To say the least, it’s been a hard year for me. 2016 was the year when my life seemed to come to a crossroads, and everything from work to family and my love life seemed to get so much more complicated and more difficult to handle. And the biggest stressor, for me, was the question of what’s to come. I think that’s a very twenty-something problem to have, the “What am I actually doing with my life?” question. It came down to where my career was headed (seemingly nowhere), how attainable my dreams were (seemingly not very), and how close I was to getting the life I wanted (ditto).
All that insecurity, fruitless work, and frustration can really do a number on a girl. I had a lot of bad days, a lot of stress, and a couple of breaking points. Throughout it all, the mantra “stay positive” echoed in my head, but at the end of bad weeks or bad months, I couldn’t remember what it even meant anymore. But when I had really good days, I remember what I’ve actually learned about positivity.
“Staying positive” doesn’t mean never complaining.
Long days or weeks when it seems like you can’t catch a break really take a toll on your positivity. Some practice exercises where they try not to complain about anything at all, but I think that’s unrealistic, and unhealthy. While it’s true that ranting about what angers you makes you even more angry, I think that suppressing how you feel just means you’re ignoring it, and I’m a firm believer in feeling your emotions completely. I think it’s makes everything easier to handle, from anger to fear to sadness. The more you feel it, the more comfortable you are with the feeling, and then you can fight back.
Instead of not complaining at all, I thought of every counterpoint to my complaints. Like, I hate my job today, but I have great friends at the office and I’m employed in the field I chose. Or, my commute is terrible and life sucks because of it, but at least I can listen to new music and books in the car and relax a little before getting into work. I’m single, but I know what I want in a partner and won’t compromise to get it. Little things like that really helped me have perspective and maintain positivity even if I let out my negative feelings at the same time. And I also said, “It can always be worse.” Because it kind of can, unfortunately! (Or fortunately?)
Positive reinforcement is huge.
There are days when I get into my own head so much that I let myself think negative things about myself, and it takes a while to reemerge from that hole. I’ve learned to regularly repeat those certain trite phrases like “Everything will be all right” or “This is just transitory,” etc. Things will improve. There are a bunch of studies that state that the more positive you are, the more positive energy you attract, therefore making your own luck through your attitude. Telling yourself good things is really an easy way to feel happier and more important—hopeful. You have to believe that the things that suck in your life right now will improve, but you have to probably work hard to improve them.
Isolating yourself is a bad thing.
I am a proud person. I hate asking for help, and I hate being weak. Weakness, for me, sometimes translates into showing I need help, so I put on a brave face and pretend everything is okay. Obviously, that’s not weakness, but that’s how my brain works. I’ve learned that the cracks show eventually when you are super stressed and down about stuff and you need someone to talk to. I tend to leave it all until I crack, and that’s never good. I’ve learned not to isolate myself when I’m having a bad day, and instead call up my best friend or my sisters to hang out, or if I need a good rant or someone to talk to. I always feel more positive afterward, stronger, and less helpless!
Being proactive is difficult when stress and frustration means all you want to do is sleep and eat. But I needed to do it. In my work life, I set goals for furthering my career, and tried everything I could to meet them. To get a little closer to making my dreams a reality, I bullied myself into writing when I didn’t feel like it, and set other things in motion that may pay off in the long run. Likewise in other aspects of my life. These efforts may not always pay off, but trying something to better your life always fills you with little bursts of hope, and it’s that hope that you have to nurture in order to stay positive.
And if all else fails, there’s 70% dark chocolate and The Office.