Our Happiness Lies in Our Own Hands

In recent months, I have experienced as I watched from a distance, someone else’s life. In my thoughts, I am in a sort of very long trip that just will not seem to stop. And without ever having something taken-apart from innumerable cups of black/green tea to stay awake after many sleepless nights. Natural high, as it is also referred to as beautiful. It’s a strange thing; adrenaline. It is one of the most uncomfortable feelings that I know, because usually it is accompanied by a large dose of nerves. And that means; trembling knees, a lid that just will not stop vibrating and the Russian language that seems suddenly very difficult — and stuttering in a tearing rush talk included. But, I would not be archer if I was not slightly addicted to adrenaline. For how uncomfortable I feel, also when the nerves take over my body as much as I return to my bed would want to crawl on exciting moments, and how scary I find new things sometimes.

I hear you think; what the hell have you been up to, Irma?! Where you got such a kick out of it?! Well, the big story of it I will tell you soon, because I’m still in the middle of the whole adventure. A bit weird, I know. But seriously, there’s something I can tell already. And that is a lesson. Without lecturing or to sound like a smart ass, I want to share something. It may sound like an open door which I unceremoniously flick but bear with me. I do not know what possessed through me, but in the last few months I have a sort of ‘all or nothing’ feeling. And that means that I was attacked by a powerful force, which I had long not felt. And that was again the result that I no longer dreamed about the things I want, but suddenly, I added action, determination and motivation to my vocabulary. A giant step in the right direction, which I achieved in a personal goal and — perhaps more importantly — realized that your happiness really does lies in your own hands.

Nobody is going to make your dreams on a platter for you, no one can conjure that your dreams come true just like that, except you. You’re the only one who can choose to go the safe way, or to challenge yourself and show what you got. You are the boss of your own life! Without fear, without any doubts or uncertainties, and full of conviction in that what you want to achieve. If you go with that setting and full of positive thoughts go to work — it may just so happen that your dreams might start coming true. Thus. Grandma has spoken. 🙂

Illustration: Alessandra De Cristofaro

How I Stay Inspired

Those of us who are creatives require a good amount of inspiration. I thought to share with you guys my top ways that I find inspiration. It is daily work or you will find yourself burnt out especially if you work long days. Much like seeking happiness, seeking inspiration is another essential task for staying on top.

Music

This alone can make me so happy in an instant! I’ve been so drawn to it since I was young and every time I get “too busy” and forget to turn on some good music, I find myself getting run down much faster. I like to keep the tunes fresh each day or week, and go by what my mood craves. I’ll find myself all over the place with genre’s sometimes, and I love the variety of it.

Take Time Off – Knowing When To Take A Break

This has been the hardest thing for me. I love what I do here so much that taking a break isn’t always an option I give myself. When I do something, I submerge myself into it 150%. I’ve always had a heavy dosing of passion and that is what gives me so much drive in life. However, self-awareness is very important and I overdo these feelings more than I should. Work will always be there, no matter how ambitious you are or where you are in your journey. Make the time everyday to enjoy yourself as a human being.

Surround Yourself With Positive People

I cannot emphasize enough how important this one can be. When you only have a 1-hour break and you want to maximize on your time, you probably seek the most uplifting people. I know I do. Last thing you may want is someone who will drain you of your energy. Spend your time with those that bring you joy. I always look to replenish, because a break is a break and should feel like one.

Surround Yourself With Like-Minded Individuals

I love to be around people that are always dreaming and developing new ideas. I am like this myself, so I always seek to surround myself with like-minded individuals. Feeding off one another’s aspirations and energies is amazing!

Be Honest With Yourself

You can’t do it all in one day. End of story. Realize you are human, and your health and wellness are of utmost importance. I have struggled so much with this over the years, and am still seeking a good work-life balance.

Your Dreams Won’t Be Granted Overnight

Keep dreaming baby! But realize that dreams (which literally happen overnight) don’t play out that way in real life. Be focused on your goals, be patient, visualize them and then go about each day with a fierce, never-give-up attitude.

Chase The Good Vibes

Over the years I have come to realize how much I prefer to be around warm, kind-hearted people that have a positive and confident body language. I like to think of myself as such a person. However, we all go through hard times and that is alright if we are not ourselves for certain periods of time. But always feeling down and beat up by life is not healthy for you or those around you. I always seek to be a better person each day and being around kind-hearted, supportive people really helps!

Get Lost In The Little Things

A walk on the beach. A sweet thought or memory. A feeling you get from a song you haven’t heard in ages. A rekindled emotion or feeling. The taste of a dish that takes you back to your childhood days. The smell of the outdoors after heavy rainfall, are just a few things that help me center myself and go on.

Work Structure

How you go about your day is very important. With a heavy workload each week, the best way I tackle it all is to be organized and to delegate specific tasks. Designating specific times to emails, editing, planning, writing, and then sticking to it are of top priority to me.

Spice Things Up

Cook yourself or someone a fabulous dinner. I love doing this because I love cooking.

Travel, Even If It’s Just Outside Of Town

No trip is too small. Sometimes we are so busy to leave our desks but wonderful things happen when we travel. The simple act of leaving town makes me feel better. Traveling always gives me a new vision, a new outlook, a new feeling, and so on. With fresh air comes fresh ideas.

