It’s been a rough week.
This week, I have cried in two different cars outside my apartment building. I’ve been poked with needles, swabbed and sampled, and I’ve had three different kinds of scans. I’ve taken more Advil this week than I did all summer. I had three quizzes, five readings, and a blog post to do. I’ve struggled with body image and self appreciation this week. I’ve missed the familiarity of my home country; I’ve missed my surrogate Cardiff-based brothers with their sheep farms and motorbike-designs and I’ve missed the friends who know when it’s time for chai lattes and chats. My bunny ate my laptop charger and I think I dropped my iPhone that one time too many.
We’ve all been there. Life can be stressful. Often we get several things to deal with at once. I’m sure at least some of you will agree that there are days when every decision you’ve made feels misguided and the question “what am I doing?!” is the soundtrack of your situation.
Yes, life can be rough sometimes, but I’m of the belief that the dark patches shouldn’t be allowed to diminish my light. It is a belief so important to me that it inspired my first and favourite tattoo: a lotus. A little flower that seems so delicate, so fragile, but remains unmarred by the murky water it floats upon.
Around the beginning of this year, I noticed a new phrase that kept cropping up in the community of bloggers I’ve followed for the last three years: PMA. No, it’s nothing to do with menstruation- it stands for Positive Mental Attitude. And reading about how these women were implementing it into their lives has really left me thinking I should start, too.
The thing about practicing positivity on a daily basis is that it is not about maintaining a constant state of euphoria- that would be exhausting, not to mention unrealistic! PMA is more a focus on being aware of what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way, and refusing to let it get you down.
For example, I’ve struggled with my health a lot this year. It meant that I finished first year with much lower grades than I was aiming for, it effected my social life, and I have experienced pain every day for a very long time. And yeah, it sucked. But keeping a PMA means that I also acknowledge that I’m incredibly lucky. I’m able to go about my life pretty much as normal! I passed my first year with some pretty decent grades, despite only being strong enough to go to four classes in the Spring semester. My friends have rallied around me and my family provided incredible support. I was able to transfer to Glendon right at the last second and continue my studies in a more supportive setting. So, yes, this week has involved being prodded and poked with needles, sitting and squirming through several scans- but I’m well on my way to being fully healthy again.
Maintaining a positive attitude isn’t always easy to do. We’re all human. Sometimes it just doesn’t come naturally. There are a few things that I find helpful in these situations, so here’s some PMA boosting tips:
Seek and accept support. Talk to people. If you’re having a really bad day, talk it out. If you’re as lucky as I am to have some amazing people in your life, listen to what they have to say. Screenshot encouraging text messages! I do this a lot, and coming across them unexpectedly always cheers me up. There are counselling services at Glendon that are highly recommended, too.
Count your blessings. Make lists of the things you love. It can be down to the most insignificant detail: you love the fairy lights in Lunik, you love that there’s chipmunks in the rose garden, you love when bus drivers wave to each other. You can put the obvious things- I like these because they are so often taken for granted. I love that my boyfriend has a laugh that shakes the ceiling, I love that my brother and sister and I look nothing alike but are still easily recognisable as siblings, I love when the air feels crisp on misty autumn mornings. I love baked goods. A lot. These are really nice to come across in old journals, so give Future You some paid-forward PMA!
Self care. In my worst moments, I try to be my own best friend. I ask myself, how would I treat your sister if she felt this way? And that is how I will treat myself. Self care is important because there comes a point when you simply must stop pushing yourself. I learned this the hard way. There comes a time when you need to drop the “I’m 100% fine” act.
Take a nap, or watch a few episodes of Bob’s Burgers, or have along shower, a cup of tea, or a good old cry. Give your body and soul what it needs. And then get back to it.
If you have a spiritual or religious leaning- pray, meditate, make a shrine to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Glendon has a faith facility, but if you’re not on campus or don’t feel the need to go there, any space that you feel safe and peaceful in will do. If this doesn’t fit with your beliefs, forget I said anything!
Be self aware. Really examine your feelings. What can you do to ease your stress? What is outside of your control? When it finally clicks that your feelings are valid, that it’s okay to feel a bit rubbish, as long as you don’t allow it to linger longer than it has to, things get a lot easier.
Mind your language. I’ve mentioned this before. As a writer and a Linguistics major, it’s not going to shock you that I believe the things we say really do shape what we think and feel. I have an Uncle who, when asked how he is, responds with “I’m AMAZING!” instead of “I’m fine/well/etc”. It has always inspired me to implement positivity into my everyday language. So, instead of complaining that my butt is as wide as a highway, I’m grateful that I have something so comfy to sit on. Instead of calling myself stupid, I’m proud of my achievements. I refuse to be embittered by something I have control over. Thank people! Tell the people you love that you love them- a lot! Tell people how great you think they are- a lot! Be the positive force to others that you want in your own life, and watch how it returns to you tenfold. My friend Megan, the beautiful Scottish lady who actually introduced me to PMA, told me recently that I make the people in my life feel like they poop pure gold. I think that is the best compliment I’ve ever recieved- and especially from someone who has done the same for me.
Change your outlook, change your situation.
It’s been an amazing week. I’m finally on the road to full recovery, and soon I will not have pain as part of my daily life. I’m studying on a beautiful campus, amongst wonderful people, in courses that are interesting and challenging. I have a collection of incredible, inspiring friends and family spread all over the planet. I’m in love with a man whose laugh shakes the ceiling, and when I cry in his car at 3am on a Saturday night he still loves me back. My UK-based friends may be an ocean away, but they stand beside me all the same. My Toronto friends are right here- as is my family. I have a roof over my head, a belly full of my mum’s cooking and a brand new laptop charger. Things are simply wonderful.
I’ll leave you with this: Alysia Harris is one of my favourite poets, one of those rare writers who is at her best in her most joyous moments. May her words reach you in the ways mine can’t. Have a beautiful week, pals! And don’t forget- PMA.