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26 Ways To Take Your Life Back When You’re Broken
By Heidi Priebe
There’s an old, outdated assumption that time heals all wounds. But I believe this to be untrue. In the words of Dr. Phil, “Time doesn’t change us. It’s what we do with that time that changes us.” We are all more than capable of taking control back into our own hands when life knocks us down. It’s just a matter of doing so deliberately. Of making changes that will move us forward. Of finding a way to progress with purpose, rather than simply letting life knock us around into whoever we will become next. When you’re feeling lost and disheartened with life, here are 26 simple methods of taking your power back.
1. Get In Shape.

Strong bodies and strong minds go hand-in-hand. Forget about how your workout routine is making you look and start focusing on how it makes you feel – on the strength, the dedication and the structure that it brings to your mindset. By harnessing your physical power, you’re reminding yourself that you’re capable of so much more than you used to be. In the words of Jillian Michaels, “Fitness isn’t about a crunch or a push up. It’s about taking your power back.”

2. Get out of town.

Take a day, a week or a month to escape your usual surroundings and welcome in the world outside your doorstep. Sometimes a change in mindset is as simple as a change in scenery – and being away from home allows you the space, the freedom and the tranquility to heal on your own terms.

3. Rewrite your story.

The past is nothing more than a story we repeat to ourselves – and allowing ourselves to understand this is an incredibly liberating notion. Visit a narrative therapist who can help you re-frame your experiences, or journal them out until you’re able to come to a new understanding of why things happened the way they did. Learn to pinpoint the opportunities for growth within the destruction of your past – and then move forward with those opportunities close to your heart.
4. Invite new people into your life.

The positive effect we are able to have on one another as humans is immeasurable. Sometimes the best way to heal from the toxicity of past relationships is to allow the beauty of new ones to flourish. We all end up thinking, behaving and being like the people we spend the most time around – so choose the ones who make you want to be the best possible version of yourself.

5. Tell your story.

Be honest about your past. Share the pain of everything that’s happened to you and allow your strength in moving past it to inspire other people. Don’t hide or downplay anything that feels important to you. Refuse to apologize for where you’ve been.

6. Be disciplined about self-care.

When we’re sick, we take particular care to rest, drink fluids and take medicine – even if it temporarily impedes on our productivity. When we’re struggling emotionally, we have to take care of ourselves in much of the same way. By making self-care a priority, you are setting yourself up for a quicker and infinitely less painful recovery.

7. Change your appearance.

Sometimes we need a deliberate outward change to reflect a subtle internal one. By altering your hair, makeup or style, you’re concretely welcoming change into your life – and recognizing that it can be a good thing. In fact, it can even be something that happens on your own terms.
8. Quit what isn’t working for you.

When the stakes are down and our lives are lying in shambles, we are paradoxically awarded the ideal opportunity to start over. Use your ill fortune as the excuse you’ve been waiting for to walk away from that shitty job, toxic relationship or commitment that is making you miserable. If you’re going to be forced to start over, you might as well do it once, the right way.

9. Give yourself permission to let go.

Not everything that happens to us has to have a meaning or a lesson. If your past no longer serves you, give yourself permission to let go and forget about the pain that has been holding you back. You dictate your story and you don’t have to place emphasis on anything that makes you feel small.

10. Connect with people who’ve been through something similar.

Seek out the words, company and comforts of those who understand what you’re going through. Read their stories, cherish the wisdom they’ve gleaned and use it as a constant, pervasive reminder that you are never alone.

11. Unplug for an entire week.

If you are able to do so, take a full week of your life and spend it outdoors or on the road, somewhere where your Facebook notifications can’t reach you. Sometimes it takes disconnecting from your everyday life to realize how trivial most of your worries are – and how capable you are of existing completely outside of them.

12. Physically de-clutter your life.

Take a full weekend to clean your apartment or home in a way that you never have before – ruthlessly ridding it of everything you no longer use and organizing it in a way that feels mentally refreshing. When our physical environments are in order, it becomes easier to keep our minds uncluttered, too.

13. Strengthen your relationships with the people who love you.

A close friend once told me “There’s no time like when you’re down on your luck to realize who’s really there for you in life.” When everything is falling apart, take notice of who is still standing beside you – those are the people who are always going to matter the most. And there’s no time like the present to appreciate them for all they’re worth.

