HealthSkills

Two steps forward, one step back. Or sometimes, two steps back or even three – and then we’re really lost, asking ourselves how we even got there. The setback comes in all shapes and forms, but always of the same effect. It has a tempting, toxic ability to keep people in a negative state of mind making it more of a stayback than anything else. We feel it when relationships end, whether with a partner or a close friend. We feel stagnant when our career choices don’t reach the expectations we have bred in our minds. We become self-degrading, unconfident, anxious, and fearful versions of ourselves whenever we face circumstances that stunt our flow of life. The sad part about all of this is not the fact that obstacles happen, but rather that our collective response to hardship is to blame ourselves by shutting down. After all, if it’s happening to me then I must be deserving of it, right?

Incorrect. Unfortunate things happen all the time, and a quick reality check can help many of us realize that our problems are not quite as hefty in the big scheme of things. But how do we get out of the mental rewind that keeps replaying the negativity reel? First and foremost, separate your true self from the problem.

STEP 1: You are not the circumstance. The circumstance is happening to you, it is not you. And too often, people feel entirely consumed by the problem almost becoming it.

Tim Storey, world-renowned motivational and inspirational speaker says it best when he describes how people ruminate on their issues. He says that “We nurse it, curse it, and rehearse it.” By doing this, we are conditioning our minds to react to problems by constantly thinking about them and repeating them in our heads. Storey explains in his book Comeback and Beyond that the best way to cope is to “accept the now and take inventory of what is happening.”

STEP 2: Thinking about a problem is different than being aware of what’s happening. When you become aware you are expanding your thought patterns from dwelling on a single issue to seeing the entire picture. Less thinking, and more recognizing. Recognize how you’re feeling and what triggers you to repeat bad thoughts. Knowing how often you nurse, curse, and rehearse will help you work towards stopping those thoughts.

There is great power in what we think. Because of this, we must be very careful with what enters our minds. Setbacks create space in our heads to think negatively, but we can train ourselves to make space in our heads for positivity. It’s about redirecting what we pay attention to. Instead of focusing on what went wrong or what we failed to do, realize that there are unlimited other ways to focus on things that will breed positive thoughts. If you feel like you have nothing, give more. Volunteer, call a friend, help your parents out at home, and experience firsthand what happens when you shift the expected course of action. Your mind is so used to repeating the bad, that when you begin to feed your thoughts with helpfulness and kindness, your emotions begin to change as well.

If you feel lost and confused, be open to getting help from others. It is common for people to think that success is a one person job, and if they can’t do it on their own they don’t know how to be successful. This is twisted thinking. The most successful people understand the importance of mentorship and having a strong team of individuals to support one another in both work and personal life.

STEP 3: Shift your receiver and pick up positive signals. Don’t stay in the setback. Choose to hang out with people that believe in you. Make an appointment to talk to a counselor or therapist. Only read beneficial and substantial articles and follow positive people on social media.

There are so many times in life that we can feel weighed down. A lot of that weight is in what we think and not actually what is happening. Take the time to redirect yourself and don’t forget:

Separate from the problem. Recognize your thought patterns. Shift yourself to get better reception.

“Life is all about course-correcting.” – Arianna Huffington

Image: Raumrot

Skills

Let’s be honest, how many times have we claimed forgiveness on someone but still hold small, bitter grudges? “Forgive and forget” – a phrase coined many years ago that means to, well, forgive and forget whatever dishonorable thing a particular person has said or done to you in order to continue the relationship you’ve always had. It’s no secret it almost always seems as if forgiveness were “mission impossible.” If this happens to be your case, my piece of advice is: don’t forgive a person for them, forgive them for you. Holding grudges has many negative effects. By offering forgiveness you can do yourself a huge favor.

There is a great amount of power that comes with forgiveness. Although it is an undeniably tough thing to actually do, it can also be incredibly cathartic. I have found that there are three stages to forgiveness:

  1. The initial feeling of vulnerability: betrayal/loss/pain, the splurge of reactive emotions: passive aggressive or aggressive attitudes that derive from anger and/or denial, etc.
  2. Acceptance of the situation which can terminate or pause the relationship as you begin to assess the facts and multiple objective points of views.
  3. And finally, permanently moving on with or without that person in your life with forgiveness or tightly held grudges.

