Let’s face it, we’re all a little broken. My question to you is: are you a victim of your brokenness, or are life’s little challenges propelling you to become stronger, wiser, and more whole? Here is a list I found some years ago: 12 Steps to Ensure Emotional Well-Being:
1. Collect Friends
You need people, lots of them. Now, what is friendship? Is a true friend that person you party with, or is it the person you call at two in the morning when life seems unbearable?
My mom battled a brain tumor for five years. During that time, I lived in Boston, Argentina, San Diego, Los Angeles and Houston. I met many people along the way. Basically, I was collecting friends. On March 21st of 2008, I was having a slumber party with my friend’s 4 yr old and my then boyfriend’s (now husband) two little girls. I got a call a little after midnight from my brother. He was crying. She was gone. I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am for the friends who got me through it. I want you to take a minute and think about your circle of friends. Write down their names. Call them tonight and let them know how much you appreciate their friendship.
2. Enjoy Solitude aka Quiet Time
This step may seem to contradict the first one, but it actually complements it. Some isolation can be quite healthy. According to Dr. Rebecca Curtis, a professor of psychology at Adelphi University in NY, “The isolation that comes when people have given up on other people is the problem.”
You want to avoid any extreme. You don’t want to be a hermit who lives alone in a cabin on the hill, but at the same time you don’t want to be such a social butterfly that you lose yourself completely.
Try and take an hour a day where you unplug from society (no twitter, no Facebook, no phone), and just sit with your thoughts in silence. This is a great opportunity to focus on your goals, your dreams, your desires. What do you want from life? What does it look like? When is it happening? Who’s helping you along in the process? Take a minute and really think about it.
3. Get Moving
It’s not about the number on the scale. It’s about being healthy. Get your body moving. Release those happy endorphins. After my mom passed, I was in serious need of antidepressants. The need for those antidepressants totally dissipated once I started exercising consistently, eating right, and staying hydrated.
Break any vicious cycles you see happening which get in the way of adding positive things, like exercise, to your daily routine. Booze, cigarettes, overeating, junk food, or all these together are an impediment to physical activity, and overindulging leads to more of the same. Trust me, I’ve done the overweight, sick, and tired thing, and life is so much more colorful on the other side.
It’s important for emotional health to maintain your physical health in all the ways you can. So get enough sleep, eat paleo, CrossFit, and take time for relaxation as well.
4. Seek Pleasure
This might seem like a contradiction, too. Remember, moderation in everything is the message here. Overly rigorous devotion to ANYTHING will drive you a bit batty. For a six month period in my life I refused to go out. I had no life. I was in bed every night by 8:30 or 9:00. My life consisted of working out, eating, working, praying, and sleeping.
At first, this worked for me. It was a way to exert control over my life when circumstances seemed insanely beyond my control. With time, I realized that my attempt to control life had caused me to exist rather than live.
Is there one pleasurable thing you can add to your life: a daily chat with your best friend, a hot bath with candles and music to help you relax, a romp in the sheets with your wife or husband? Find that one pleasurable thing, do it daily, and watch your emotional wellness meter rise significantly.
5. Find a Passion
If you don’t know what your purpose in life is, then that’s okay! Start smaller. Have you ever made a bucket list, a life list, a list of everything you want to accomplish before you die? I have about 50 things on that list. It used to be closer to 100 things, but my 20’s were exciting and full! Work on your bucket list. Don’t be shy about writing down wild and crazy things! If your first list seems uninspiring, make another one. Keep making lists and look for any recurring themes.
Identifying an interest and pursuing it can develop into a rich and exciting life that you never even dreamed possible! Don’t be afraid to dream big. Small dreams result in small lives. What do you think big dreams result in? That’s right…EXCITING, PURPOSE-FILLED LIVES!!!
6. Plan for Problems
Instead of expecting everything to go smoothly –some things will and, unfortunately, some things definitely won’t–or worrying about what will happen to you if things go wrong, plan for potential problems.