14. Follow the food guide for a month.

Even the healthiest among us aren’t always putting the right foods into our bodies. So for one month, try to do so. Eat the right amounts of fruits, veggies, grains, dairy and meat (or meat alternatives). Notice changes in your energy level and mindset – and then try it all over again the next month.

15. Take a course that teaches you something new.

What we know changes the landscape of who we are. By adding to your internal database of knowledge, you are expanding your horizons and reminding yourself that there is always more to be learned and always more ways for your worldview to shift.

16. Make a budget and stick to it.

It’s difficult to feel in control of our lives when our finances are out of control. By coming face-to-face with our spending habits, we’re giving ourselves a leg up on conquering them effectively. There’s nothing quite as soothing as figuring out a way to live below your means.

17. Establish a healthy source of validation.

None of us are islands. Though we all strive to be strong, independent adults in our day-to-day lives, we all need love and affection. And finding a friend or loved one who is willing to remind you why you’re wonderful when you forget it just might be what keeps you afloat on the bad days. Validation is not toxic if you’re seeking it in the right places.

18. Become invested in the process of change, not the outcome.

Too often, we pit all of our hopes on future accomplishments that may never come to fruition. Rather than telling yourself ‘I’ll be happy when…’ learn to find joy in the simple process of bettering yourself. Take pride in the fact that you’re making changes for yourself, rather than pitting your happiness on the outcome of those changes.

19. Learn a new language.

Learning a new language may be one of the best available ways to remind yourself that there’s an entire world out there – one that operates on a completely different premise than yours. Committing to learning a non-native language proves that you could adapt and mould to one of those other realities if you wanted to – which consequently makes you feel a little less defeated by yours.

20. Learn to walk away.

Perhaps the single most important step to regaining control over your life comes through learning to walk away from the situations that are holding you back. It takes an incredible amount of bravery to break away from what you’ve known. But it also gives way to an incredible opportunity to start over the way you’ve always wanted to.

21. Let yourself be happier than you are comfortable with.

Too often, we sabotage our own happiness out of a reluctance to trust it. Rather than allowing ourselves to grow into bigger shoes, we declare our feet ‘not big enough’ and retreat. We have to start allowing ourselves to let go of guilt and self-doubt and start seizing opportunities as they arise. Even if we feel a bit out of our league along the way.

22. Set and enforce boundaries.

There will eternally be people out there who are willing to rob you of your joy in exchange for a dose of their toxicity. And one of the most important lessons we may ever have to learn is that we cannot save those people from themselves. We have to learn to set clear boundaries if we don’t want to drown alongside them. Even if it’s someone we love.

23. Cut out a vice for 100 days.

The idea of never drinking, smoking or eating junk food again is an intimidating enough mission for any of us to give up on before we’ve even gotten started. So instead of resolving to cut out one of your vices eternally, try cutting one out for 100 days. It is enough time for you to see the positive effects of what you’ve done, but a short enough time for the end to always be in sight. And who knows – maybe once you realize how great you feel without one of your vices, it will turn into a permanent lifestyle change.

24. Try something that genuinely scares you.

There is nothing that boosts confidence quite like overcoming your fears. Make a deliberate point to take on a challenge that has always scared you when you’re feeling down – though it may seem like ridiculous timing to do so, the strength and sense of self-efficacy that will come from conquering your worries will take you further than you could possibly imagine.

25. Look at how far you have come.

Look back at the person who was once so lost and then look at who you’ve become since then. You may not be all the way to where you’d like to be, but you’re on your way. And you’re a hell of a lot further than you used to be.

26. Forgive others. Forgive the Universe. Forgive yourself.

Don’t allow anger or fear to keep you trapped in a damaging past. Allow yourself the opportunity to forgive those who have hurt you, to forgive the injustices done to you and to forgive yourself for everything you messed up on your path to redemption. Forgive not to relieve other people of accountability, but to finally allow yourself the freedom and space to move on. And to take your damn life back.

