In my last post, I wrote about 2019 being a tough year. Don’t get me wrong, aside from the struggle I did have a lot to be grateful for. I was especially thankful for the support and love I received from loved ones.
But mentally, I was undeniably drained. I felt that everything was demanding my attention – but I didn’t know what ‘everything’ was. My attention was pulling me in all directions, I was running on low energy, and I was unable to find the answers I wanted. I was running around people-pleasing, but I started sleeping off my stress more often and did not have the energy to talk to anyone.
And how has 2020 been since? I am still trying to find my way around the no-exact-reason-to-be-sad, nothingness, and panic-stricken days.
With everything that has been going on, I thought of sharing 6 steps that can better help us to manage our anxiety and self-doubt through toxic environments:
1. Pick your battles.
If you are constantly running around trying to please everyone, you will start to wear thin. With my constant need to have everything under control, I became more easily affected by my environment. My emotions were sporadic: I was raging mad one second, but in tears the next.
My life suddenly just revolved around how big my problems were. My frustration of not finding anything that was ‘right’, overtook everything that I was. For a while, life felt like a chore.
The longer you try to be whatever everyone wants you to be, the faster you will start to lose your own sense of self. Now I’m not saying to escape and refuse it all.
Instead, learn to pick what is worth your time.
If someone shares an opinion that is degrading, what can I do?
Firstly, I will reflect on whether the person would be able to ‘take it’ if I gave a different opinion. Will they actually listen? Or will they be offended and chalk it up to you talking back? The answer to that will determine whether I would actually speak. Secondly, I would consider my relationship with the person. Do I care enough to tell them that this is harmful? Is this a serious thought or a mere rant? You have the choice to put your foot down, respectfully.
2. Be aware of your own limits to protect your well-being.
With the worldwide pandemic that has been going on, it has definitely sparked my anxious tendencies. I am also juggling exam anxiety, from not being able to pass my papers despite multiple attempts. Additionally, being in the company of people who reek toxicity. Fun combination?
What I’ve learned from being down and out this past year, is the importance of protecting your space. You are allowed to protect your mind. Protect your well-being. I was taught to take the high road, as I often dealt with people who couldn’t take in what they dished out. However, I was not the best at establishing how much I could take. I would bite off more than I could chew, I would break after suppressing for too long. I’ve implemented ways to establish my limits, such as excusing myself physically from the dining table if it’s too much, or asking for time alone when I needed it. Respect is what I hold dear to my core, so I do try to be gentle but firm when I make my stand.
3. Form ‘safe spaces’ for you to go to.
The more unhappy I was, the further I was from being excited about life. Everything felt so bleak – what was the point of all this?
What got me through a majority of last year was writing. I wrote honestly about what I was feeling, in the hopes that I could make anyone out there feel less alone. I wrote about music I enjoyed, reminding myself that I still had the capacity to love something. I wrote about gratitude, reminding myself that there are silver linings in my every day if I squinted to see it.
Writing was my safe space: something that allowed me to express myself honestly, or allowing me to channel any pent-up emotion I had into my craft. This ‘safe space’ may not be the end-all answer to your struggles. However, it does help. It brings relief and comfort, even if it’s just for a while.
Your ‘safe space’ is yours to choose, and it can exist in many forms. It can be writing, painting, collecting, therapy, spending time with loved ones, going for a walk or a drive, trying out new recipes, sports. I hope we can all find what makes us happy.
4. Understanding a person to lessen your frustration, but NOT to justify their actions.
Recently I had a conversation with a close friend on this subject. I was telling them about how I was actively trying to empathise, despite how much I was unable to stand a particular person’s attitude. “What if they were like this all their life, and they never changed because they shut out any criticism they received? How could I go against such ignorance then?”, I asked.
My friend answered,
“You can try to understand a person’s background. However, that does not ever justify their actions that are wrongful.”
Having some understanding of a person’s background serves you more than it serves the other person. For example: remembering that this person has a blind spot against a major flaw can remind you to not respond to them, as they would never be open to criticism. Does that mean you let them go scot-free after understanding them? No. But this perspective allows you to step back to re-evaluate your response. In turn, it would lessen your own emotional stress as well.
5. Learn from the toxicity – as examples of what you will never allow yourself to be.
It goes without saying, that you will meet all types of people as you grow older. You will meet people who are kind. You will meet people who unabashedly use their wiles to get what they want. You will meet genuine people, you will also meet master manipulators. You will meet people who are unafraid to be straightforward. You will also meet those who are painfully ignorant and tactless.
A bright side of being exposed to such toxicity up-close, is the ability to learn from it. Learn to never become what you cannot stand for. Check in with yourself every so often: who you are, how you respond, is there anyone who would be hurt by your actions, whose opinions matter in your life?
6. Be kind to yourself.
I want to emphasise on the importance of this point. Why? Because we tend to think that we don’t deserve kindness when we mess up.
Admitting that we messed up is sign of maturity. Wanting to make up for your mistakes is a sign of character. Man up, admit your mistake, make effort to actually learn from it. But no one ever wants you to beat yourself up over and over again on the what could’s and what if’s. Learn from your faults, but don’t wallow in self-loathing.
7. Sometimes, you can afford to be cheeky!
Through all these tips I’ve shared, the bigger picture is me trying to take things less seriously.
The lesser the weight we attach to someone’s words, the lesser we would hurt. This is easier said than done, but actively reminding yourself of what and who should matter will help you in questioning your reaction.