How waiting is ruining your life7 min read
Step 1: Realize it will get better
This is my #1 trick. Everything improves with time, I promise. Every day, you will feel a little better. In a couple of months to a year, you may forget why you felt so bad in the first place. In the moment of agony, of feeling like your whole body is imploding and you will never escape, never feel better, and nothing will ever change, realize-KNOW, that it will get better.
C4 and above spinal cord injury survivors, which means people who newly became paralyzed and usually are quadriplegics, report, on average, similar subjective quality of life a couple of years after their injury.1 Isn’t that amazing? That means going from walking to being unable to move or feel any of your limbs. What strength does the human mind have? You have it, too; some of us are deeper down than others, but we all have it. If spinal cord injury survivors can regain happiness, I’m sure you can too when you were simply fired from your job or, if the worst imaginable happens, you didn’t make the Tennis Team in high school (like me).
It will get better. Realize it. Notice the life suck, and understand it won’t be there for long.
Step 2: Shock the System
You must get out. You must get up. You must escape. Repeating the same actions, lying on the same couch, and watching the same TV show will give you the same feeling and results. Escape mentally and physically.
Meditation has changed my life. I was a skeptic for ten years until I finally tried it. I’m not going to tout it now, but I definitely will at some time later but a mini-meditation has shocked me out of all kinds of brain spirals, and here it is:
- Close your eyes, feel the ground under you, whether this is your butt in a chair or your feet on the ground, and notice how, if you focus, you can feel the colder air coming in through the tip of your nose on an inhale, and the warmer breath going out on an exhale. This will take 10 seconds.
- Breath in for 4 seconds 1… 2… 3… 4… Hold it for 7 seconds 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… Breathe out for 8 seconds 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… Repeat it two more times (for a total of three). That’s it. Feel better? I always do. That should take about 90 seconds and you’ve done the hardest part.
Now, if you can, shock the rest of your body WITH A TAZER- no, just kidding, don’t do that. I’m going to suggest something earth-shaking here: get moving, go for a walk without your phone. Put your phone on your kitchen table, walk out the door, and go for a 30-minute walk, 15 minutes out, 15 minutes back. The world will not explode, and you will not explode; you need these 30 minutes. I’m not just being willy-nilly with this walk suggestion; urban or rural, those with poor mental health or okay mental health report less stress, anxiety, and improved moods after 10 minutes of walking.2
Bonus: a walk will always work, but a strenuous exercise in the form of running, lifting weights, a competitive soccer match, a challenging yoga class, or anything that makes you sweat, followed by a shower and some cold water, never fails to make me feel better.
Sun, outside air, and exercise are magic, really really.
Step 3: Try and identify the suck center (the suck crystal growth area)
Where did this all start? Where did it all come from? Now that we’ve stabilized ourselves, we have difficulty identifying the suck crystal growth center and SMASHING IT. For me, my life sucks centers are:
- Being alone, inside my apartment, for longer than two days
- Not having a plan for my life (as simple as not knowing what to eat to as anxiety-driving as not knowing whether or not I’ll get into medical school)
- ANY daily exposure to Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter, or other polarizing content (none of these applications are on my phone)
- Lack of proper food, sleep, or exercise
Any one of the above can creep and grow into my life, encasing my body in a deadly suck crystal that, before I realize it, has encased me. Luckily, I’m an expert crystal smasher at this point. I can identify and smash it (Adventure Time crystal breaking teeth BEMO).
What are your crystals of doom, identify them, and be ever vigilant. Smash them as soon as you possibly can.
Step 4: Reenergize Your Power Source
Importantly, referencing the study on high-spinal injury patients, the participants that had the greatest quality of life attributed it to the opportunity to live and be a part of their community, the ability to control one’s own life and care, and the ability to engage in meaningful and purposeful occupations and the experience of close relationships with families and friends. This is the good center.
Remember when you feel the most joyful, the most at the moment, the most zen. For me, this is playing a great game of soccer, going for a walk with my family, or solving a challenging problem alone. What recharges you? I like to imagine every time I do something fabulous, I’m storing a little lightning bolt inside of me, ready to use it when I need that extra zap of energy of excitement. I know it sounds silly, but it works.
Try to improve your mental diet, we know what that means, here are some evidence-based examples:
- Experience sunshine, exercise, and clean your living space for at least 30 minutes a day (each)
- Sleep for 8-9 hours
- Chat with a friend
- Stay off your phone, only use it for phone calls and Uber’s to the park your going to go for a hike at
Step 5: Ask for help
I’ll tell you this: you are waiting too long to ask for help. A family member, a friend, an advisor, a free internet service, or a phone call (call 988 or visit SAMHSA online). You aren’t in this alone. People care about you, and if you think no one cares, I’ll tell you this: I care about you. I do. If you don’t make fun of my writing in the comments below, then I don’t care about you.
Sometimes, it feels safer to reach out to professionals, and I recommend it, whether this is a doctor (your primary care doctor can help you here), a therapist, or an online service. They provide privacy, anonymity, and professional guidance. However, if you can stomach it, I would contact a close family member or friend. Tell them what’s going on; tell them how you are feeling; this simple act can make you feel so much better. The great thing about talking to someone like a professional, a friend, or a family member is often they can provide counsel rather than guidance.
Counsel is someone who knows you and is thinking about what would be best for you. While guidance is usually just someone saying what they would do if they were you.
Ask for help sooner rather than later.
Step 6: Help Others
Overall, the more suck crystals you smash and the more lightning bolts you collect, the less likely you are to enter the suck spiral.
No one is happy all the time. This feeling is not unique. There are people you know in life. I’m talking about the select few people you can read like a book when they are sad, when they are happy, when they feel stressed when they are angry, you just know. You also know what it feels like to feel sad or stressed or that life sucks. Is that a fun feeling? One of the most powerful things you can do for this person you know is reach out. Be a light. Pull them out of the darkness. Who knows, maybe you could change or even save someone’s life.
And I mean, come on, they all don’t have the unique, world-class, fantastic, super awesome, brilliantly crafted, perfect Zach Highley posts to look at. I mean, they even wanted to give me the Noble Prize, but I’ve received it so many times at this point I decided it was better to give it to the little people, like, “Oh, you invented antibiotics? Well done. I’m trying to write an internet article. Now that’s challenging.”
Thanks for reading, and remember, it get’s better.