Having A Sense Of Urgency

I have this sense non-stop. It’s what keeps my adrenaline high, energy high, ambitions high and so on. However, I wish I was better at relaxing and unwinding. Finding ways or people that I can relax and unwind with are key for me. A nice bath, a home cooked dinner with my mother, taking extra time to get ready in the morning, a coffee with a friend, all help me unwind.

Eat Healthy

I don’t always exercise. The best sources of fuel for me are vegetables, low carbs, and proteins. I feel my best eating this way and I don’t need caffeine to get me through the day. I drink coffee for the taste and 95% of the time I get decaf. Otherwise my sense of energy shoots through the roof! 

Keep Growing Your Passion

Nothing feels better than seeing your hard work paying off. Keep consistent, keep sacrificing (yes this part is a kick-starter) to get you to where you want to be. You cannot have it all, all the time. You may need to let go of something you may not realize you are attached to, or something that is holding you back, in order get to where you want to be. And lastly, have some fun. Don’t take life too seriously (like I sometimes tend to do, which I’m working on). 

Illustration: Alessandra De Cristofaro

What It’s Really Like Living with SAD

A Note From The Editor: While it’s never easy or comfortable to bring the deep issues that many of us go through, I am no less convinced that certain issues must be discussed in order to increase awareness, foster healing and to, perhaps most importantly, remind ourselves that we are not alone. The following is a blog post about understanding SAD. I hope this encourages healthy discussion and motivates those who are struggling to reach out for help. 

Living with social anxiety is not as easy as it might seem.

“Social anxiety is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance. Social anxiety is the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression.” Dr. Thomas A. Richards provides this definition here. No one fully understands social anxiety, though, unless they live through it. So what exactly is it like to live with social anxiety?

Social anxiety is feeling alone in a crowded room because you are too afraid to talk to anyone. It is standing awkwardly in the dark corner of a party, trying desperately to will yourself to take a step forward, to join a group, to dance. But you can’t, because fear has taken over your body. It is the fear of being rejected by others, the fear of making a fool of yourself. Social anxiety takes over, and you cannot do a thing about it, no matter how badly you want to.

Social anxiety is feeling alone in smaller crowds too. You sit in a small group of people, and you want to join in the conversation. But you can’t. You can’t because you just know that if you speak, your breath will get caught in your throat, and you will choke. Or you will stumble over your words like you always do when you’re nervous, and some high-ranking member of the group will look at you just the way you hate. It’s that condescending, “why did you even bother speaking?” look. You remind yourself that look may not even be real. Perhaps your social anxiety is making you paranoid. It probably is. Or maybe it’s not…you simply cannot tell. So you submit to the anxiety, and you keep your mouth shut, even if you have a lot to say.

Social anxiety is also fear welling up inside of you when you are with only one other person. You’re sitting with them in a restaurant or a classroom or a mall. And you look down to see your hands beginning to shake. You don’t know what to say to the other person. Will they think you’re boring? Will they think you’re rude? You wonder if you should try to speak. But then you remember how strange your voice is, and how you can’t keep a conversation going. You suddenly become aware of your body as well. They must be watching how you nervously flick your hair back every couple of minutes, or how awkwardly you sit and cross your legs. Now you tense up. And you’re sure you look even weirder now, but you can’t help it. You tense up because you are afraid. You are afraid of interacting with just one person, and you hate it.

And social anxiety is nobody believing your fear is real. It is your irritated family and teachers and acquaintances telling you to simply get over it, as if that is possible. As if you haven’t tried hard enough already to live as the more confident people do. You wish they could understand that you want to make the fear go away instantaneously, but you can’t. Something in your life triggered this burden, and it is a part of you now. Social anxiety is wondering why some people don’t seem to understand your fear.

But social anxiety is not all doom and gloom. It is those times when you somehow force yourself to speak, to relax, to function as if you are not scared. It is the sense of pride and accomplishment you feel when push yourself past your limits, and you are okay. It is those times when the group acknowledges you, and values your presence. It is knowing that you are working hard to become the best version of yourself. You know you may never be an extrovert, but you accept that, and you work on decreasing your fear every day. It is knowing that you matter, no matter how socially anxious you are. It is being able to help others with their anxiety, and letting them know that they are not alone. Perhaps a wonderful friendship comes from this interaction too. Your fear is not continuously active at all hours of the day, and social anxiety is living for the moments when you are at peace, whether it be while you are alone or in a group that accepts and loves you for who you are. We all have these groups, and social anxiety is taking advantage of those moments when you are not afraid, and finding these people.

Social anxiety is often overlooked and misunderstood. For many years now, I have struggled with social anxiety. I’ve come to realize that making friends who encourage and support me is crucial to overcoming my fears. I encourage everyone to be kinder to others. Remember that everyone fights their own battle, and for 7% of Americans social anxiety is that battle. The fear is real, and cannot be simply willed away at any given point. But when we do open up, when we do take a leap and interact with others, don’t judge us for how we act or the things we say; we already do this enough by ourselves. Just be kind is all I can say.

The phrase “a little kindness goes a long way” will always ring true. And for those living with social anxiety: know that you are not alone. Realize that everything is okay and will be okay. Whenever you feel embarrassed, remember you don’t need to be ashamed of who are you. You are loved and you are important, no matter what. Never forget that.

Illustration by: Alessandra De Cristofaro