This is advise I wish I had heeded when I was in my late teens/early 20’s. At 21, I was living in NYC, bartending, making 3x what I’m making now. Do you think I was worried about the possibility of a rainy day? Absolutely not! Instead, I was too busy living for the moment, shopping at the Christian Dior boutique on 5th ave, getting fitted for custom-made leather pants, partying like a rock star while dropping a few hundred on dinner almost nightly. What do you think happened to me when I hit some major bumps in the road? I’ll tell you what happened. I ended up moving to Boston and lived in the basement of my boyfriend’s parents’ house until we got on our feet. That’s embarrassing. I implore you to work on getting a fully-funded emergency fund and enjoy the knowledge that you’ll be okay should disaster strike.
8. Take Healthy Risks
Approach those things that give you anxiety. Now, this doesn’t mean needlessly forcing yourself into terrifying situations. But if you never leave your comfort zone your life will be all the poorer for it.
So what are your fears? Are you scared of flying? Are you scared of heights? Are you afraid of failure? Of CrossFit? Think about your fears. What can you do to address them? Have the courage to face those things that give you anxiety. Become fearless.
9. Manage Success Well
There’s a great book by Stephen Berglas called, “Reclaiming the Fire: How Successful People Overcome Burnout.” The first chapter is called, “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Thinking Like a Woman.” Basically, it says that “women hold onto and maintain relationships with their competitors, while men litter the battlefield with corpses.”
Instead of jealously guarding your success, start spreading your success around. Give more. Love more. I can’t tell you how much success, if not handled carefully, can destroy everything you’ve worked to accomplish. Someone very dear to me experienced this the hard way. He was a millionaire by the time he was 30. He created a five-year plan so that he’d be retired by the time he was 40. In his mind, he was doing what was right for his family. In the process, he built a 1.2 million dollar house, expanded his business to three other Texas cities,and spent countless nights on the road away from his family.
Nearly five years later, he was divorced, had only one place of business left, and lost nearly $400,000 on the sale of his house. He was completely humbled; however he became a better man for it. Think about the cost of that lesson. He would be a happily married, full-time dad if he had managed his success well. Remember, it’s not about what you have, it’s about the relationships you build in this life.
10 Don’t Go It Alone
This kind of harkens back to Step 1, but it takes it a little further. It’s important to have someone to talk to about your feelings, your fears, your achievements, your dreams. This person should be someone who’s advice you respect. For some people it may be their pastor or rabbi, for others it could be a parent or spouse. The most important thing to remember in this particular relationship is that it requires complete authenticity. Be honest, forthcoming, and completely open about everything in your life. I know for some of you that might sound incredibly scary. The very idea of vulnerability might send you screaming for the door. But we weren’t created to be alone. We were built for relationship, and these relationships are one of the best tools we have to build self-worth.
11. Write it Down
Do NOT beat yourself up for feeling stressed or confused or fearful. These feelings are normal. The key is to not let these feeling overtake you. A great way to combat this is by writing them down.
Grab a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle of it. On one side lest your seven greatest fears. Writing them on paper bleeds them of their power. They merely become words on paper. Now, on the other side I want you to list everything for which you’re grateful. We tend to focus so often on the negative that we forget just how blessed we are. Every morning for a week, before you do anything, write a gratitude list. I promise, you’ll notice a complete shift in your outlook. Try it for a month and you’ll be amazed by the life changes you encounter. Constantly project an attitude of gratitude.
12. Protect Yourself from Energy Vampires
Negative Nancy, Talkative Tom, Victimized Veronica, Drama Queenie, Accusatory Adam– do you know any of these people? You may know one, you may know some, or you may know all of them–the main thing these people do is such your life force and wear you out.
I can’t begin to express how important it is to learn to set boundaries with people. It’s great to be a “Yes” person, but not at the expense of your emotional health. This is something I struggled with for years. I was so scared of hurting anyone’s feeling that I ended up spreading myself out too this. I exhausted myself trying to be all things to all people. The light bulb finally went off that, sometimes, it’s okay to say no. The key is to be firm, but to do it with tact and love.
Surround yourself with positive people. Surround yourself with people who lift you up rather than tear you down.
These 12 steps will help ensure you live the purpose-driven life you’ve always sought. Have fun and good luck!