebook, nor did I share a single selfie of the two of us on Instagram (which is unlike me, because I’m constantly sharing content on the app).
The reason why I chose to keep my relationship private was simple: I just wanted something real, without the constant interruption of technology. Often times, when I hung out with my friends, one thing that we would always do is post a selfie to Instagram or Facebook. After all, if it wasn’t on social media, did it really happen? Therefore, when it came to my relationship, I felt like it was better for me to keep it offline (this also had to do with not wanting to broadcast it to several members of my family who I haven’t spoken to or seen for a while). It had nothing to do with my boyfriend or how I felt about him, it’s just I wanted the privacy of growing together away from the digital spotlight.
I feel like with the constant use of social media, we lose that sense of privacy. It is as if we have out own personal set of paparazzi following us around every time we go somewhere. Only, unlike celebrities, we are actually asking for this attention.
According to an article from Science Alert, people who over share about their partner are likely to have low self esteem. And to some degree, I agree with that, because of it correlates with some of the friends I encounter with on my timeline.
Adding onto that, I’ve heard some conflicting statements about relationships and social media from friends and family. Some people say that by not updating your Facebook relationship status, you are in a sense trying to hide the relationship from family and friends, and are ashamed of the other person. Others say that by posting too much, you’re basically trying to put on a show, or trying to put on a false front for others to see. After all, no one can see past the screen, right?
With that being said, I would like to also like to add that with social media, it’s something that I think that you should do on your own terms, not on what other people think should be done. I have quite a few friends who are in relationships, however, I don’t see them post about it every single day. Despite the fact they don’t constantly update their status 24/7 about it, those same friends still have an “in a relationship status” on Facebook, as well as a picture of them with their significant other as their default. I have other friends that are also in love that did not change their Facebook status whatsoever, but they have each other in their profile pictures. Both of these couples are couples who are in it for the long haul, and it works for them.
Therefore, when it comes to relationships and social media, it’s up to you on how much (or little) you post. And while I don’t know when I will be in a relationship next, I know that I would probably like to not keep so hidden as I did the last time. But, with that being said, I know I would not be constantly updating every one of my 1,471 Facebook friends on every little date or adventure I go on with whoever the lucky guy may be.
Yesterday was National Boyfriend Day, and suddenly, my timeline was filled with pictures of cute couples, all accompanied by a paragraph explaining why they are so lucky to have their boyfriend in their lives.
As a single girl, one would think that I would want to stay off Instagram or be salty about the fact that I don’t have a boyfriend to post a selfie of. However, that couldn’t be further from the case, as I am happy for my friends who have found that special person that makes them happy, because they deserve to be happy with a great person.
In fact, I believe that having someone that makes you happy, supports you and is someone that makes you a priority is something that should be celebrated, and appreciated. I hate that we live in a society where people in relationships fear that sharing it can be overkill or too much. People in relationships shouldn’t have to feel that way just because they worry that they will become that person. Instead, they should be more focused on sharing that something good that they have found.
And as for us single girls, I think that instead of looking at this day (or even Valentine’s Day for that matter) as something that is excluding us who don’t have a boyfriend, we should instead focus on the fact that we will eventually find someone. We just haven’t found that boyfriend that makes us feel the things that our friends have yet. And, that’s perfectly okay. We’ll get there eventually, so there’s no reason for us to hate on those who already got there.
But, before I forget: happy National Boyfriend Day to the boyfriends out there who are not only are supportive of their girlfriends, but are the reason why this day even exists. You guys are awesome, and deserve to be celebrated. In fact, I hope to find someone with your qualities out there for my own boyfriend.
There are so many theories on how to live a happy and fulfilled life that it’s even a section at Barnes and Noble. However, I learned that it’s not as complicated as it seems. Here are some easy ways to incorporate mindfulness in your day to day life:
Make an upbeat playlist to play when you’re feeling down.
