Feeling Negative? Questions to Prompt Positivity

 
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For the past few weeks, I've been strapped in tight on an emotional rollercoaster, soaring up and whizzing down and then climbing back up again. My surgery went well and I'm recovering much more quickly than I thought I would (hooray!), and I over the past two weeks, I was amazed by the kind comments, emails, DMs, and texts I received after writing The Power of (Not) Telling Your Story. I've been filled with gratitude and love for all those who have shown me support — both in real life and online — over the past few weeks. The past few weeks have been filled with so many more positive experiences than I would have imagined. But, of course, I've also been recovering from surgery, dealing with the ups and downs of physical and emotional pain, coping with the flood of emotions that came from sharing some of what I'd been going through, and struggling, more often than I'd like to admit, to stay positive. 

Awhile back, I'd jotted down some questions for myself in my Notes app when I was having a tough time, and I accidentally stumbled across them again last week, just when I needed them most! (It's funny how that happens, isn't it? The things you need to see always seem to find you when you need to see them!) I thought I'd share them with you this week since they've really been helping me when I feel like my emotions are getting the best of me. 

I don't know about you, but I tend to get stuck in my own head way too often (a side-effect of being an introvert, I suspect!), and sometimes I get so lost wandering around in there that I forget that I can take action, rather than just allowing my emotions to guide me around. Here are some of the questions I've been asking myself when I'm feeling negative, overwhelmed, or just spending too much time thinking about things that aren't productive for my mental health. 

First, I like to check in to see if I've been engaging in any not-so-healthy activities that might be leading me down the road to Negative Town. I ask myself...

HAVE YOU BEEN...

  • Scrolling endlessly online? 
  • Worrying unnecessarily? 
  • Comparing yourself to others?
  • Abusing any substances? 
  • Pacing around aimlessly? 
  • Overanalyzing other people?
  • Eating food that's unhealthy?
  • Spending money needlessly?
  • Focusing on stressful subjects?
  • Hanging with negative people?
  • Thinking only about yourself?

If I've answered yes to any of those, I know I'm not on the path to Positivity City, and I need to reroute myself. Sometimes this can be more challenging that I'd like it to be. As much as I know I want to be more positive, negativity can be so alluring (and, having spent so much of my life with negativity as my default, it's also oddly comforting). So, in order to venture down a more positive path, I have to convince myself to take an action that I know will shift my mindset. Here's what I ask myself to get started...

HAVE YOU TRIED...

  • Creating something? 
  • Taking a relaxing bath?
  • Calling a friend to chat?
  • Reading a new book
  • Practicing some yoga?
  • Listening to music
  • Going for a walk? 
  • Helping someone else?
  • Learning something?
  • Playing with Barkley?
  • Completing a task?
  • Being grateful?

More often than not, one of those things will inspire me to get up (usually out of my bed, where I can be found most often, scrolling through my phone for hours, ugh!) and try something that'll help me get out of my head and out of my rut. Experiencing emotions (even the negative ones) is never a bad thing, but if you find yourself overanalyzing everything, stressing to the point that it's all you can do, or ruminating on things that are out of your control, it's not helpful to stay in that emotional state. These questions prompt me to get out of Negative Town and make my way to Positivity City. These are obviously tailored to my preferences, but I highly recommend making your own list of "Have You Tried..." to keep on hand when you're in your head and need to get out. I'd love to hear what you'd include on your list! Let me know in the comments below! 

 

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Anxiety Ambush : 9 Tactics I Use to Combat Anxiousness

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This April is a crazy month for me, with the next couple of weeks being particularly action-packed. Tomorrow I'm giving a presentation that I've been working on for weeks, and a week after that I'm having (another, ugh!) surgery. Needless to say, anxiety levels are all over the place. To combat them, I'm pulling out some of my favorite anxiety-fighting tips, and I thought I might share them with you, too, in case you're facing some anxiety yourself! 

 

GO OUTSIDE

I'm not much of an "outdoorsy" person, but there's something about getting outside that can be really calming when you're feeling anxious or stressed. When my anxiety rears its ugly head, I try to remind myself to get outside, even if it's just for a few minutes, to get some fresh air and a fresh perspective. 

 

ASK FOR HELP

As someone who enjoys being in control, this can be a tough one for me, but it's always so helpful whenever I reach out to others and ask for help. No matter what you're going through, you don't have to go it alone. If you're lucky to have friends and family who can help you out (even if it's just as emotional support), ask! And, if not, seek out resources online to help you feel less alone. 

 

CREATE SOMETHING

Even if you don't consider yourself a "creative" person, creating something is a great way to get your mind off of your anxiety and into something new. Recently I've been focused a lot on creating my presentation, but I also take breaks from that to do a little bit a of drawing (which I share nearly every day on Instagram!). If art isn't your thing, consider creating a meal! 

 

DRINK WATER

Making sure you're hydrated is a good trick for combating anxiety, even if it might seem a bit odd. Personally, whenever I don't drink enough water, I get headaches and just generally don't feel right, so whenever I feel my anxiety level getting high, I check in to make sure I'm hydrated. (Eating healthy is also a good idea, but I'm not always so great at it, particularly when stressed!)

 

WRITE ABOUT IT

Whether or not you consider yourself a writer, taking the time to jot down your anxious thoughts can be a great way to alleviate some of the stress you're experiencing. If that ends up causing more anxiety, consider writing a list of things you can do to make yourself feel a bit better or write a list of things you're grateful for. 

