1. Learn to differentiate what’s actually happening from what you’re currently thinking about.
2. Learn the difference between honesty and truth. The way you honestly feel can be different from how you truthfully feel – the former is usually temporary, the latter is deeper, and consistent.
3. Stop trying to navigate the path while the forest is dark. You’ll most want to try to make changes to your life when you’re consumed by emotion, but that’s the worst time to do so. Do not make decisions when you’re upset. Let yourself come back down to neutral first.
4. Fire can burn your house down, or it can cook you dinner each night and keep you warm in the winter. Your mind is the same way.
5. Recognize that anxiety stems from shame. It is the idea that who you are or what you are doing is “not right,” therefore eliciting a rush of energy designed to help you “fix” or change it. You’re suffering because there’s nothing you can fix to make that urgent, panicked feeling go away. It’s a mismanaged perception of who and how you are.
6. Remedy your tunnel vision by writing your narrative on a piece of paper. Start with: “My name is…” and then go on to list where you live, what work you do, what you’ve accomplished, who you spend time with, what you’re working on, what you’re proud of.
7. Realize that thoughts are illusions, but powerful ones. Take inventory of all the things you’ve thought and worried about that have turned out not to be real. Think of all the time you wasted preparing for outcomes that would never manifest, and problems that were only in your head.
8. Practice negative visualization. Create tangible solutions for your intangible fears. Show yourself that you won’t actually die if you lose a job or a boyfriend. Make a list of the things you worry about most, imagine the worst outcome, then make a plan for exactly how you would deal with it if that came to pass.
9. Stop being so cerebral. Do things with your hands. Cook, clean, go outside.
10. Evolve past one-dimensional thinking. People who worry a lot are usually very firm in their convictions of what is and isn’t. They fail to see complexity, opportunity, the majority of the iceberg that is the reality they don’t know and can’t see.
11. Practice healthy discomfort. Learn to lean into your stress, not resist it.
12. Change your objective. The goal is not to feel “good” all the time, it’s to be able to express a healthy range of emotion without suppressing or suffering.
13. Ask yourself the following questions when a thought upsets you: “Is this true? Can I absolutely know this is true?” Most of the time, the answer will be “no” to one or both.
14. Do more. If you have time to be regularly consumed by irrational, spiraling thoughts, you need more to focus on, more to work toward, more to suffer for. Make sure you’re living more than you’re thinking about living.
15. Accept the fact that everyone, everywhere, has weird, incorrect, disturbing thoughts that have no bearing on reality. You are not a freak. You are (probably) not sick. You just have to learn to not be intimidated by your own mind.
16. Freaking out is not usually what happens when something in your life actually needs to change. Depression, anger, resistance, sadness… that’s what happens when something isn’t right. Stop gauging how bad things are by how much you panic, and start by gauging what your emotional homeostasis is. That’s how you know what’s really wrong or right – what you consistently do and how you regularly feel.
17. When you are spiraling, be able to say out loud: “I am having a panic attack. I am having irrational thoughts.” Doing so is the first step toward bringing yourself back to reality.
18. Identify your comfort zones, and step back into them now and again. Moving past the place that you’re used to is a gradual process – going too quickly is a recipe for a breakdown.
19. Prove yourself wrong. Show yourself that your thoughts have no basis in truth. Go to the doctor and confirm that you aren’t dying of some incurable disease. Ask someone how they feel about you if you don’t know. Do not live in the grey area when answers are available.
20. Do not always trust yourself. Give yourself space to be wrong. Open yourself up to the idea that you don’t know what you don’t know. If your feelings are informed by irrational thoughts, they can very well be incorrect.
21. Trust what gives you peace. Even if the idea of an intimate relationship or a career the field of your dreams scares you initially, if it’s what you really want, it will also give you a feeling of “yes.” Trust your “yes” feelings.
22. Take the instances in which you’re most uncomfortable to mean that it’s time you expand yourself. You need to learn to think differently, see differently, do differently. You need to open yourself. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck in the cocoon phase forever.
23. Fall in love with the unknown, for the fact that it will almost always bring you things better than you could have imagined – things that are worse than you could have imagined are almost always products of your own thinking or perception of what they mean about you or your future.
24. Practice radical acceptance. Learn to tell the parts of your story you’d rather shove under the rug. You’re allowed to say: “I don’t love my body. I feel a little stuck right now. I am not happy in my relationship. I am in debt” without it being a condemning statement.
25. Realize that there are three layers of you: your identity, your shame, and your true self. Your identity is your outermost layer, it’s the idea that you think other people have of you. Your shame is what’s shielding you from expressing your true self, which is at your core. It is from your shame circle that irrational thoughts breed and thrive. Work on closing the gap between who the world thinks you are and who you know you are. Your mental health will change significantly.
26. Learn deep breathing exercises. This sounds kind of annoying if you’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked before, but it’s actually one of the most effective non-prescription solutions to a freak out.
