11 things I learned about dealing with challenges, emotions, & mental health in 2021 (pt. 1 of 3)

Note. 2021 was an interesting year for me. It brought me a lot of lessons that I had never encountered before and I’m writing about some of them below.

Part 1 focuses on dealing with tough times, emotions, the health of the mind, and one’s sense of self

1. 🕯️Deliberately choose hope. Sometimes, you can’t wait for things to get better. The dark tunnel you’ve been walking through for so long doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. When you’re in the dark, you must make the choice to hang on to hope to keep going. You must make an effort to see some kind of beauty in your dark tunnel journey.

You must never give into dispair. Allow yourself to slip down that road, and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.

Uncle Iroh, The Last Airbender

2. 💔Accept negative emotions. Sometimes, instead of distracting yourself or running away, it is more useful to sit with your negative emotions and feel the pain head-on. Sitting with sadness and grief can have its own beauty. And sometimes, pulling your guard down to feel those painful emotions is actually the way out of the misery you are experiencing.

The cost of trying to narcotize your feelings with mindless activities and running away from them is great: losing touch with your emotions.

3. ❤️‍🔥Stay in touch with emotions. It is important to stay in touch with your feelings and emotions. If you don’t, not only do you miss out on feeling both joy and sadness deeply, it also gets really difficult to make important decisions that require checking in with your gut feeling. Attempting only logical thinking and analysis (esp. when dealing with anxious thoughts) can only take you so far.

4. ✍️Journaling can help you stay connected to yourself. Writing for yourself is a powerful way to stay in touch with your emotions, your desires, and your inner self. It forces you to be one with yourself, lay it all bare onto a paper, face yourself, and reflect. This is the first step to solving a lot of inner dilemmas and problems.

5. 🎈Take a break from your thoughts. If thinking hard about something is proving to be fruitless at the moment, it can be better to take a break, leave the problem unsolved and come back to it later. Instead, you can say to yourself:

“One day I will understand this concept. One day I will solve this dilemma. One day my prayer will be accepted. One day not being able to understand this person won’t bother me anymore. One day the fog will clear up and it will all make sense. But the day when all the dots connect is not today. And that’s okay because I know better days and a better understanding of things will one day come to me. “

This can help you stop ruminating when your thoughts start to spiral. It is better to defer all this thinking to when your mind has a better capacity for reasoning well.

Dots can only be connected backwards. Give things time to make sense.

6. 🛡️Anger is a gift. It helps you recognize if you are being violated in some way, or if something happening in front of you is wrong. Anger is a protective force. However, it should be channelled properly so it’s not destructive. It’s a signal that can help you take appropriate next actions. But it should not be suppressed and silenced completely otherwise it can’t serve its function anymore.

7. 🤔Think practically, not superstitiously. Sometimes, when you’re mentally exhausted, you can notice some of your thoughts becoming superstitious.

“Maybe I’m just an unlucky person so I always get rejected, always feel terrible and insecure, can never make friends, and my life can never become better because… there’s just SOMETHING about me that’s unlucky and I don’t know why. Nothing can ever help me no matter how much I try.”

At this point, reading a book or speaking to someone with a practical perspective can be refreshing. If you think practically about some things, you can find ways to make your way out of your current state of being.

8. 🎬Balance thinking with taking action. You can’t always think your way out of life’s challenges. Staying in touch with practical aspects of reality is very grounding. Once you get moving, you can troubleshoot along the way and figure things out. But you’ve got to get yourself moving first. Balancing action with reflection is much more fruitful.

9 + 10. 🥷Credit yourself for fighting inner battles. It’s important to recognize and take a moment to celebrate yourself for fighting all the invisible battles that no one else will or can give you credit for.

People are given awards and promotions for making advances in their careers, and academics all the time. But so much hard work also goes into bringing yourself out of things like pits of despair or other emotionally tough experiences.

Sometimes success means getting that 3.6 GPA, an internship, or a book published. Other times success means getting out of your bed and making your way outside of your bedroom to brush your teeth even though you woke up feeling empty, heavy, and exhausted.

It’s very important to recognize your efforts and develop this positive relationship with yourself to stay encouraged. Measure success with your own measuring stick. It’s different from one person to another. It’s also different from one day or one season of life to another.

11. 🪙Turn your garbage into gold. When life gives you lemons… you know?

I decided that during the times I’d feel better I’d write about the challenges and my problem-solving attempts. I’m really happy now that I’ve written some posts about it. Hopefully, the fact that I took the time to put what I learned into words will be helpful to someone else, or to future me.

Part 2 coming soon.


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