 

TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Deep breaths sound cliche, but paying attention to your breathing really can make a difference when it comes to combating anxiety. Your breath is something you have access to at all times so it's a useful tool for soothing yourself no matter what the situation. I personally find the 4-7-8 Breathing Method to be really helpful when I'm extra anxious! 

 

LISTEN TO SOOTHING SONGS

Music can have such a big impact on your mood, and you can use that to your advantage when it comes to your emotional state. Create a playlist with soothing (or uplifting!) songs and put it on when you're having difficulty staying calm. It's a quick way to shift your focus. (And, if you're like me, you can also through a little dancing in there!) For some playlist ideas, follow me on Spotify

 

STAY PRESENT

Staying present might feel like the opposite of what you want to do when you're anxious, but it's important to remember that anxious thoughts come not from what's happening now, but from ruminating on what has happened or worrying about what will happen. Do your best to ground yourself in the moment to ease some of your anxious feelings. 

 

FIND A POSITIVE DISTRACTION

When my anxiety really starts to get to me, I do what I can to find a positive distraction (usually in the form of a really good book or a funny film). Avoiding your feelings isn't something I'd generally recommend, but distraction can be a useful tactic when feelings get out of control and turn unproductive (as anxiety almost always does!). 

 

If you're feeling anxious or struggle with anxiety, I hope some of these tips will help you out. I'd also love to know what tactics have worked for you when it comes to battling anxiety or stress. Let me know your top tips in the comments section below! 

 

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6 Things Open-Minded People Do

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Recently I've been working on a (very exciting!) presentation on open-mindedness, and it occurred to me that it's been awhile since I've written about it here. (Though 7 Benefits of Being Open-Minded is still one of my most popular posts!) To me, this is one of the most important topics in our culture right now (so much so that I'm even thinking of writing a book about it!), so I'll probably be sharing a lot of that here, but first, let's start out with what it means to be open-minded.

The dictionary defines "open-minded" as "willing to consider new ideas; unprejudiced," but to me it's so much more than that. Open-mindedness is like positivity: it requires self-knowledge, patience, and, depending on your culture and temperament, lots and lots of practice. It's much more complex that just being open to new ideas. Here are the six traits I consider essential for open-mindedness. 

OPEN-MINDED PEOPLE... 

  1. Consider different perspectives + beliefs

    Those with open minds are open to considering different points of view, perspectives, beliefs, ideas, etc. This might seem incredibly obvious, but it's trickier than you might think. Consider, for a moment, something you believe strongly in (a religion, the rights of a certain group of people, someone you love) and then think about the last time you openly thought about a different perspective. It's easier to do when encountering a new idea, but it's something truly open-minded people do even when it comes to deeply held beliefs.  

  2. Recognize + fight against desires for generality + closure

    As humans, we have strong desires to label things clearly so we can understand them. We want to put things into neat little boxes so that we can identify them. Likewise, we have a desire to get answers that are clear and final. We love closure. Those with open minds recognize that concepts like generalization and closure are alluring, but they aren't always useful. Open-minded people see these built in human desires and fight against them to seek truth rather than answers.  

  3. Accept + embrace the concept of ambivalence

    The concept of ambivalence, or having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone, isn't always an easy one for people to grasp. As stated in #2, we want answers and clarity. We want to know that there is a conclusion or at least an explanation. Open-minded people realize that this isn't always the case, that there are often many situations in which feelings will be mixed, in which they might hold two contradicting ideas about something. Rather than resist this, open-minded people accept it and strive to embrace it. 

  4. Understand thoughts are warped + distorted

    All the thoughts we think are distorted in some way. We are influenced not only by our moods, cultures, stress-levels, surroundings, etc., but we're also limited by what we can humanly observe with our five senses. Open-minded people seek to recognize the ways in which their own thoughts (or the thoughts of others) might be warped, and factor those distortions into account when making decisions, taking action, or aligning themselves with a belief. 

  5. View open-mindedness as a skill requiring practice

    Open-minded people recognize that open-mindedness, like any worthwhile skill, requires practice. It's something that comes more easily to some (depending on how they were raised, what culture they come from, what kind of personality they have, etc.), but regardless of what skill level they started with, open-minded people know that they need to keep practicing to keep their open-mindedness ability sharp.  

  6. Create opportunities to rethink assumptions

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, those with open minds give themselves opportunities to rethink assumptions and consider new perspectives. They recognize the limitations of their own minds and cultures, and they actively seek out sources that will help them explore new ways of thinking. They know that what they believed at one point might not still be true today, so they work to rethink about assumptions. In a world that makes it easy to surround yourself with what's familiar, open-minded people create opportunities for themselves to learn new ways of thinking and explore a variety of points of view. 

Staying open-minded is a skill, and a particularly challenging one to cultivate in an age when we're all being fed information, advertisements, articles, etc. that align with what we've already said we like. We're all in individual bubbles, tailored just for us, which is why we have to work even harder to keep our minds (and hearts!) open. 

If you consider yourself an open-minded person, what would you add to this list? If you struggle to keep an open mind, what would you like to learn more about to enhance that skill? Also, if you have any great stories about being (or struggling to be) open-minded, I'd love to hear them in the comments below! 

 

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