1. Don’t be afraid to cry.
The other day my friend cried on me and said your pants are now soaked with tears of friendship, and I thought, hey that’s not such a bad thing. I’m not afraid of tears, and no one should be. Tears are just your body’s way (according to my scientific theory of the world) of expelling excess emotions, and if you hold them in too long they will corrode your insides. In all seriousness though, for some, crying is seen as taboo — or at least crying in public or admitting that you cry is — and this notion that we must hide creates a dangerous circle of emotional pain. So if you feel the tears coming on, do not be afraid to feel that wave of emotion. And once it passes through you, you can start to move forward in whatever wearied but refreshed state you’re in.
I cannot expound enough on the benefits of exercise, but for me the most important part of working out has been its contribution not to my physical health, but my mental health. So much of the pain from events that make it feel as if your life is falling apart around you has to do with the terrifying sense of not being in control. Exercise gives you one thing that you are completely and entirely in charge of, it gives you one solid thing to grasp onto amidst a sea of swirling uncertainties. When I am going through something tough, my one-hour of exercise a day feels out of this world. It is 60 minutes that I am fully in control of and the only 60 minutes of my day where I’m able to focus on nothing but me and my body (and my sweat and pain and exhaustion) and all the emotional turmoil just falls away. I have never found anything else as effective at quieting my incessant thoughts. Sometimes you just need a little time for yourself.
3. Honesty over everything.
I mean this in every sense of the word. So much pain and suffering in this world comes from not telling the truth. And whether things are falling apart because of a lie or not, start being honest. With yourself and with those around you. Don’t lie to yourself about what you need and what you’re feeling, and don’t hide that from others. Don’t be afraid to tell others you’re hurt or angry at them, or that you’re just hurt and angry in general. Tell the truth about what you need to get through.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I am learning more and more that we live in a society that inherently and subconsciously teaches people that it is pathetic or weak to ask for help. And in teaching this lesson we create a society of people hurting in the ways humans inevitably do, but feeling trapped and alone. Everyone at some point struggles on this journey of life. The biggest tragedy is that by acting like this isn’t universal, we worsen the problem by not allowing us to overcome through networks of common experience and support. We must never confuse vulnerability with weakness. In fact, we must start hailing vulnerability for what it is: a sign a strength, a sign of openness, and a sign of hope that there are those courageous enough to share their struggles and move past them.
5. Allow yourself to enjoy moments of life guilt free.
One of the things I struggle with most is how to separate my triumphs from my tragedies. I don’t want pain to consume my life, but it often feels disingenuous and just plain hard to enjoy more trivial and jovial moments in life when I have other emotional engagements. But allowing pain to entirely rule every aspect of your life is not healthy, so you must not punish yourself for laughing at something stupid or enjoying a night out with your friends, even when you’re hurting right in the feels. Life is full of contradictions, and that is what makes it beautiful – the coexistence of so many startling polar opposites.
6. You will have days when you are not okay, and that is okay.
In contrast to allowing yourself to enjoy lighter moments amongst darker times, you must accept that sometimes you will have terrible days where the pain and reality of your situation consume you. It is realistic, and truthful, and not the end of the world. Sometimes you just have to give in to the anger and sadness – much like stop a flailing flight against a current, it takes less energy. Realize that sometimes a comforting hug will help, and other times it will not. Always try the hug, always try reaching out, and then just allow yourself to feel what you’re going to feel. Allow yourself to feel helpless. But never forget that tomorrow is a new day. A goodnight’s sleep can truly, and almost always will, makes things feel just a bit brighter, and that this is just a really bad chapter in a great book – all you have to do is keep turning the pages.