I thought I knew what I wanted out of life – go to college, get my degree, work in my field of choice, get married, live in the suburbs in my 3 bed/2.5 bath home with the spacious backyard, along with my 2.5 kids and 2 dogs. That plan changed, however, when I was diagnosed in my late 20s with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes pain, extreme fatigue, cognitive difficulties, muscle stiffness and weakness. I was forced to stop working and my plan- the one I’d constructed in my mind since I was a child- had evaporated right before my eyes.
The thought of starting over became overwhelming for me but with acceptance and understanding came a whole new approach. As strange as it may sound, my illness made me a better person. It forced me to change and reevaluate my priorities.
People get the opportunity to restart their lives over every year, without the dire pressure of a diagnosis hanging over their heads. With the New Year fast approaching, the idea of beginning and starting over becomes tempting and brings out a feeling of hope. Change...such an intimidating word, isn’t it? But sometimes change is exactly what you need in order to move ahead. Here are seven tips I’ve learned while starting over that maybe helpful to you in the New Year:
- Your life will not turn out exactly the way you have pictured, and guess what? That’s okay. Things happen that can throw a huge wrench in your life plan. Mine hit me smack dab in the face, knocking me and my big plans right to the ground. That’s just life. I learned that what matters most is not how big the wrench is, but my reaction to that wrench. When life throws you a huge challenge, take time to express your emotions. It’s okay to be angry or depressed for a while so let it out, but don’t let those feelings engulf you. Talk to your loved ones, keep a journal or help relieve some of your stress by exercising or meditating. Work through your feelings, know that they won’t last forever, then pick yourself up and move on.
- Stop being hard on yourself. Could you believe I actually blamed myself for my illness? I felt guilty that I couldn’t become the person I wanted to be, when the only thing I was guilty of was being too critical of myself. Whatever challenges come your way, don’t blame yourself for them. Even if you’ve made a mistake, putting yourself down will get you nowhere; no one is perfect. You can’t learn and grow if you don’t make mistakes every now and then.
- Use your strengths to help keep you on track. Make a list of your strengths and utilize them in ways that will help you move forward. For some, this might be a difficult task since most of us would rather degrade ourselves than praise ourselves. Ask friends and family what they think your strengths are if you can’t think of any on your own.
- Look on the brighter side of life. There are far more people out there going through much worse than I. Once I started thinking that way, I began to feel much better about my situation and with that feeling came one of gratitude for all the good in my life. My “poor me” moments and feelings of frustration and anger still rear their heads every so often, but just knowing those feelings will eventually go away gets me right back on the positivity track. Things may not always turn out the way you want, but once you start looking on the brighter side of life, you will begin to feel a whole lot lighter so make sure you start off the New Year with a positive attitude.
- Be kind to others. Remember, you never know what people are going through in their personal lives, so be kind to others as much as possible. There are times when we get so caught up in our own stress-filled lives that we tend to forget about the needs and wants of our family and friends. Setting aside a few minutes a day to touch base and scheduling weekly activities with your loved ones show them how important they are to you.
- Set new goals for yourself. One of my biggest issues was not being able to work my dream job anymore. I needed to find something I could do at home and at my own pace. I realized huge changes were necessary in order for me to adapt to my new situation, so using the strengths I have, I created new goals for myself. Now I am finally working in my career of choice by writing inspirational and motivational books. If you want to make a change for the better, develop new goals for yourself. This may seem overwhelming at first so set small goals that will eventually lead you to accomplishing the big ones. Take it step by step, and as time goes by, you will see just how far you have progressed.
- Don’t give up. My journey still has many challenges, but I no longer see them as road blocks- just temporary obstacles that I know I can jump over. I’ve learned to keep moving forward no matter what may come my way. There will be times when you feel frustrated, drained or angry but don’t throw in the towel, and most of all, learn to be patient. Your efforts will all be worth it in the end, and as long as you are passionate and determined, you can do anything you set your mind to do.
The road of life is not an easy one but know that you are strong enough to face whatever challenges or changes come your way. In the meantime, stay focused, stay close to your loved ones and don’t forget to enjoy your life! Best wishes to you in the New Year!
Alicia Emamdee is the author of the YA romance novel, “Aloha Self-Esteem?” which provides ways for teen girls to help improve their self-esteem. Alicia is currently working on her second novel in the self-esteem series for women in their 30s and 40s.
If you need assistance setting goals in Hollywood FL, please call Creative Solutions 4 Kids at (954) 832-3602.