If you fight, it can get better
If the readership of my blog was much larger, I would still be happy to discuss my experiences in an open and honest manner. I have received positive feedback from having done so in the past (see, for example, my ‘honest CV’ blog post) and I hope it has been helpful to others.
I won’t exaggerate and say that in the last six months my life has been ‘turned upside down’ — because fortunately, I did not suffer from any tragedy, homelessness, financial ruin or other disaster.
But my life is much, much better in pretty much all aspects and I am far happier now than I was six months ago. That is, my work life, my home life, my personal life, social life and health and wellbeing have all improved.
Six months ago, I suffered problems that probably happen to most young adults at some stage. I was looking for work and in a dead-end non-graduate job. I didn’t like the city I lived in. I was recently heartbroken. I hardly ever saw friends because I worked during the evenings and weekends. I was tired, stressed and miserable all at once from a combination of all of these.
I got out of every one of those situations because I fought against them, and I listened to my gut feeling of ‘you need to get out of this mess and look after yourself’. Here’s how I did each one of them.
When you’ve done what feels like (or maybe even is) the hundredth application for a job that deep down, you’re not sure you even want, or is in the wrong location for you, you need to take a step back. It can be so easy to get trapped in this circle because it feels productive, and it becomes more demotivating with each rejection you receive. Ask yourself:
· Is this application for something I would honestly find interesting, or is it simply for the sake of being a graduate job/earning money/filling up some time? If any of the latter, don’t waste your time.
· Would this job be in a location I’m not comfortable with? If yes, don’t waste your time.
· Would this job cause me to make serious sacrifices to the rest of my life (e.g. it’s a long commute, it goes against your personal values, etc.)? If yes, don’t waste your time.
· Equally, if your current job provokes a red flag against any of these, it’s time to start looking for another one — despite any perceived ‘awkwardness’ this might entail.
I knew I didn’t want to be in London, yet I kept applying for jobs in London. I knew I didn’t want to be in the civil service or work in advertising, but I applied anyway. I got rejected from all of them. When I applied for a PhD in nutrition at Aberdeen? I got it.
Whether it’s your flat, your city or both, if you know deep down you hate being where you are, you have to listen to that inner voice. Being able to relax properly is so important to maintaining your sanity, and if you’re not able to do your style of relaxing — be that living in a clean flat, being able to go out every weekend, or having some peace and quiet — you’re mentally not going to be able to get along with your surroundings. This means you’re constantly in a state of anxiety or restlessness.
· Act on practical ways you can change your situation as soon as possible, whether that’s applying for jobs elsewhere or looking around other flats.
· Think about what criteria are important for you so you don’t make the same mistake again. For example, if you hate bustle and noise but require being near to a city for your job, think how you could make things work if you lived in the country or slightly out of town.
· Don’t compromise on key criteria, but don’t make them too picky either (see below).
For me, my key criteria were simply ‘not London’ and ‘a flat no larger than 3 people, where I can have an acceptable level of clutter’. My criteria used to be ‘living with vegans’, but when that turned out to be a disaster, I realised that less can sometimes be more!
When this goes badly, it feels worse than all the other things put together. Whether you’re looking for, trying to improve, coming out of a relationship, or something in between — different things may apply, but these key aspects remain the same.
· Again, what are your key principles for a relationship? Important yet reasonable things, like — ‘I want this person to be honest about their feelings’ and ‘I want to have some form of contact with them each day’, rather than whether they have a beard or not. Don’t compromise on these but…
· …give someone a chance to improve. If someone is showing genuine improvement in something (e.g. frequency of contact) that shows they care and are trying — even if it doesn’t yet reach your ideal standard. Be patient — they might be getting there. However…
· …stand by those principles. If someone is continuously making you feel crap due to their action or inaction, and not showing any clear signs of improvement, you have to let that person go.
· Your personal health and wellbeing is more important than theirs. Even if you love someone to bits, only they can change themselves. If a situation is draining you mentally and physically, it’s not right for you.
· No one size fits all. Your friends and family might give you advice but every situation and relationship is different. If something feels right and worth fighting for, go with that instinct. Those closest to you should support you whatever you choose, even if it doesn’t work out in the long run.
Whether you prefer staying in watching films, going partying every night or somewhere in between, all of these are perfectly normal. But if your social life isn’t matching up with your preferences — or frequency of contact with others — you will no doubt feel a bit miserable.
· Change any of the above factors if that would help. Perhaps you don’t have friends at work because your personality or values don’t match the ethos of your workplace. Perhaps you’re stuck living in the sticks when you want to be in amongst the action. Or maybe you have a controlling partner who prevents you from having a social life outside of your relationship. Change these things first, then the social life will most likely follow.
· Do a search for social groups that match your interests, not your friends’ or partner’s. If you’re secretly a gaming nerd, find some fellow gamers. If you’ve always wanted to get involved with political campaigns, do that.
· Don’t be afraid to say yes, no, or leave certain situations. If you hear someone discussing an event that sounds interesting, be bold and ask for the details so you can go along. If someone wants to make you do a night out on the town when you’d rather be in bed, don’t. And don’t feel bad about staying for a drink or two then leaving. People will appreciate you’ve made the effort (and will probably respect the fact that you’re not a party animal too).
Now I’m working and living somewhere I feel much more comfortable, I’m socialising with people with similar interests and am able to do things I really like doing, including choosing to go to a couple of social events a week while still allowing time to be on my own (getting this balance right for you is really important).
Physical and mental health
These are the cornerstones of living a good life because if you’re not happy, you’re not going to view the other areas of your life in a positive light either. Of course, you can still be happy and live with a health problem. Learning to cope in a positive way through acting out healthy habits for both your mind and body will help you to fulfil your potential, whatever limitations you may have.
· What are you putting into your body? This encompasses medication, food and drink, booze, drugs, environmental contaminants and probably some other things too. Any of these things can interfere with your wellbeing and impact upon your body too.
· Try some mental exercise… such as goal setting, learning a new language or develop a skill to boost self-esteem and sharpen the brain, even if other things in your life aren’t going so well.
· …and some mental relaxation. This can be mindfulness, but it can also be a period of time you set aside, ideally once a day, for ‘me time’ — whether it’s reading a good book or watching something light-hearted to escape your worries for a short period.
· Do what exercise you can manage: even if it’s just going for a walk, if you feel stressed you’ll most likely feel a bit better afterwards. Exercise can increase your energy and help your brain, as well as being good for the rest of your body, so it’s an excellent all-rounder: particularly if you’re able to enjoy some scenery or listen to some uplifting music while you do it.
· Try to think positively, but realistically. Accept that you’re not in the best of places right now, but it isn’t all your fault and it doesn’t have to stay this way. Try and do just one or two things each day that give you the motivation to keep going, even if they seem like silly little things. At the end of the day, think about the positive or nice things that happened, such as a nice walk in the park or seeing a friend for coffee. Holding on to those moments should help you remember that life is worth living.
In the last few months, I have increased my consumption of fruit and veg, quit medications, kept reasonably active, set aside time every day for language practice, and kept a ‘one line a day’ journal, where I only write nice or positive things that happened each day.
There isn’t a prescription for becoming happy and fulfilled, but I hope some of these things help you if you are going through a tough time in any area of life. It may be hard to imagine now, but one day you will look back and be grateful for what the experience has taught you, and how it has shaped the person you have become. If you overcome challenges, no matter how big or small, you become a more resilient person, better armed to fight in the future.
originally published at lookingforsomeanswers.tumblr.com