Monday, January 8, 2018

How to Deal with Negativity in the New Year | #NewMe2018

Hello, beautiful! If your 2017 was anything like mine, it was probably full of the three things I hate most in this world: stress, drama and bullshit. In case you haven't been keeping up with my crazy life via blog or social media, here's a quick summary of everything that went down in 2018:
  1. Stress. I wound up dropping an academic class and getting an incomplete grade in my yoga class because of stress and overwhelm this year. I switched therapists and had to basically start from zero on my mental health recovery. And let's not even talk about what I read on the news.
  2. Drama. I lost friends in 2017, and I learned who my true friends really are. It's a valuable lesson I wouldn't trade for the world - I just wish it didn't have to make my life so complicated in the process.
  3. Bullshit. People suck - what can I say? I got stuck in bad Ubers. I drank bad beer in gross basements. I cried in public more times than I like to admit. And our president made some shitty laws that jeopardized some of the things I find most important and most American, such as reproductive choice and cultural diversity. Bullshit upon bullshit upon bullshit....
Well, now that it's 2018, I say that it's time for an attitude adjustment. More specifically, I want to go from this (Katherine Pierce levels of fed up).... this:

Best GIF of the year already - am I right or amirite?

So, if you're with me on having a stress-free, drama-free, bullshit-free 2018, then you're in the right place! This post is all about ways you can minimize the negativity in your life so you can give out nothing but heart and kissy-face emojis to the people you love most. Today, let's talk about how you can get rid of all the bullshit and make 2018 YOUR YEAR - once and for all! Because you deserve it, girlfriend :) (You really do!)

But before we get into this post, I just want to say a few words about the hashtag #NewMe2018, which you'll be seeing a lot on Haley Marie Blog throughout the month of January:

#NewMe2018 is a brand-new series I'm starting to help you live life to the fullest in the New Year! Between setting goals, banishing bullshit and feeling yourself more than ever before, these posts will give you the boost you need to make 2018 the best year of your life so far. 

Now that that's been said, let's get right into the first post of #NewMe2018 and talk about ways to make 2018 your most positive year yet - no stress, no drama, no bullshit allowed! 

Inhale Love, Exhale Bullshit

Have you checked out this honest "Fuck That" meditation yet? Buzzfeed ran an article on it awhile ago - but I still think it's a classic! It also rings incredibly true when I think about the kind of energy I want to channel in 2018.

On a more serious note, meditation can really help when it comes to banishing negative energy from your life. Specifically, there's a practice called loving-kindness that can help you extend compassion to your loved ones, your enemies and even yourself. Lots of my favorite apps, from Calm to Meditation Studio, have these kinds of meditations - you can even run a quick search on YouTube or Google and you're guaranteed to find plenty of 'em! 

Not only does meditating regularly help to clear your head and center yourself, but it's also a great healthy coping mechanism for dealing with all that stress, drama and bullshit. Don't believe me? Next time you find yourself reading a news article or text message in a rage, I challenge you to slip into the other room for a couple deep breaths. At first it might feel difficult or forced, even silly, but soon you'll find that you've forgotten what you were upset about in the first place, leaving you with nothing but love, love, love to give with the world....YASSSS, girl! 

Set Healthy Boundaries

I can think of about a hundred times I wish I'd been more vocal about my needs and set better boundaries for myself in 2017 (and even earlier!). Specifically, when dealing with toxic friendships and family members, I wish I'd known how to give myself the space that I needed from these draining relationships.

In middle school, I used to idealize the idea of "friends for life," assuming that the friendships I had then would last me the next thirty years of my life. Now that I'm a little bit older, I've gone through friendship breakups and felt myself drift apart from people I used to know in high school. In some cases, I've even felt weights lift off my shoulders as I parted from so-called "friends," who were never really such great friends to me in the first place.

I'm a big proponent of letting go of toxic relationships - or, at the very least, setting healthy boundaries for yourself. As humans, we're a reflection of our closest inner circle, so one of the best things you can do for yourself is be selective about who you allow into this coveted place in your life. I like to drama-proof my inner circle, choosing only the friends who are as good to me as I am to them, and letting go of those who cause me nothing but distress. It's taken a long time for me to become comfortable with this (and comfortable telling the difference), but with the help of a good therapist and a couple years of experience, I promise: setting boundaries gets a hell of a lot easier in time!

It's important to set boundaries not just with toxic people but with the good eggs, too! Even in my relationship with Ryan, which is as happy as happy gets (well, most of the time), we both still need a bit of space from each other every so often. As tempting as it can be to spend every waking minute together when I'm home (since we can't see each other so often the rest of the time), we both know that this kind of proximity is unhealthy, stifling and a recipe for conflict. You might worry about hurting a friend, boyfriend or parent's feelings by creating this space for yourself - but think of it this way: because of that propensity to cause conflict, healthy boundaries are not just good for you, but good for the other person too! 

Have an Exit Strategy

But what about those times when you simply can't avoid the negative forces in your life? Maybe it's an emotionally abusive parent that you're stuck with for the holidays, or maybe it's a toxic friend who runs in the same circle as many of your other wonderful, supportive friendships. In those cases, I recommend always having an exit strategy - a Plan B that lets you tap out and wind down as soon as you feel your bullshit meter climbing high.

