My 20s seem to just be a blur of emotions.
On Monday, I was stressed.
By Tuesday, I felt relieved and caught myself thinking my grad program was a joke.
Wednesday came around, and I wasn't sure what I was doing with my life.
Was quitting my job the right decision? Why was I in school?
That day, I took my Nana to the doctor and realized I was too self-absorbed.
Thursday, I got an A on my midterm, paper and presentation.
Am I really good at school, or is this program just that easy?
By Friday, I was just glad to have made it through the week.
I got home to realize I am single and alone. I sat in bed, thinking about the man who made me feel like crap, but whom I cared about still.
As I reached for my phone, contemplating how I could tell this man — whom I had specifically told not to talk to me anymore — to just come over to hang out, I stopped myself.
I felt ashamed, sad and conflicted.
After a few minutes of self-reflection, I moved on and started watching YouTube videos.
After crying to "The Voice" auditions, I found myself with a weird sense of peace.
I used to think it was just me. I thought that maybe there was something wrong with me.
I used to have it all together. Just one year ago, I had a great job, didn't care about not being in a relationship and had strong relationships with friends and family.
Now, it had all changed. I was ashamed to talk to other people about it because I felt it made me weak.
The more aware I became about my hot mess of a life, the more I realized nobody around me has it all together.
I have a friend afraid of commitment to a man who loves her.
Another gets anxiety about school, her social life and being able to do it all.
Insecurities about body image and personalities surround me.
Another friend is questioning why nobody takes him seriously or wants a relationship.
I have friends who work themselves to the ground to be successful, but ultimately, they are just miserable.
I have realized nobody knows what he or she is doing. Some people are just better at coping than others.
Now that I'm two months into my master's in counseling (and am basically an expert on the topic), I have been able to make some really great connections regarding my friends who cope best and what they do differently.
I have also realized some of the things we do every day (or could do every day) are actually true-and-tried counseling practices.
So, if you are feeling like you have no idea what you are doing (or are just having a bad day), here are some things you should start doing or keep doing:
1. Write in a journal.
Journaling is no longer just for teenyboppers writing about their secret crushes and drama of the day.
This is a proven technique that allows for you to reflect on your day and feelings.
It's a safe way to express how you are feeling.
Oftentimes, you just need to write it all out to deal with your thoughts and feelings.
Writing also allows you to be completely honest because nobody is on the other end of the pen to judge.
2. Schedule your day and break up tasks.
Many times depression, anxiety and overwhelm feelings come from a sense of feeling a lack of control.
Scheduling your day by the hour and breaking up large tasks into smaller ones throughout the day can help you feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
That sense of accomplishment will allow you to go to sleep with ease.
When you have no game plan for your day, it is easy to just go through the motions without feeling like you've accomplished all you wanted to.
I even like to write down everything I do and cross the tasks out as I get through them.
It's a physical sense of accomplishment as my pen makes a line across the paper.
3. Involve yourself in an activity.
When you have time to sit around and think about how unhappy you are, you are going to do just that.
Give yourself something to do, even if you are “so tired.”
I am going to keep it real with you. You are probably tired because you are depressed.
If you're not working a laborious job, it is probably unlikely you are truly physically exhausted to the point where you need 10 hours of sleep.
If you hate your job, find something that gives you purpose outside of work.
If you feel stressed, pick up a sport or physical activity.
Volunteer, join a meet-up group or set up a weekly time to meet up with friends.
You are in charge of your life, and you deserve to do something that makes you happy.
4. Use “I” statements.
Say how you feel and mean it.
No more saying, “My job sucks,” or “My boyfriend doesn't get it.”
Start talking in the first person, and you will see your communication improve.
Try sentences that start with, “I feel,” or “I want.”
Sometimes, we just need to take a minute to reflect on how we're really feeling in order to be able to take the next steps forward in fixing them.
Once you get through the statement, you can start thinking about steps you can take to change that feeling.
I caught myself saying, “My job is the worst. I miss my old one.”
So I turned that into, “I feel I do not make an impact on children. I feel useless in my job.”
This led me to think about what I could do.
I reflected on my position and realized that as it was more of a support position, I wasn't going to have as much of a direct impact as I used to have.
I thought about how what I am doing is helping others, and I decided to devote more time to helping others outside of work to get that fulfillment.
I go to work with more realistic expectations for my day, and I do my part to make the most of it.
5. Make a worst-case scenario.
This is a technique I learned in my class that I didn't know could actually be helpful.
My sisters and I our whole family has been born to think about worst-case scenarios all the time.
My brother-in-law might have left the barbecue on at my grandma's house.
Well, we better do something because if not, my grandma might walk by and accidentally drop her cigarette.
Then, she and the house will blow up. You know?
This strategy is usually for those with anxiety about something.
Feeling worried about a group presentation?
Thinking you're going to fail a class?
Have to have a hard conversation at work?
Just think about the very worst thing that could happen.
You get so nervous during your presentation that you start crying. Okay.
Then what happens? You feel embarrassed. Okay.
Then what? Well, you have to face those people again.
Okay, then what? Well, they aren't going to make fun of you (probably).
Okay, so what is the worst? Well, I might just feel dumb.
Is that really bad? No.
Boom. There you have it.
You brought your worst fear to life and were able to rationalize through it.
6. Take deep breaths.
This is my new favorite practice.
My roommates probably think I'm dying every night because they can hear me lying in bed, breathing hard.
As my mind spins with thoughts before I go to sleep, I start to take long, deep breaths.
I focus on my breathing.
Before I know it, my body feels relaxed and I pass out.
I think there is some scientific aspect about this and oxygen flow relaxing the body.
At least, that's what a massage therapist told me once.
The point is, deep breaths can help anxiety, overthinking and exhaustion.
As much as I joke, I am not an expert by any means.
I can neither tell you what you do or do not need to do in order to improve your life, nor can I tell you whether you need to even improve your life in the first place.
Maybe you are doing the very best you can, and you truly believe there is no getting better.
You are at a point where you must sacrifice now to be happy later.
You have your thoughts, and I have mine.
What I do want to remind you is you are in charge of your happiness.
You decide where your life goes, and you decide how to cope with your sacrifices.
You deserve happiness, and we all deserve to have it all.
So, let's make it happen.