When Modern Meets Tradition

As I look at my pictures from the trip I took back to my birth place in 2014, this picture speaks so many things to me and about me. I am of two worlds or more like of three worlds. I can not live with or without the other…I am in a never ending battle being pull in so many different directions. I yet still have to find my peace and learn to balance….IMG_8077

And the war played on…

Many years ago there was a song by an American band and the lyrics went something like this, “War, war! What is it good for? Huh. Absolutely nothing! Say it again.” War has many faces. And all of the faces of war are fearsome, gruesome and beyond anything resembling a humanity which touts itself as evolved.

For many refugees like myself war doesn’t magically stop when you leave a war torn country. The disarrayed fragments of your demolished homeland stay with you. The horrific images painted upon your mind like a unrelenting nightmare. The smell of too much blood and decaying bodies, the rotting and disheveled dreams lay within a wasteland where nothing good co-exists alongside such surreal evil. Yes, you may take the person out of the war but you can’t so easily take the trauma of war out of the person.

War has a dismaying way of staying with you like a mendicant cloud overshadowing everything like a fine dust impossible to clean. It clings to you like a heavy weight too, and if one isn’t careful it can drag you down into darkness.

It is troubling beyond measure how warmongers seldom give a thought to the complete horror of the wars they wage. How war can rip the very soul out of a nation: brother against brother, father against son and tribesmen against tribesmen. War kill dreams like a plague of locusts devouring a once thriving and verdant landscape. Because of greed, pride or some other unknowable selfish motives men are willing to risk countless lives to obtain the reigns of power, riches and status.

Who suffers? In reality we all do.

However, it is the women, children and elderly who bear the brunt of such egocentric brutality. The very people, the women, who are the mothers, lovers and wives of a nation are cut down without a care. The children. Those who are willing to risk the lives of children are among the most barbaric evildoers ever to roam the earth, for killing children is the equivalent of damning the future of a nation into oblivion. Finally, there are the elders to consider. If men are possessed of such madness which enables them to throw away a countries’ wise then how can they ever hope to obtain wisdom in the bargain? They only fool themselves into thinking they can gain the upper hand on wisdom by perpetrating such unwise acts of violence.

“Every time we lose an elder we lose a library and our very heritage falls by the wayside.” 

Refugees Must Do Amazing Things

If you are of the opinion that political refugees have it easy, then I am here to inform you of your misguided thinking. I would like to know how the average American would fare if they too were uprooted from all they knew, got flown to a host country in which the citizenry speaks a foreign language, and on top of all of that find gainful employment within 90-days. Are you up for the challenge? Being a refugee isn’t an easy thing, not even close. Because while you are doing all of these amazing things you must still do them with the memory of war fresh and raw in your mind. One does not sit still long enough (or they sit in a refugee camp too long, for years) while they are going through the resettlement process, for there are visas to apply for and reams upon reams of documents which have to be completed. There are medical screenings (all physical exams, nothing psychological) and once you pass those, you must simply wait. Like I said, it can take years. In our case we only had to wait four-years and we were among the lucky ones. Some families (or what remained of a family) languished for over a decade to get processed. Some new refugees are still waiting in limbo.

Mental Health? What Is That?

Depression, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common throughout the political refugee community, however treating it, not so much. And to date there is no treatment readily available to combat this ongoing problem. I get it, treatment costs money, but if you are going to offer refuge it must be offered for the mind as well as the body. Currently, there are no (or vastly limited) mental health outreach programs for political refugees and this must change.

And while we’re having this conversation we might as well talk about the stigma of one’s unstable and often times eroding mental health. Most cultures, American culture notwithstanding, are reticent when it comes to acknowledging and seeking out mental health treatment. If you think mental health issues are polarizing in American culture it is doubly and tripling so for most foreign cultures as well. I have watched firsthand how family and friends bend and eventually break under the stress of depression, cultural shock, societal alienation and PTSD . It is not a pretty picture.

Humanitarian Situation in South Sudan from Hye Jung Han on Vimeo.

I still suffer from anxiety and depression, which stems directly from the reverberations of the ongoing war in South Sudan. I have lost many family members and there are friends I will never see again. I lost my father to the war and many aunts, uncles and cousins too many to count are still currently languishing in refugee camps located in Ethiopia.

Happy Women’s Day!!

Happy International Women’s Day! The struggle continues

Let’s welcome and celebrate International Women’s Day.

In reality we know everyday should be International Women’s Day. Because every single second, minute and hour we the women are bringing babies into the world. We are raising, teaching, feeding and providing for our families (often to the very sacrifice of our own needs and desires) day in and day out.