Whenever I’m having a bad day, I blast my “Upbeat, Feel Good Music” playlist on Spotify, which is filled with several songs that help me feel empowered and happy. Having that playlist helps me not only get out of my bad mood, but is extremely uplifting. For me, my playlist is filled with songs by Demi Lovato and Beyonce, but that song differs for everyone. The key is to have a playlist of music in tow to help you jam out for a while, and essentially just feel empowered.
I’ve kept a journal for the past four and a half years, and honestly, it is one of the most helpful things for me, both as a writer and as a person with anxiety. Recently, I’ve discovered it’s useful to help me reach a calmer sense of self. Whenever I have a panic attack, or even feel one coming on, I break out my pen and pad and begin to write until every emotion I am feeling exits my body, and is on the page. Even if you’re not a writer, I highly recommend you keeping a journal of some sort if you’re feeling stressed, because it’s helpful for you to reflect on yourself and what you’re feeling. Or, you can even use a journal to create a list of stuff that went right in your day. But, if you’re really stuck on how to start, check out this article by Journal to Wellness with some journaling tips for beginners.
Surround yourself with positive quotes.
I have a Pinterest board dedicated to this, and every so often, search for some new ones to use as my wallpaper so I can have some sort of affirmation whenever I’m having a bad day. Surrounding yourself with some positive quotes not only makes you feel empowered and inspired, it also helps make you feel more positive. And who doesn’t need a healthy dosage of positivity in your day to day life? Furthermore, you can also purchase notepads and mugs to further surround yourself with some good vibes.
Make time to do something that makes you happy everyday.
For me, it’s reading a book every morning with a cup of coffee. However, for you it can be something different, such as devoting time to do a craft, or something like that. By doing this, you are not only carving time out for yourself, but also finding time to do something that you enjoy. Chances are, even if you only get a few minutes each day, by doing this you are in a sense happy.
Check with yourself every now and then.
Stressful day? Be sure to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling, and see what you need to do to take care of yourself. This can be simple as making sure you take some time to eat if you’re hungry, or even take a brief break while at work. It’s important to do this, because if you’re neglecting your own needs, chances are you’re only going to be adding to the stress.
Drink a lot of water.
According to this article from the Calm Clinic entitled “Can Anxiety Be Caused By Dehydration?” not drinking enough water can definitely worsen anxiety symptoms. Therefore, it’s important to stay hydrated through out the day. So, before you leave in the morning for a long day of school/work/both, be sure to make sure you packed a water bottle in your bag. Trust me, it’s helpful.
Create a “carrot” for you to get through the day/week/month.
Midterms/finals are stressful. However, instead of dwelling on the negative, which is only going to bring you down, think of something that you can treat yourself with, whether it may be a cupcake from your favorite place or a night out with friends. These carrots don’t have to necessarily be material things, however, simply by saying to yourself “all I have to get through is one more day, then I’m going to have a fun girl’s night,” will definitely help you be more optimistic.
When stressed, ask yourself what you need to focus right now.
When dealing with stress, ask yourself what you can do right now to help reach that goal. For example, if you’re stressed out about not being able to find a job after you graduate, be sure to take small steps to get there. This may mean getting your resume ready, or tackling a few applications a day. Therefore, by taking those small steps, you reach a larger goal, i.e. full time employment.
Recently, I’ve read this article on the Huffington Post about how marriage is celebrated as being a bigger accomplishment than doing something such as a college graduation or another professional kind of accomplishment. After reading this article, I had given it great thought, as I agreed strongly with the writer’s point of view.
Last summer, I met the band Kansas, which is to date one of my biggest accomplishments. When I posted the picture, I only got a few likes on my Instagram. At that same day, a friend of mine posted a picture with her significant other on a trip that they had. That photo got at least double the amount of social media likes.
