I Swam...

I'm often complimented by people who provide flattery on my coping mechanisms. They ask, "Girl, how do you keep it all together?" Little do these people know that "keeping it together" is a task and just because I dress well and seem calm on the outside doesn't mean I'm screaming on the inside.
I've decided a long time ago that I would live my best life despite whatever what's put in my path. We've all experienced unfortunate events but what are you going to do about it? Dwell on it? Run from it? or learn from it? People congratulate me on my accomplishments and assume I've been breezing through life but that's not the case.
I was a victim of public school bullying but managed to fight my way through, my mom did the best she could in raising me at her level of consciousness, my dad was "around" but often busy with his own issues and I was forced to grow up at 15. Let's just say I've experienced a few things that eventually led me to "woman up" and create the life I deserved. I've worked since age 14, graduated high school at 18, signed my lease at 19, started taking care of my mother at 22, went back to college and obtained an advanced certificate in project management and notary license at 25 and will be a college graduate, homeowner and wife by May 2013 at 30.
I couldn't drowned in the bullshit life was throwing my way. Swimming toward happiness seemed to be the only option for me. Seeing it any other way proved to be impossible.
In between those years, I've gone through my battle with anxiety due to the pressure of dealing with my parents, work and school. I'm grateful that I've maintained my sanity and sense of self. Not many people are resilient so I'm glad to be one of the lucky few.
Here are few tips I've used to help cope with many of life's "lemons":
1.    Avoid the internet for self-diagnosing and conduct some research on free mental health services in your area.
a. Asking yourself, “what’s wrong with me”, is already a self-defeating question. What makes you think you have a problem? We are human therefore, you are allowed to fall apart, cry, shut down and even become selfish and take time out for yourself. Don’t automatically assume you have a mental issue because you’re losing your ability to cope. Some of the time, all you need to do is write your thoughts out on paper or create a Pro’s and Con’s list about whatever your issue is.
b. If you feel unsure about what you’re experiencing, it’s best to let the professionals help you figure it out. By self-diagnosing, you open the door to anxiety. Everything you read on the internet isn’t about or targeting you, it’s merely a tool to use after you’re diagnosed. With the right resources, it can help you find forums related to your issue. Be sure to write out exactly what comes to mind and with time permitting, read it to your therapist. If there’s a presenting issue that requires medication, your therapist will refer you to a psychiatrist.
2.       If you don’t feel “normal”, reach out to your employer’s wellness program and take advantage of the resources allotted to you.
a.       Many companies now offer EAP and wellness benefits to help assist you in life’s challenges. EAP (employee assistance program) allows you to speak with a counselor or therapist for up to three visits free of charge. If you need more visits or a psychiatrist, your co-pay will be applied. Some copays range from id="mce_marker"0 to $50 per session. Do not let this discourage you. Your mental well-being is always worth it. Revise your budget to accommodate this if needed.
b.      In some instances, mental disorders, if applicable, can bring on physical ailments as well. For example, with anxiety, you may experience heart palpitations, aching muscles, migraines or neurological issues. These ailments can mimick a heart attack. In the event, you feel this, instead of visiting emergency room, visit your local urgent care facility such as City MD. Here, you will pay your usual clinic co-pay.
3.       Keeping a balanced diet and exercising helps
a.       A balanced diet and exercise is key in your healing process. When exercising, you burn calories and release the tension in body that builds stress; it improves your self-esteem, clears your skin and helps build melatonin levels.
4.       Meditate
a.       This only works for some. If there’s a disorder present that requires medication, please consult your doctor before you start the meditation process.
b.      Meditation is a very helpful resource for those who are suffering with anxiety, tension and some levels of depression. This relaxation method can help with releasing the tension in your brain – enabling you to think more clear and create solutions to some of your issues.
5.       Thought Journaling
a.       This can and will prove to be a useful tool if used correctly. It’s important to see your thoughts written out on paper. That way, you can determine what the issue is really about by seeing if there are repeated thoughts, concerns or worries.
6.       Self-Improvement Literature & Video Blogs
a.       I cannot tell you how many self-help books I’ve read. Some of them were useful and some weren’t. I’ve watched video blogs from Oprah to Deepak Chopra to Shanel Cooper-Sykes to Iyanla Vanzant – to reading older, inspirational pieces by reputable authors such as Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Hill, Michael J. Losier, Anthony Robbins and speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. You never know where inspiration can possibly come from. Some of the Ebony Magazines help as well.
7.       Occupy your time by creating a vision board and/or cleaning your house
a.       Occupying your time with positive activities can help build esteem. Vision boards help stimulate creativity and goals for your future. Put whatever you’d like to become and what inspires you.
b.      Cleaning helps de-clutter your home and your mind. Take a look around your place. Whatever state it’s in, is the exact same state your mind is in. Space in your home creates space in your mind. Dust off your window ledge, sweep and mop your floors, scrub your walls, clean and defrost your refridgerator, clean out your closet and donate whatever you can no longer fit and treat yourself to a new wardrobe, buy new linen for your bathroom after you’ve cleaned the tub, toilet, mirror and floor, clean out the drawers in your bedroom and kitchen, shread all paperwork you no longer need and stock your cabinets with fresh foods. Once you give your home the deep cleaning it deserves, you’ll feel more accomplished. Sit back, put your feet up and do something you enjoy.
c.       Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary. If you don’t feel comfortable in your own home, you will not feel comfortable internally and no one else will feel comfortable in your home either.
     8.       Volunteer
a.       Volunteer your free time to help others in need. By helping others, you’ll learn to help yourself. This brings fulfillment and joy into your life. You never know the effect you can have on someone else if you just take the time to give back.
9.       Surround yourself and keep in constant communication with positive, influential people
a.       Negative, bitter people spread that same energy into your circle. Avoid the unhappy and self-pitying individuals who don’t offer solutions. Surround yourself with those who not only offer support but exercise strength, motivation, inspiration and can actually teach you things you don’t already know
10.   Practice forgiveness
a.       Forgiving others will free yourself of any grudge you’ve ever held. Don’t allow someone to live rent free in your head or heart. You don’t deserve that. Free yourself of pain and suffering; freeing yourself will help you live longer. Think about it.

Live your best life!

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