Keep in mind that forgiveness does not mean that the person needs to continue to be in your life. It is possible to forgive a person but respectfully reestablish the bounds of the relationship by talking out what the expectations were, what has been failed to be done, and how to improve it or help the person understand that in order for you to forgive them, the relationship must come to an end. “Isn’t that not forgiveness?” I think to myself. But forgiveness comes in many forms. It comes through love, through helplessness, and through peace.

Peace of mind is something that comes with forgiveness. If you have truly forgiven the person, you will feel a sense of serenity and wholeness. And it is perfectly acceptable if this is a process that may take you time – a week, a month, or even a year. According to experts, forgiveness can bring you lower blood pressure, increase spirituality, a positive mindset, altruistic behaviors, increase your immune system, and relieve stress. Overall, it is a big plus for your physical and psychological self. Take the time you need to harmonize yourself with reality and let go. This all begins with acceptance of the truth of the situation and essentially, the world. Life requires we climb impossible mountains, cross never ending misty rivers, and survive the most catastrophic storms. As corny as this may sound, you must remember that the universe will only give you what it knows you can handle.

People make mistakes – you and I both included – and sometimes we simply need to let go of the things in the past, the things that we cannot control. Holding these grudges are only doing us harm and the only way to feel at peace and grow from the experiences we encounter is to accept the sitution and move on. Although difficult, forgiveness is possible. I encourage you to at least try and to at least take the first few steps of courage in your journey of forgiveness, because you don’t know just how far even that can take you.

Image: Gratisography

CultureInspiration

Gender identity is a complicated topic. It is very personal and there is a lot of media with conflicting information about what it is. Once upon a time, it was just “male” or “female,” but that has changed. High school and college are confusing times, and a lot of wrong or misunderstood information can hurt people who are figuring themselves out.

Tumblr and Facebook and a lot of other social media have embraced various gender identity situations. Even though labels aren’t always the best way to get information across (because it can lead to stereotyping and harmful actions), it can also help people find others in similar situations. For example, my school recently started a group for “Trans or Gender-Nonconforming,” and the club is meant to provide a safe space for students to discuss gender and personal experience.  Many schools and universities have such clubs, and people who attend the meetings often realize that they are not alone, and this is comforting. 

What is important is that people are happy with how they see themselves. Theoretically, someone shouldn’t be judged negatively for how they identify.

Even though there are environments that allow for people to be a-gender, bigender, pangender, gender fluid, transgender, and many others, there are also places that are unaccustomed to this variety. It may be because of certain local or social customs. It may be because of misinformation. Either way, such environments can be a scary place for someone who is trying to understand themselves or others. The fear of being judged, shunned, bullied, hurt, or worse because of how they identify shouldn’t’ be an issue, but it is.

Like sexual orientation, gender identity is now becoming a topic that is being more socially acceptable to talk about. I hope that our society is able to transition to a place in which tolerance, acceptance, and freedom are words that can be associated with gender identity. I hope that people are able to accept others and themselves. I hope people can be free and open-minded.

It is okay to not be sure right now and it is okay to explore and try to understand. Growing is a part of change, and change is a part of growing.

If the situation now is difficult or scary, that’s okay. There will be new places and new people. Things get better. Love yourself and accept others. Remember that being happy and safe are the most important things.

Image: le vent le cri

Education

You’re in! After months and months of studying for the SATs or ACTs, maintaining your grades, filling out applications, writing essays, asking for recommendations, and impatiently waiting, you have finally earned a spot in one (or a few!) of the schools from your college list. Even after all that work, the hard part still may not be over. Unless you already know exactly where you want to attend school and have no doubts whatsoever, picking which college to attend can be a very stressful decision. When I was picking between a couple of schools, I visited them both again so I had a fresh perspective. Of course, I ended up transferring colleges, but I learned a lot from that experience and have a better idea of what to think about when deciding on a college.

These are the critical factors to consider once you have been accepted to college…

What Do You Want to Study?