27. Expand your perceptions. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re being pushed to think beyond what you’ve known. You’re being called to see yourself in a new way. Open yourself to possibilities you normally wouldn’t consider, or layers of yourself you’ve yet to see.
28. Practice rational thinking, and often. You shouldn’t trust your mind to think healthfully on autopilot. You have to train it.
29. Part of that training will include knowing what to do when something irrational pops up – which is to evaluate it objectively, determine if it serves you, and laugh about it if not.
30. Irrational thoughts are sometimes products of intense, rational fears you’ve yet to fully acknowledge or deal with. When you’re in a stable state of mind, sit down and be honest with yourself about what those are.
31. Differentiate the fine line between what you can and can’t control. You can, for example, control how much effort you put into your work. You cannot control how other people respond to it. You can control what you wear each day. You cannot control how good other people think you look.
32. Stop pretending you know what other people are thinking.
33. Stop pretending you know what the future holds, indefinitely.
34. Understand that your sense of self is entirely a mental thing, and it’s the foundation of your sanity. If you believe you’re the kind of person who can bear pain or loss, you will be the kind of person who can bear pain or loss. If you believe you’re worthy of love, you will experience love when it comes.
35. Work on re-defining your sense of self by things that aren’t material or shallow. Instead of thinking you are someone who is attractive and successful, learn to think of yourself as someone who is resilient, hungry for new experiences, capable of deeply loving others, and so on.
36. Learn to see each day from the perspective of your older self.
37. Think about who you were two years ago, or even five. Try to remember a random day in your life during those times. Notice how your focus immediately turns toward what you had to be grateful for. Learn to do that with today.
38. Sometimes, the best way to get over anything is just to work on forgetting about it. Not everything requires analysis.
39. The best way to forget is to fill your life with new, better things. Things you may not have expected, things you didn’t know you didn’t know about, things you never imagined you’d like.
40. Accept that irrational thoughts, much like anxiety, or sadness, or anything else, will always be a part of your life. They aren’t going anywhere. Experiencing them isn’t a sign that you’ve back-tracked or that you’re off-path or that something’s desperately wrong, per say.
41. Recognize that there’s a correlation between worry and creativity. It’s the most basic aspect of human evolution – the more we fear something, the more creative we are in creating solutions to adapt to the alternative. See your fears as catalysts for bettering your life, not as you being condemned to suffering.
42. Remember that you can choose what you think about, and even when it feels like you can’t, it’s because again, you’re choosing to believe that.
43. “Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” – Marcus Aurelius
44. Go outside and look at the stars and drink a glass of wine.
45. Try bullet journaling. When you go back and re-read it, you’ll begin to see what your patterns are, particularly your self-sabotaging ones.
46. Meditate and imagine speaking with your oldest, wisest, most optimal future self. What you’re doing is tapping deep into your subconscious. Let your choices be guided by the person you hope to become.
48. When you ask other people for advice on whatever you’re worrying about, first ask yourself what you hope they’ll say. That’s what you want to tell yourself.
49. Talk to other people and ask them to tell you about the silly things they worry irrationally about. You’re in good company.
50. Work on developing your mental strength. Train your mind like you would your body. Work on focusing, thinking, imagining. This is the single best thing you can possibly do for your life.
51. Say thank you for the fact that you care enough about yourself to even feel panicked about something in the first place.
52. Remind yourself that what you fear is the shadow side to what you love. The more fear, the more love. Learn to start seeing what’s right as much as you worry about what’s not.
53. Give yourself permission to feel okay. This is why we love when other people love us. Nobody else can actually transmute the sensation of love – we crave it from others because it lets us flip the mental switch that gives us permission to be happy, proud, excited, or content. The trick, the whole work of “loving ourselves,” is just learning to do it on our own.
54. Keep your spaces clean and clear.
55. Recite mantras or prayers or motivational speeches in the mirror, if you must. Anything that focuses your mind on something positive and hopeful.
56. Consume your mind with things that interest you – aside from your own problems.
57. If you cannot do this, it means you don’t know yourself well enough yet. That’s okay. The point is that you realize this now, and begin learning.
58. Practice happiness. External events don’t create meaning or fulfillment or contentment, how we think about them does. If you’re operating on a scarcity mindset, you’ll always be unhappy, no matter what you have or get.
59. Do something unexpected. Book a trip, date someone wrong for you, get a tattoo, start looking for a new job in a field you didn’t think you’d enjoy. Show yourself that you don’t know what you don’t know about your life, or yourself. Not completely. Not yet.
60. Practice radical acceptance. Choose to love your home, and your body, and your work, even if you don’t like it all the time. Choose to build your life from a place of gratitude and vision, rather than running from your own fears.
61. Be mindful of who you surround yourself with. Your most constant company will account for a lot of how you turn out over the coming years. Pay attention.
62. Spend time on your own, especially when you feel like you don’t want to. You are your first and last friend – you are with you until the end. If you don’t want to be with you, how can you expect anyone else to, either?
