Mantra, according to the dictionary: Any sacred word or syllable used as an object of concentration and embodying some aspect of spiritual power.
Mantra, according to Erika: Things I say to myself to help me deal with anything and everything life throws my way.
There are times we all go through that just straight up suck. During these times, it can be hard to think about anything other than what’s going on. We can become so consumed in our own misery that we often overshadow any glimmer of hope. And although these times can seem endless while we’re in them, it’s through these crappy times that we learn the most about ourselves and receive some of life’s greatest rewards.
I can only say this after going through some of my own shitty times. You know, experiencing little things like breaking up from a long time boyfriend, moving to a city with no friends or family, recovering from extreme partying, severing several friendships, wiping through my entire savings, and accumulating way too much debt.
All within the same year. Yikes.
Through my own experiences of hopelessness, confusion, and doubt, I’ve learned to establish a few simple, but very effective phrases to help me stay positive and to keep things in perspective. So now, whenever things cross my path that may initially seem unbearable, or if I begin to doubt myself, I just remember and repeat some of the following mantras:
1. Keep your head up and your heart open.
I repeated this phrase to myself over and over again after my aforementioned breakup. At the time, the last thing I ever wanted to do was to open myself up again. After being with the same person for many years, I quickly realized that this kind of thinking wouldn’t get me far. I trusted myself that if I just kept my head up and my heart open, good things would come into my life. And I’m glad I listened to myself. I am happily married to my true soulmate. I use this phrase both literally and figuratively.
By actually keeping your head up, smiling at people as they walk by, and keeping aware of your surroundings, you may notice something or meet someone that you potentially could have missed had your head been down.
When to use: During a break up, when you feel let down by someone, or when you feel betrayed or mistrust.
2. Go slowly.
With everything. Eating. Talking. Taking a shower. Driving. Even having sex. I noticed when I was super-stressed out about things, I had a tendency to run around like a lunatic, doing several things at once, often times having to re-track my steps because I was so distracted that I left several things out.
I found that my projects, errands, and even my conversations with people became very watered down because I was rushing just to finish.
Now, whenever I feel like I’m rushing to just get things done, I slow down my pace, take a deep breath, and take my time with whatever it is I am rushing to do. When we slow down, we can taste all the flavors in our food and we digest our meals better. We are better communicators when we talk slower, and we become better listeners.
Accidents? They wouldn’t happen as much if we weren’t in such a rush to get somewhere. It’s quality over quantity.
When to use: When you are in a rush on the highway, when you’re rushing out to get lunch, or walking around the office, when you feel pressure from deadlines, or while you’re annoyed sitting in traffic.
3. Be easy.
Or in other words, don’t sweat the small stuff. I realized that most of the issues that were giving me anxiety were completely out of my control, and they were usually things that wouldn’t matter five years, five months or even five minutes from the time.
Like freaking out that I didn’t have something to wear to a party, or stressing that I’d mess up choreography while teaching a class. I learned to not get so worked up over the small things, stressing about matters that, in the end, really didn’t make a difference. So, if you find yourself getting road rage from the guy that cut you off on the highway, let him be. Why get angry and stress yourself out over it? Just be easy.
Did someone on the train bump you as they walked by? Who cares? The cab is packed; it wasn’t her fault. Be easy.
When to use: When it’s 1 AM and you’re wide awake in bed, thinking about the next day’s to do list, when you spill on your new white tank top, or when the copy machine at work jams. Be easy. There are far worse things in life.
4. Let Erika be Erika (swap out my name with yours).
Most of us wear masks. And most of us are afraid to be ourselves, simply out of fear of judgment. We take jobs we don’t really care for, stay in relationships we don’t genuinely love, and pretend to be someone different for everybody else.
I was there—I stayed in a relationship far longer than I should have because I was afraid of being alone. And I’m telling you, it’s a heck of a lot easier to just be you—whatever that means, whenever, wherever. While you’re too busy making yourself appear to be someone else, you kill yourself from the inside out. And it can be a long, slow and painful death to your soul.
Bottom line? Accept yourself for who you are, and just be you. This was the hardest lesson for me to accept, but the one that has given me the greatest clarity and direction in life.
When to use: Times when you are questioning yourself, when you feel outside pressure to do/be/say/act in a way that is not congruent with your true nature, or when you hold back from doing what you truly want to do because you’re afraid of being judged.
Since my “sabbatical” from life, which is what I’ve now jokingly nicknamed that year of despair I described earlier, I have made some dramatic and positive changes.
I have a husband, a dog and a job that I absolutely love, I paid off all of my debt, and I have accumulated a solid amount in my savings. I’ve also re-kindled past friendships and made some awesome new relationships, while becoming grounded and confident in who I am.
These mantras helped me get to this point. Having them has been an effective trick to help me stay positive and on track.
What phrase does that for you?
With love from the Trench Kitchen,