This can be a tough question. You don’t have to declare your major until the end of sophomore year, and unless you have a direct path you want to follow, you should spend your initial semester exploring new topics and being open to a major you might never have thought of before. However, it is important that you take a look at all of the classes and majors offered at each school to be sure that there are at least three topics of interest to you. Think about which professors you would want to learn from, the types of classes offered, and the major requirements. These classes will be a major time commitment when you are at college, so choose a school that has departments that best correlate with your interests.

Visit the School Again

You might change a lot in the time between when you first visit a school and just before you graduate high school.

Talk to Current Students

If you visit the school again, be sure to talk to as many students as you can. Most students are willing to offer their opinions and advice. Ask lots of questions about their experience at that college to get a feel for if it will be the right fit for you. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit the school’s campus, read up on college blogs to get a sense of what the students are like. You may even be able to reach out to the school to see if they have the phone numbers or email addresses of students who would be willing to share their experiences at that college. It will be helpful to hear real life situations to see if you relate or not.

Talk to Alumni

Speaking with people who have graduated from a school you are looking at can be very helpful to see what their experiences were like, as well as what they are currently up to. Maybe one alum has a job somewhere you would love to work, or in an industry that fascinates you. You’ll get a very honest opinion from alumni because they have completed their schooling and have had a couple of years to reflect on their experiences.

Small versus Large

You probably thought about this when you were first creating your list of schools to apply to. I encourage you to think about this again. If you applied to both small colleges and large universities, take a moment to think about the environment that you learn best in. Do you prefer a smaller class size where you can get more attention from the professor, or do you enjoy being surrounded by hundreds of interesting classmates with a variety of opinions and experiences? The size of school really does have an impact on both your educational and personal experiences.

Financials

College is expensive. Period. If you received Financial Aid or Scholarships, congratulations! That’s amazing. However, if you did not, thinking about the cost of college is very important. Not only is the tuition an important aspect of this budget analysis, but also think about travel costs to and from college to home, food costs, and living expenses when you are living on your own. These vary for everyone, but the little things do add up and can play a crucial role in your decision making process.

Career Services

Let’s face it, you probably want a job when you graduate. Or an internship for the summers while you are still in college. Or maybe even a part-time job while you are attending school. Do some research and figure out which schools in your ‘Accepted List’ have strong and well-connected career service centers. These college career service departments usually have their own websites. Take a look and find out whether the school will help you with interviewing, job placement, and resume writing.

Extracurriculars

What kinds of clubs and organizations are available on campus? Do some research to find a couple of clubs that you might want to join on your first day. Are you playing sports or want to play a club sport? You should make sure your school of choice offers that. Have you always wanted to be a part of student government? A language club? Volunteer services? Browse through all of the offerings and think about what you might want to be a part of.

Study Abroad

Most schools offer study abroad, and many have incredible programs. Instead of asking generic questions such as, “Do you have programs in France or Spain?,” ask specific questions that will actually affect you. “Which study abroad programs are best for the topic/major that I am interested in?” Certain study abroad programs are stronger than others in certain departments, and you want to make sure your school can provide those options and assistance when the time comes to apply. Some schools have reputations built around their study abroad programs. If traveling and studying outside of the U.S. is important to you, then you should pick the school with the strongest study abroad program.

Personal Preferences

There is no question that you have personal preferences when it comes to which school you want to attend. Maybe you applied to a wide variety of schools so that you would have many options to choose from. If so, then this is very critical. Think about the things that really matter to you, besides the educational aspect. Do you want a campus or a more urban campus? Do you want to be in the suburbs or the city? How far do you actually want to travel to get home for the holidays? Does the school attract a certain type of person? Are there exclusive groups? Do you want to be at a school with or without a Greek system? To be taught by T.A.s or not to be taught by T.A.s? There are many small decisions that go into making the overall decision, so do not overlook your personal preferences.

Act Now

Don’t wait until the day before you have to commit to a school to think about these decisions. If you do, you will feel rushed and may make a decision you will come to regret. While you can always transfer, do you really want to do the entire application process all over again? Take it from me, it’s not fun.