63. Re-write your “success” narrative. Sometimes success is getting enough sleep. Sometimes it’s doing what you know is right despite the fact that everyone else in your life is looking down on it. Sometimes it’s just getting through the day, or the month. Lower your expectations.
64. Write out your fears in explicit detail.
65. Listen to scary podcasts or watch horror movies. Expose yourself to things that are actually terrifying. (This will either make it better or worse, but hey, give it a try.)
66. Dream bigger. If you feel as though you’re constantly running through the same issues in your mind, you’ve yet to visualize a future that is greater than your present. When you have something more important to work toward – or someone to be better for – the obsession with little, made up problems will quickly dissolve.
67. Don’t confuse a broken dream with a broken future.
68. Don’t confuse a broken heart for a broken life.
69. Create a routine you love, one that involves enough sleep and down time, and a realistic degree of “stuff you know you should do” vs. “stuff you actually want to do.”
70. Validate yourself. Choose to believe that the life you have is more than enough.
71. Take an evening (or a few) to meditate on your past. Think of all the pain and sadness you shoved away. Let yourself feel those things. When you let them surface, they won’t control you anymore.
72. Choose to do things because you want joy more than you choose to do them because you want to avoid pain.
73. Take an honest look at your life and evaluate how much you’ve constructed as a means to avoid pain, and decide whether or not those fears are even valid in the first place. Do you hold a lesser view of yourself so nobody else’s opinion can hurt you? Do you choose relationships where you’re unwanted so you don’t have to open up to the vulnerability of love?
74. Make plans to build the life you want, not because you hate the one you have, but because you’re in love with the person you know you want to become.
75. Be discerning about what you accept as truth, who you give your energy to, what you do when you procrastinate, and what you surround yourself with at home.
76. Connect with people. Connect with people. Connect with people.
77. Create vision boards. Or just use Pinterest more. Seeing the life you want is the first step to creating it.
78. Remember that you’re not upset about what you lost – you’re upset about what you never really had the chance to have in the first place. You’ll regret what you didn’t do, not what you’ve done.
79. Dedicate your time to helping someone else. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, donate your belongings, work with kids after school. Make your life about more than just your own wants.
80. Redefine “happiness” not as something you experience when you get what you want, but something you feel when you have something meaningful to work toward each day.
81. Focus on getting better, but let go of the end goal. You get better, not perfect.
82. Let yourself be loved as the person you are. You’ll quickly see how the main person judging you is you.
83. Stop judging other people. See everyone with dignity, with a story, with reasons for why they are how they are and why they do what they do. The more you accept other people, the more you’ll accept yourself, and vice versa.
84. Channel your over-active imagination into something creative. Write an insane novel. Write a short horror story. Make up songs and record them on your phone, just for yourself.
85. Or do what every wise person does, and use your over-active imagination to imagine the best possible outcomes rather than the worst, and then imagine how you can work toward getting there.
86. Let go of the idea that anything is “given” or “taken” from you. You create. You choose.
87. Ask for help when you actually need help. If you don’t learn to do this, you will end up exacerbating a million other non-issues and seeking attention for those, because you don’t actually have what you need, which is support in the moments that really matter.
88. Stop thinking that being sad or broken makes you unlovable, or “bad.” Your honest moments don’t destroy relationships, they bond (as long as you’re being genuine).
89. Thinking that there are starving kids on the other side of the world will not alleviate your pain, so stop trying to compare.
90. That said: there’s a lot worse you could be going through, and if you think back on your life, you can probably remember instances in which you still were.
91. Read books that interest you, and read them often. Hearing a new voice in your mind will teach you how to think differently.
92. Take a nap. Seriously, wrap yourself in a blanket and go to sleep for 20 minutes. It’s like hitting the “refresh” button on your brain.
93. Recognize that fear is an indicator that something is powerful and worthwhile. The deeper the fear, the deeper the love.
94. “The obstacle is the way.”
95. Let what you dislike about your present be a guiding light toward what you want to love about your future.
96. Challenge yourself to think of possibilities you never imagined before, as often as you can. Let your mind explore itself and grow.
97. Nobody is thinking about you the way you are thinking about you. They’re all thinking about themselves.
98. Recognize that when you’re lost, you’re also free. When you have to start over, you get to pick better. If you don’t like yourself, you have a chance to fall in love with yourself. Don’t stand in front of the road sign forever, map a new path.
99. “This too shall pass.”
100. Fucking try. Honestly, seriously, try. Put your everything into the work you have. Be kind to people when they don’t deserve it. You’ll have a lot less energy to worry with when you’re funneling it into things that are really worthwhile.
101. Learn how to relax. Work on learning how to happily do nothing.
102. Trust that things get better as time goes on. Not because time heals, but because you grow. You discover that you’re capable. You realize that your fourth breakup doesn’t hurt even nearly as bad as your first did. This isn’t because life is easier, it’s because you’re smarter.