Life is hard

Finding ways to cope during this difficult year

Abigail Faulkner | Photo Courtesy
Painting and planting, two things that have helped me through this last year.

Life doesn’t get easier. This is a life lesson we have all learned and will learn at one point or another. Things happen around us all the time that we can’t control. People die, family members get sick and tragedy strikes. That’s why it’s so important to define your coping mechanisms. 

It has been a hard year we have dealt with a global pandemic, a crumbling economy, shootings, celebrity deaths, we had an election and it has been an absolute garbage shoot from start to finish. But I don’t really need to tell that you that because we lived it together. 

In 2020 and continuing into 2021, I have picked up several new hobbies to try and cope with this global pandemonium. My room is now filled with living things. I have a fish named Cardi B, and up to 9 plants of all different kinds I managed to steal from clearance racks and garbage binds. I only know what half of them are but somehow I have been able to nurse them back to health after my disastrous attempt to garden in 2020. 

Last Easter I tried to grow several plants including zucchini, tomatoes and daisies. I grew them in egg cartons and did my best to nurse them from baby seeds to edible plants. I never made it that far though, the wind blew them away. 

At first, I failed and I had to try again. 

I also started to invest in painting. Hand-made gifts are usually the best kinds of gifts to give. So I started watching tutorials and trying to teach myself how to blend color, what color theory is and how to show lighting. I have produced work I could never sell, and sometimes I have things I cant wait to give away. But I had to fail and fail before I learned to create paintings that I liked. 

But the bottom line is, gardening and painting can only do so much to distract from what feels like a world on fire. I had to do more and try more things to figure out how to deal. 

The thing that has made the biggest difference has been seeing a therapist. I have been seeing a therapist off-and-on since late 2019. It got to the point where I couldn’t leave my home without feeling ill. I hated being around people and I worried myself into every possible situation and assumed the worse of everyone. 

Being in therapy has been instrumental in improving my quality of life; which has resulted in me being able to do things I couldn’t do before. Yesterday, I was having an anxiety attack in the middle of my stat lab because I was yet again worrying about things I can’t control. 

I was able to walk out of the classroom take a break, breathe and work through my anxious thoughts and stand up again feeling refreshed and at peace. That’s something I learned to do because of therapy. 

I learned life doesn’t get easier, but the joyful moments do become more joyous. I learned to cope with the harder things death and illness, so I get to be there to celebrate the good things. I want to be there to celebrate marriages, births, holidays. 

That means not only taking care of my physical health through diet and exercise but also taking my mental health seriously by developing softer coping mechanisms like gardening, reading and painting. It means learning the hard coping mechanisms like breathing exercises, meditation and practicing communication. 

I had to learn how to deal with my fear of failure. I can’t stand the idea of me not being a pro on the first try. I like to pretend that everything is perfect and will go well on my first attempt and that I will never fail. That’s just not true. 

Learning to cope has brought me from a place where I could abandon my toxic coping mechanisms like withdrawing from others, constantly criticizing myself for every mistake and chewing my lip. I am now happier and healthier. 

Do I still struggle? Everyday. Can I solve all the world’s problems? No, I cant. But I can work to solve my own problems and this year is a good time to start. 

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