Women. We don’t slow down

Not because we don’t want to or it isn’t needed, We collectively keep it moving because we have to. While the men are busy being men (sigh) we the women of the world, keep on fighting the good fight. Fighting for equality on many fronts, from economic to basic human rights. We will not arrive, not until all women arrive together.

We are fighting for our very lives and struggling against huge obstacles

To the woman in the UNMISS camp, may the ancestors and the Creator be with you. For many having faith is the only thing which keeps them going. To the woman in the refugee camps in Africa and around the global community keep your heads up. For to give up is to accept defeat, and we cannot afford to give in to the negative forces working so diligently against us. Let’s keep the heart fires burning and help each other one day at a time.

Whether it be a physical camp or a mental camp!

If you are reading this then there is a good chance you too are a survivor. Life isn’t given to us in the spirit of fairness. We have to fight for fairness. We have to fight to be respected. We must fight for education. We must fight for healthcare. We must fight for political parity. We must fight for our human rights. The hardest thing is to be born a woman. By virtue of our very womanhood we are subject to physical abuse and rape at a much higher rate than our male counterparts. And even as we work to prevent and eliminate the spectra of rape we have to provide framework to address these issues. We must provide adequate support to help women cope and heal from the trauma of sexual abuse. We must do this, now!

You don’t need a reason to provide a helping hand. There is opportunity in your community. Local women shelters and food pantries always need donation and volunteers. Give to local charity branches but check out the good work the  following organizations are doing:

Woman Made

Women’s Global Empowerment Fund

Alliance For International Women’s Rights

T.E.N. Charities

19 Years A Refugee

For most of you the number 19 may not have any relevancy, but for me it is quite significant. Because this year will be my 19th year in America. I am a refugee from South Sudan. My parents fled the civil war torn country in the early 80’s and I was born in exile in Ethiopia (1985). I later migrated to the U.S. with my mother and two younger siblings on February 16, 1996. For most my life isn’t typical, but for many of my fellow country men and women my story is their story and their story is mine.

Most Americans whose families have been here for decades know nothing of war. War for them is a news report, a magazine article or a newspaper headline. For me war was (and continues to be) up close and personal. War dwelled in my nostrils and filled my eyes with death. War was a weather forecast and you never knew upon whom the gray clouds would fall. War claimed my father and uncles. War claimed aunts and countless cousins and friends. War claimed total strangers who will forever remain unknown.

War claimed opportunities and wiped clean the slate of hope for too many of us.

But war isn’t just about the physical bodies lost, war usurps and disrupts time and space too. But the most abominable aspect of war is that it is manmade. War is the most vicious poison which spits from the dark hearts of men. It is easier to deal with acts of God, i.e. tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and monsoons because these natural phenomenon aren’t vindictive and murderous. Yes, storms kill but not out of malice, hate or political and economic greed.

So, this is my blog A Continental Shift and through it I will bare my soul and open my mouth. I will talk to whomever cares to read the words I write. This will be my therapy and will act as a catharsis of sorts with the hope of excising my demons. But my blog will not be all about the melancholy and mundane, because I am more than just a political refugee. I am also your average late 20-something woman coming into her own. I am a college student, a lover of a good vegetarian pizza and if I here some good African music watch out because I love to dance. Through my blog I will talk about the things I love like music, movies and what books I’ve read and think you should read too. I am a bit of a fashionista. So, ladies beware, for there will be talk about shoes, purses and jewelry, etc. and did I mention shoes?

I am determined to not be defined exclusively by war, but because of my intimate experiences with the horrors of civil conflict, it most certainly has had a hand in molding me into the woman I am today. I am attempting to outlive the war that has left an indelible imprint upon my soul, because I know there is much more to life than sadness, heartache and living in a dark past where little light gets in.

But, I also want to address issues which are causal in the aftermath of war. Issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. I am familiar with both for they have entangled loved ones and friends alike. And if you are a refugee then you know about the special challenges we face when it comes to fitting in (the struggle is real) into a place which isn’t your motherland.

So, here we are meeting for the first time on a blog and I bid you a very warm Male (pronounced mah-lay), which is Nuer for hello.  Thanks for stopping by.