I’m not naturally an optimist. For a long time, I worried about everything from getting an A on a homework assignment to how I would pay rent. I lived in a constant state of stress, worrying that if I didn’t do everything just right, it would all just fall apart.
That kind of lifestyle, constantly chasing some nonexistent end result that would finally eliminate all the stress in my life, takes a toll. I would think to myself, “when I finish these tasks, I can relax,” or “when I get to the weekend, I can sleep,” or “when I accomplish this goal, I’ll be happy.” The problem with that mindset is that there’s always another task, another weekend, another goal.
Since COVID, things have not exactly gone as planned. A lot of what has happened over the past year has been unexpected, so of course, I had to adapt my perfectionist, pessimistic attitude. I had to adopt a positive mindset.
Mindset is such an important part of self-care that I think gets overlooked far too often. I think a lot of people believe that you can’t change your mindset and that it’s tied to who you are as a person. While the latter can be true, the former definitely isn’t.
I lived 23 years of my life believing that I just had to deal with negative thoughts, and I honestly didn’t want that to change. I thought that pessimism drove me to be better, but really it was just burning me out. I truly can’t remember ever telling myself that everything was going to be okay before COVID hit. Others told me all the time, especially when I was really stressed, but I never believed them. Now, my two favorite mantras are “everything is going to be okay” and “it’ll all work out.”
Changing your mindset like that doesn’t happen overnight. I didn’t wake up one morning in the middle of March last year as an optimist. When the world started to shut down, when the restaurant where I work had to close, when I realized I couldn’t keep doing all the things I used to love doing, I had a total breakdown. I truly believed the world was coming to an end. Everything felt so out of control. But then, over time, I started to realize that everything actually was okay. I was waking up every day, and I was alive. As the days went on, I had to focus all my energy on staying that way. That meant letting go of the petty things about which I used to care so much and focusing on the things that really mattered.
When I would start to get stressed or overwhelmed or angry, I would take a moment to think about what matters. I would think about all the people and things I’m grateful for, and I would start to calm down. If I made a mistake, I would apologize and forgive myself. If I felt like things were falling apart, I would remind myself that even if they did, I would be okay.
When I stopped needing to control everything in my life and started to have faith that everything would be okay even if I messed up, I felt so much lighter. Taking that mental leap of faith is difficult, but it really does make a difference. It feels like a weight being lifted off your shoulders, and it all starts with that change in mindset.
Of course, I still have bad days, but that’s okay. I’m not perfect, and I accept that.
The next time you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, just try telling yourself everything is going to be okay. It might take a while to believe it, but the more you say it, the more you’ll recognize it to be true.
As always, stay safe and stay healthy.