by Emily Wells
What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you want to go to college? What do you want to do with your life? What is your major? What are you interested in? Where do you see yourself in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? … Do any of those questions sound familiar?
Planning for the future is an expectation that we are born into and that applies pressure on our lives beginning when we are just young kids. The constant questions that cause us to always look into the future to make a plan take us away from the present. Feelings of stress, anxiety, and poor self-esteem come flooding in when we realize maybe we are not exactly where we predicted we would be a year ago. My phone wallpaper reads “Just be happy where you are now” because I need that daily reminder. I am a type-A planner. I feel inadequate if I am not achieving, moving forward, setting goals for myself. What is my worth if I am not “successful”?
No matter your age, I feel confident that you feel some amount of this same pressure in your life. Maybe you are a high school student looking to get into college, maybe you’re a college student trying to beef up your resume with internships, or maybe you’re in your career going the extra mile for a promotion. We live in a fast-paced society that leaves people in the dust if they are not striving for change and achievement.
After graduating from college, I felt a void in my life. I was no longer counting my months based on semesters and looking at my future divided by academic years. My life felt so open-ended. I frequently asked myself, ”So, what now?” It was during this awkward time in between school and career that I began to think about things in a different way. Life is what I experienced every day. What strangers I start conversations with to hear their stories, what old friends I reach out to and reconnect with, what shows I watch, what books I read, where I travel. My life is a collage of experiences, and I have to try to truly live in the moment to notice.
Life can be more enjoyable when we take time to slow down. For me, it is all about the balance between striving for future goals while still enjoying present experiences. Since we are expected to always be planning and setting goals, why not make one of those goals a daily routine of selfcare? Maybe just 30 minutes each day set aside for us to focus on healthy ways we de-stress. I like to garden. Nurturing seeds into blossoming plants and surrounding myself with colorful, beautiful things makes me feel soothed, thankful, alive.
What do you do to cope with your daily stress and pressure in a healthy way?
Emily Wells is the Northeast Regional Coordinator for MHAET. She lives in Johnson City, TN with her husband, Michael, two cats, Marla and Khaleesi, and dog, Petunia. Her hobbies include being outside, gardening, and hiking with Petunia. She loves working for MHAET because it allows her to meet people throughout the community who care about helping others. She is able to have interactions with students from around Northeast TN who share their own stories and personal experiences with mental health and inspire her each day.