Below, I've outlined a couple of situations where I might use an exit strategy, so you can see exactly what I mean and (hopefully) apply this theory to your own life:

Situation A: You're eating lunch with a group of your (healthy, happy, supportive) friends when your toxic friend - we'll call her Lisa - suddenly pulls up a chair. You expect the worst, but she's actually funny and charming today, reminding you of the reason why you two became friends in the first place...and then, just when you thought things might get better between you, she pulls out a snide comment about your new haircut. (You know, one of those ones that seems like a compliment but is actually a cutdown.) Yikes.

Exit Strategy: DO. NOT. ENGAGE. People like Lisa are looking for a reaction! If you feel capable of brushing it off, do - but if you need to GTFO before you strangle someone, then tell a white lie like "Hey guys, this has been great, but I just remembered I have a paper due by midnight that I haven't even started" and mosey on back to your dorm room in peace. Hopefully, you have at least one or two friends at the table who you can text privately and let them know why you really left. Just be sure that "venting" doesn't turn into petty gossiping - or before you know it, your friends will be calling you the new Lisa.

Situation B: You and your boyfriend are home for Christmas and he wants to come over to exchange gifts and snuggle up in front of the fireplace. The only problem? Dad's overprotective of his little girl, and things tend to get tense when the two are together. Now, you've got that awkward "...." on your phone screen while you figure out what to say to your boyfriend in a panic.

Exit Strategy: As an adult, it can be hard to get used to the idea that your parents won't approve of everything you, I find the best way to avoid this is to keep your parents and your love life as separate as you can without being dishonest or rude. In other words, now's the perfect time to practice setting boundaries with Dad: instead of inviting your boyfriend over to your place (where things might get awkward or negative), offer to meet at a neutral location instead, like his house or a local cafe. Meanwhile, if Dad asks why the BF isn't around, avoid getting angry and instead deflect the comment with something nonchalant - "Oh, he's with his family for the holidays; I didn't want to bother them." Most importantly, be delicate with both of their feelings, and avoid taking out your frustrations on either party. It isn't Dad's fault he still sees you as a nine-year-old in pigtails, nor is it your boyfriend's fault for not knowing every detail of your family drama! 

At first, it might feel bitchy or mean to remove yourself from toxic situations when things get tense - but it's important to remember that protecting your heart is never selfish. As they say on airplanes, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others, girlfriend! When you put it that way, it doesn't feel selfish so much as second-nature :)

Pour Your Heart Out

The biggest bullshit I saw, read and experienced in 2017 by far was that undying quest for the coveted feeling of "happiness." To me, happiness isn't exactly a state of joy, contentment or even elation, but this unattainable ideal where everything is sunshine and rainbows all the time. And as crazy as this sounds on paper, humans have convinced themselves that this state is the ultimate end goal of life - and that if you're living anything less than that, you're not living a happy, healthy, full life.

Well, pull out the big red bullshit button, folks, and give it a big ol' press for me - because as you and I both know, a healthy range of human emotion runs the entire gamut, all the way from depressed and infuriated to overjoyed and excited. So, why not make 2018 the year we stop forcing ourselves to meditate, smile more, drink more water and make gratitude lists with the sole goal of making ourselves "happier people?" Because as great as these healthy habits are on their own, they're pretty much meaningless if you're only doing them because some researcher told you it would improve your life. 

More importantly, they stifle our propensity to feel. Rather than let ourselves be swept away by sadness, bittersweetness, heartbreak, anger or joy, we tell ourselves that we have to "think positive" and "look on the bright side"-  because that's what we're told: that there's no time or place for bad feelings. 

In my opinion, that's one of the reasons why we have so much trouble feeling joy in the smallest moments of life: because we don't allow ourselves to feel the bad parts, either! So, if you're going to set just one New Year's resolution in 2018, make it this one: FEEL YOUR FEELS TO THE FULLEST. 

If you want to laugh, laugh; if you want to cry, cry; and if you want to punch things, punch things, damnit! (Note: things, NOT people!) No more bottling up emotions and saving them for a rainy day - it's time to feel your feelings to the fullest, complete the stress cycle and let 'em go with an appreciative wave and a sigh. 

Want more ideas for ways you can express your emotions healthfully? Here's a quick rundown of some of my favorite ways to let it all out:
  • Cry. Nothing helps me purge myself of bad feelings like a good crying jag - preferably in the shower, while playing Harry Styles' Sign of the Times. 
  • Get physical. This is especially effective for anger, or those times when stress manifests as anger. The more aggressive, the better - I'm a fan of boxing, running and lifting heavy weights when I'm P.O.ed. 
  • Scream. A good primal scream might feel weird at first, but totally helps. When it comes to minimizing the embarrassment factor, a locked door and a thick pillow go a long way. In public? Try clenching your fists as hard as you can for 10 seconds and then letting go - not as satisfying as screaming, but still just as effective!
  • Bake. Yup, I'm a stress baker! As terrible as it is to use food as a crutch for stress, it's not as much about eating the food as it is about making it - I think there's something relieving about the physical act of making something with your bare hands and getting to taste the rewards of your hard work....especially when you're stressed or sad!
  • Color. When I'm sad, anxious or overwhelmed, I like to sit-down with an adult coloring book, especially one with lots of intricate little details. Losing myself in the colors and patterns helps me ground myself and gives me a sense of childlike creativity.
  • Therapy. If all else fails, or if you're dealing with heavy shit (think: anxiety/depression, rough childhood, addiction, sexual assault), a therapist can help you manage your emotions by reframing thoughts, developing coping strategies and even prescribing certain medications. Just remember: a therapist can be your guide and your support through the process of recovery, but it's ultimately up to YOU to put in the emotional handiwork!

How do you handle negativity? LMK in the comments below or @haleymarieblog on social media!