I’m at an exciting point in my life – I’ve just finished my undergrad and started my first full-time job as a software developer. I should be feeling ecstatic, accomplished, relieved that I’m done university. I should feel proud of myself that I’m making money. But for some reason I don’t.
In high school, there was always one thing on my mind: get good grades and graduate so I can go to university. In university, there was always one thing on my mind: get good grades and graduate so I can find a great job and start making money. So, here I am. I’m done all the graduating and I got a job. Now, I’m wondering what’s next. Do I just wake up everyday for the next 45 years and go do my job? Is that just the rest of my life now?!
Hitting this dilemma was hard for me. Throughout my education, I’ve always been focused on getting somewhere. I worry about what’s coming next, and what I should do now to accomplish it.
I’ve realized that focusing on the future just isn’t worth it. School was all about progressing to the next year, and this gave me a constant goal to cling to. Teachers assigned me homework and I didn’t have to think about how I should fill my time. I could just do homework when I was bored. I could do what I was told. But now that I’m finished my education and set loose into the world, I have to figure out what the heck to do with my time!
I don’t want to sit on the couch and watch TV. I don’t want to work 12 hours a day to fill my days. So, I’ve also realized I need to have my own projects and goals on the go so I can continue to develop as a person and challenge myself everyday. School used to do that for me, but now I have do it for me. I don’t want to just come home from work and watch Netflix. I want to improve on random skills – learning a musical instrument, getting fit, learning to draw, starting a blog. There’s so much I want to do.
I’ve recently learned that I need to focus on the now and that I can’t rely on people like my teachers, parents, or employer to set goals for me and instruct me on how I should fill my time. I am responsible for setting my own goals, actually starting them, and following through. I’m starting small, and I’ll go from there.
Simply put, only you cause your own stress. No matter what you blame your stress on (your environment, your boss, your spouse, your kids), at the end of the day, your stress is your fault. Okay, external factors like poverty or an unhealthy marriage obviously don’t facilitate being stressed, but it comes down to realizing that you’re the problem. Until you stop blaming external factors for your stress, you can’t fix it. For example, if you blame your job for your stress, your brain is convinced that the stress will only go away if the job goes away! You’re practicing self-helplessness. Before you can make changes, come to the realization that you’re the one making yourself stressed. I know it’s mean, but that’s life.
Feel grateful for what you have. Sometimes I forget to be grateful for what I have. My family is in good health, I have a wonderful boyfriend, and I have a secure job right out of university. No matter how great of a situation we’re born into or we’ve made for ourselves, we still find ways to be stressed! We make things up in our head – when I get that promotion, I’ll be happy. When I finally get married, I’ll be happy. You can’t just keep looking into the future for your happiness. You have to practice happiness in the now.
Try meditation and breathing exercises. Okay, you’re probably rolling your eyes. Meditation and mindfulness seem to becoming buzz words now. But in all honesty, meditation is how I developed my self-awarness. I’m constantly training myself to check in with my emotions and stop myself from going down my “stress paths”. It’s hard to meditate at first. It’s hard to sit in silence and ask yourself tough questions. I mean, when do we ever experience complete silence anymore? We’re either on our phone, listening to music, watching Netflix, or keeping ourselves busy. So practice literally doing nothing.
Eat healthier. Get more sleep. You’ve probably read a lot of blog articles about getting your beauty sleep or eating “super foods”. I approach these rules in my own way – I try to eat a bit of everything, but mostly things that come from the ground. I wanted to see what happened if I removed sugar from my diet. Within a couple of weeks (yes, the first few days were hard!), I noticed I felt less anxious and I no longer craved buying sweets on my weekly trip to the grocery store. When I added a small salad to my daily diet, I noticed my hair was growing faster and my nails got stronger. So, you don’t have to eat only kale. Just try branching out and eating some veggies you wouldn’t normally eat. Take it one day at a time, and turn it into a habit. Habits are your worst enemy, but they can also be your best friend (when you take the time to develop good habits).
It can take several weeks to replace a bad habit with a good one. I like to focus on improving myself by 0.01% a day. And not everyday will be better. I’m a person, and sometimes I just have sad days. But start to check in with yourself, figure out what’s making you stressed, and try to love yourself more. The world is only stressful if you see it that way. Do the hard thing and convince yourself otherwise.