• Invaluable tools like mindful meditation, physical exercise, and practicing positive affirmations can help you overcome challenges and improve your mental health.
  • Meditation is all about living in the present moment; instead of worrying about the past, you focus on experiencing life as it comes.
  • Exercising causes your body to release endorphins or feel-good hormones, which, well, make you feel good; not only does it benefit you physically but mentally.
  • Recognizing and replacing the negative self-talk we engage in each day is also a life-changing practice—look in the mirror and tell yourself why you’re so awesome.
  • If you’re struggling—with anxiety or something else–self-care practices can help: and meditation, exercise, and positive affirmations are only a few of many self-care opportunities.

If I’m being honest, I’ve been struggling for about as long as I can remember. Social anxiety has controlled my life since I was in elementary school. On the playground, I’d end conversations before anyone could make fun of me for something—because I was certain that would happen. Let’s just say I had trouble making friends.

This carried through into middle school and high school. I don’t know how other kids saw me, but I felt like the weird kid. In reality, I wasn’t even really bullied. Were all my problems in my head? In high school, I found that alcohol helped me relate to people. And that’s where the real trouble began. I came to rely on alcohol to help me through all kinds of social situations. The more, the better.

It wasn’t long before I was popping pills to help with anxiety, but I didn’t let go of the alcohol. When I saw the potential for cross-addiction, I knew I was headed toward trouble.

It took a long time to recover, but I finally did and learned the importance of self-love in the process. It took a lot of counseling and self-discovery, but there were also a few tools that I found invaluable. If you’re struggling with anything, the following tools may help you too.

The Power of Mindful Meditation

Meditation has been shown to have positive effects on the symptoms of anxiety, but I believe it can be helpful for anyone going through a struggle. Meditation can help you become more mindful. Mindfulness is a concept that focuses on living in the present moment. For me, this was life-changing. Instead of worrying about things I’ve said or done in the past, I was finally experiencing life as it happened. It’s such a simple concept, but it does take some practice to accomplish.

Exercise: Medicine for Your Physical and Mental Being

You may already know about how your body releases endorphins when you exercise. In order to combat the physical soreness and stress of exercise, your body releases these feel-good chemicals. Naturally, they help you feel good. But I also found comfort in exercising because it was a time when my mind didn’t wander. If I was working out hard enough, my entire focus was on my workout. That was about 60 minutes each day when I didn’t have to think about my problems, and then I got the reward of a natural post-exercise high.

Defeating and Replacing that Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is so damaging to anyone’s reality, and it had been running rampant in my mind for decades. I knew that if I were going to learn to love myself, I would have to change the narrative. I’d have to learn how to forgive myself and move past mistakes. This was something I had always struggled with. Affirmations helped quite a bit. I wrote down a few affirmations and said them in the mirror each day before work. It felt silly at first, but over time, I started to feel a change. I started to live the words I was speaking.

One Final Reflection

Knowing what I know today, I wish I could go back and talk to my childhood self. I reflect back and think about the things I could have done or said to myself to ease the pain in a healthy manner, but I know that isn’t possible. Today, though, the best I can do is share my experience with others. If you’re currently struggling with something, consider talking to a counselor and/or trying some of the techniques I’ve outlined here. They have been immensely helpful to me, and I hope they will help you too.

*Trevor McDonald is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.*