What I’m complaining about isn’t about the whole “I’m a bitter single girl” matter, rather than it’s about the whole reframing how we value things as a society. It’s 2016. Hillary is running for president, and she’s a freaking badass for lack of better word. There are larger set of accomplishments for women then being able to slip a diamond around their finger, or walking down the aisle wearing a white dress. No offense to those who have done this, but honestly, there needs to be a larger round of appreciation for those who worked hard for what they want, and actually get it.
As I mentioned in a post I wrote last week called “Single by Choice,” I feel that there is nothing wrong with choosing to be more career oriented versus relationship oriented. Granted, relationships are something that should be celebrated, as all kinds of love should be. However, why can’t we apply that same mentality to accomplishments like meeting a band or graduating college? Why can’t we throw a party for ourselves when someone finishes their thesis or gets the job of your dreams? Those are pretty damn big accomplishments if you ask me. Relationships are all about luck and chance. But, there’s nothing left to chance when you graduate college or get the job of your dreams. That is the result of hard work, determination and the power of will.
So, while the picture of a cute couple will rake in the likes for lack of better word, let’s apply that same mentality to the girls who graduated cum laude, the people who get places because they busted their ass to get to that point.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the type of person that I want to be and grow to be. This goes past thinking about what I want to do with my life past December 16 (the day that I graduate). This is more of who I want to be as a person, what traits I want to have, and the type of impact I want to leave on the world.
After doing a lot of soul searching, listening to Demi Lovato, and journaling, I have my answers.
The type of person I want to be is someone who goes after what she wants. This person is strong, independent, and knows how to obtain whatever I desire. I want to be a role model to people, especially those with anxiety. I want to be a person who can be able to do things that scare her, and not let fear get in my way.
Basically, I want to be a bad ass.
At the end of the day, it’s the bad asses in the world who are the ones who control it. I want to change the world to make it a place that is more accepting, a place that opens up discussion of things such as mental illness, and a place that is initially better.
Ozzy Osbourne once said “I don’t want to change the world, I don’t want the world to change me.” However, I couldn’t disagree with him any more. I want the world to be changed by me, and I want the world to mold me. Therefore, I want to be awesome, and be amazing.
This is probably the last time that I’ll ever call you or anyone that for that matter. I am writing you, well writing this for the Internet to see, simply because I thought about you today. It’s a Friday night, and usually Friday nights were our date nights. They were when you and I would spend the evening in the company of great food and of each other.
I am over you, and carry no torch of romantic interest for you. However, I still wonder how you are doing. How is the process of medical school going for you? How is Dagohir going? Are you enjoying all of your classes? Even though I no longer long for your lips on top of mine, I miss you and regret that we will never talk again.
Since we broke up, it’s safe to say that I’ve become better off with out you. I no longer feel like I am dumb, simply because I phrase something in a way you don’t like it. I no longer feel the pressure of trying to please you, both sexually and as a person. While I wanted to do those things, I am realizing now that in trying to make you happy, a piece of me had always felt that I was lying to myself. I am leading a life that not only excites me, but also has an absence of my anxiety that constantly got in the way of our relationship. I am happy, and I have grown from the person who you used to kiss on top of your bed.
Despite all that has happened, I never once will say that I hate you, nor talk untruthfully ill about you. You were great to me, in terms of my anxiety and in terms of my life. You taught me so much about the world, about writing, and I appreciate having the chance to get to know you. I think of you fondly, instead of illy. On the other hand, a part of me will always not agree with the times when you treated me illy, the times when you acted like a snob, and how you broke up with me. With that being said, I will always respect you, because there was a reason why I was dating you, and there is no reason why I should be rude to you.
Like I said earlier, I hope you’re doing well. I hope you find what you are looking for in life. However, I also want you to know that I am doing fine. Actually, scratch that. Better than fine. I am happier, more alive, and I’d like to think that our breakup was the catalyst to help me get to that point.
*Writer’s note: This post was written as intended as a way to release emotions/feelings that I am dealing with, and wanted to share. I hope that whoever is reading this can relate to it, or find interest in it.