Using my last remaining breath after a long hike, I screamed from the peak of a mountain in Colorado. I let it all go. I let it all out. It was time to let go of all of my grudges, all of my frustration, all of my inhibitions. Just for a moment at least.
Have you ever woken up and realized that you just didn’t feel alive? That the stress of life has worn you down and just about everything feels numb, uneventful, and mundane? I decided that day when I had hiked to the top of that mountain that I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I wanted to feel something.
More than that, I needed to feel something. I had no feelings, it was past the point of being sad and unsatisfied. No one wants to talk about the bad times they’ve had or the feelings that they struggle with. Because, I think deep down we can be embarrassed by the weight of our feelings. They can be so heavy and misunderstood. And sharing these feelings can cause a lack of comfort and make us feel uneasy.
I am only 26. This last year was tough and without going into too much detail, it was like a light in me extinguished. In the areas of life where I used to shine, I devoted minimal effort and time. I was stressed. I was suffering from major anxiety and I didn’t know what to do with all of these feelings that seemed irrational to everyone but me. So, I didn’t talk about this. I just let it consume my life and I became so good at faking my happiness around others, it was almost horrifying.
Until one day, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. On top of that mountain, once I let it all go, something in me changed. Something big, it was like I could breathe again. Even if it was for just a minute.
I spent the following six months feeling alive and making a conscious effort to live my life to the fullest. I’ve hiked, camped, zip lined, gotten lost, trained for a half marathon, loved, swam, made new friends, let go of old friends, cheered on my favorite teams, laughed a lot, cried a lot, danced, read, researched, learned to long board, pursued my dreams, and conquered fears. The best part? I am just getting started.
I am not suggesting that this is easy to do, nor do I suggest that hiking and screaming at the peak of mountain will make you feel better instantly because I most certainly did not overcome my anxiety in one day. And in many ways, I am still dealing with it. I am hoping to provide some suggestions to help you cope if you are struggling with anxiety or the ability to feel alive, some strategies to appreciate the small things, but most of all to appreciate yourself.
Here are some of those strategies:
Do something you love every day. No exceptions.
For me, it’s running. The losing of my breath, the gasping for air, the pushing myself to the brink type of run. Why? It makes me feel something. Sometimes pain, but also so much joy. I love this because I am reminded every day that I have a body that allows me to run. I appreciate my body, which is funny because I used to hate it so much. But running has given me a new view of what my body and mind can accomplish and I love it.
Maybe running isn’t for you and doing something you love does not have to be physical. If you love to read, do it. If you love to make music, do it. If you love to paint, do it. But make time for whatever it is because it brings you joy.
Challenging yourself is not always easy. What is easy is slipping into a routine that allows you to be lackadaisical in your pursuits. Challenge yourself by learning something new, collaborating on a new project at work, or beating your personal record in something. Whatever it is, challenge yourself. And celebrate your victories, big or small.
Because that is what really makes the challenge worth it.
Let me start by saying that adventuring does not always mean whisking yourself off to exotic and expensive destinations. Some simple examples include: going for a hike, go to a museum, go to a concert, or go to a new restaurant. But discovering the “new” in the world can be exhilarating, beautiful, and entertaining. Even if it is in the city in which you currently live.
Don’t let fear control you.
I used to let fear control my life. Before doing anything, I would ask myself “What if I fail?” This is so counterproductive. In the back of my mind, I had convinced myself that I would fail before I even started something. Conquering fear is not an easy task. However, taking things one step at a time can help.
Start by doing one thing you love each day. Then slowly begin to challenge yourself. And then let yourself adventure, and then maybe you can learn to love and live your life again. One step at a time.
And this is what I did. One hour at a time slowly became one day at a time which slowly became one week at a time, etc. That is how I survived, how I learned to love again, and laugh again, and live again.