Things Change When You Do (and Small Changes Add Up)

Man breathing deeply

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” ~Victor Hugo

A year-and-a-half ago, I was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Every day, I felt like I was travelling through an endless tunnel. The only way I could fall asleep was by pretending that I was dying.

My life felt pointless. I felt like I was on the wrong path. The combination of my two mental illnesses made me feel like I was a prisoner in my own body, like I could not control my brain.

Since this point in time, a lot has changed. My surroundings have changed, my friends have changed, and, most importantly, I have changed.

It is important for me to mention that these things did not change because someone else forced my life in a different direction. These things did not change because I read a self-help book that inspired me to turn everything around.

These things changed because, every day, for the past year-and-a-half, I have gotten out of bed with the intention to make small changes in my life.

These small changes, like microscopic pieces of dirt, added up. They became a mountain of positivity. I would like to share the changes that I have made, with the hope that they will inspire you to be your own hero or heroine, to make your own destiny.

Take care of yourself first.

Take a moment to think about how much technology influences your life. How often do you reach for your phone? Are you ever woken up by your phone’s pings and vibrations? Is your computer always on?

For a long time, I would wake up and reach for my phone or computer. I would anxiously check my messages before I had even washed my face or brushed my teeth.

Technology prevents us from living in the moment, in the here and now. It prevents us from taking care of ourselves first, especially if you are programmed to instantly respond to the sound of a phone call or text message (like I was).

Before I go to bed, I turn my laptop off and put my phone on airplane mode. If I wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, I avoid all electronic devices. Instead, I grab a book or meditate.

In the morning, I wake up. I make myself a cup of tea, eat a healthy breakfast, wash my face, brush my teeth, and do whatever else I need to do to feel ready to face the day.

Yes, it is hard at first and, yes, avoiding my phone does make me anxious sometimes. But, practice makes perfect. The more we focus on taking care of ourselves, the better able we are to handle the ups and downs of everyday life.

Start going outside.

This morning I sat on my front porch with a cup of tea and my dog by my side. I sat there and admired my surroundings, watching cars go by. I even wrote some poetry and doodled away on index cards.

Spending more time outside reminded me that there is so much to be grateful for. It reminded me that I am a part of something bigger, that I matter.

The combination of fresh air and sunlight on your skin can work wonders. Feeling the fragrant grass beneath you makes you feel present. Allowing the wind to blow your hair in all directions reminds you that there is something magical about the world that we live in.

When I am outside, I can let go and let nature take control. I can become a part of the world. In other words, I can let go of my anxiety and just be.

Pave your own path.

Growing up, people would always tell me, “Anna, sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do.” The problem with this saying is that I had interpreted it all wrong. I had interpreted it as, “Anna, sometimes you have to be unhappy.”

Yes, there are days when we have to go out of our way to set things in motion. There are days when we have to pay bills, clean our car, and walk our dog even though we are tired.

But it is important to remember that we should never live our lives in a manner that makes us continually unhappy. We should never work in an office that makes us miserable. We should never do what other people tell us to do because it will “make us money” or “be the right thing.”

If painting makes you happy, paint. If writing makes you happy, write. If getting up on a stage and dancing makes you happy, do that.

So what if everyone else is doing something different? So what if people say that you will never make it? At least you will be happy.

Once you start writing your own story, you will realize that what everyone else is doing does not matter. You will realize that, yes, some days are hard, but, overall, you would not have it any other way.

Laugh it off.

For a long time, I cared a lot about what others thought. I dressed a certain way, acted a certain way, and did certain things because I wanted others to think that I was perfect.

The funny thing is, I succeeded. People thought that I was perfect. That is when I learned that “perfect” does not mean “happy.”

Slowly, but surely, I adjusted my idea of perfection. Instead of thinking of perfection as this robotic, unflawed form of living, I started to think of perfection as simply living my life: making mistakes, laughing, acting weird, and being myself.

As someone that used to rely on other people’s opinions, this was hard for me. Over time, I had to learn a hard lesson: not everyone is going to like you and that is okay.

Replacing my feelings of insecurity with feelings of humor helped a lot. Every time I felt insecure and needy, I laughed. I laughed at the fact that I am weird, goofy, and a little bit crazy. I laughed at the fact that life can be a bumpy ride.

They say that “laughter is medicine,” and they are right. Laughter can heal even the deepest wounds of insecurity.

If all else fails, ask for help.

Going to therapy was scary. Telling a stranger about my problems was difficult. Describing the way that I felt was exhausting.

But, you want to know something? It all worked out in the end. Therapy made me feel better, it made me feel refreshed and as if I had released all of the negativity from my being.

Asking for help does not make you weak. As someone who used to be afraid to leave the house, I can say that asking for help took a lot of strength. It can be just as hard as getting up in the morning to face the day.

The thing about asking for help is that it is a way of saying, “I am not giving up on myself.” To me, that is one the bravest statement of them all.

I would like to leave you with my favorite quote:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill

Man breathing deeply image via Shutterstock

About Anna Catarina Gragert

Anna is a writer, photographer, wannabe shaman, and full-time Aquarius. Visit her at ThoughtCatalog and Ethereal Photo Images and follow her on Twitter here.

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