July 29, 2014

Summer 2014

Good morning, everyone! It seems kind of crazy to be thinking about the end of summer already, but it's come to the point where next week is my last week of work and I'm already making plans to move into my new home. This summer has been sort of a transitional period in my life, and although I didn't picture it to have gone this way, I am grateful for the peace I've been gaining as a result of it. Today I just wanted to share my summer experiences (and plans for the school year) and hearing all about yours. Please let me know all about the highlights of your summer or exciting plans in the comments below!

From wacky sleep cycles, to making money, to getting ready for the new school year, to Skyping with a special friend, to learning yoga, to consuming way too much sugar, it's been a lazy schedule overall. I think that when I'm living at home, I tend to enter some sort of state of hibernation. I learned the other night that when you don't get enough sleep on a night, you start to accumulate sleep debt, which can be made up for by sleeping a little longer within the next few nights. Considering my sleep schedule (or lack of it) during the year, I shudder to think about how much sleep debt I probably have. But the good news is that I've been paying off the deficit gradually.

Speaking of debts, I did my best to work a whole lot to help minimize that student debt. Last week I worked 38 hours, which is the most I've ever done. This week, I'll just have 28 hours which will be pretty nice. I surprisingly have a lot of expenditures: club fees, taekwondo competitions, plane flights (I'm hoping to visit my uncle sometime this year), and of course going out to movies and meals with friends. I recently started tracking my budget through mint.com, and I was utterly astounded at how much food I bought. People with mortgages will probably laugh at me, but I spent so much money on food this summer! I was quite impressed with myself. Anyhow, this summer it dawned on me that living can get pretty expensive. So, I went on to apply for two jobs and managed to land both of them.

The first job is probably the one that you'll care more about (I'll explain why): working the front desk at the residence hall I'll be living in. I've got the graveyard shift, guys. There won't be very much to do during these wee hours of the night, so I'll probably be writing to you during these times! I can't make any promises, but we might step it up from one post a week to two posts a week. I guess we'll see how it goes! My semester is going to be a lot busier because I'll also be working as a tutor and also got a position as a research assistant in a health psychology lab. I am definitely excited to be busy this semester after a relaxed spring semester fresh from transferring and the lazy pace of this summer.

Some of my friends found it hard to believe when I told them, but I haven't practiced any taekwondo this summer! There were just too many conflicts with my work schedule and personal things going on too. I try to console myself by saying that I've been doing yoga. Don't get me wrong--the meditative style of yoga has helped with my flexibility and is great fun. It's a form of exercise that I'm hoping to incorporate into my morning routines during the school year because I do enjoy it, but I missed taekwondo quite a lot. Anyhow, these are two of my favorite yoga classes by Ali Kamenova that I've found to be awesome for beginners and have been trying to master lately:

Other than that, I had a wonderful experience going on a cruise around Scandinavia and Northern Europe earlier this summer! We ate lots of delicious food, met many incredible people, and saw lovely sights. It was an absolute pleasure and I am grateful for that family time.

Well, those are my highlights. What are some of yours? And what are you most looking forward to for the year? Let me know in the comments! Next week, I'll be writing a post on what working in the food industry has taught me, so don't forget to subscribe!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 22, 2014

10 Ways to Increase Happiness and Self Confidence

Happy Tuesday! Do you have any fun plans for this week and/or upcoming weekend? Let me know in the comments below. I will personally be working a lot and will also be looking forward to some exciting plans for Friday. It should be a great time!

Today, we'll be discussing self confidence. Do you struggle with insecurity? I think that a lot of young people do, and I would actually have to say that I also have a hard time with this, too. These days, we live in a culture that basks in a sense of competition and hierarchy. We tend to compare ourselves with other people with the visual of a ladder. She's better than me at this, I'm better than him at that. This group needs to improve on one thing, and I want to beat so-and-so at this other thing. Personally, I experience the most competition as a pre-med student. How do I stand as opposed to my competition when it comes to grades? Internships? Research? Extracurricular activities? Test scores? Community service hours? 

When you're constantly finding your spot on the ladder based on where everyone else is, how do you not start feeling that self confidence level take a hit?

Well, here are ten tips for trying to help boost that self esteem (and happiness overall!). I hope you find these helpful and inspiring as you go about your week! 

#10: Think about your long-term goals frequently. Do you want to travel? Take up a new hobby? Have a successful career? Run a marathon? Become financially stable? Start a family? Make new friends? Grow in your faith and spirituality? Well, you could have all of these goals or even others, but I am a firm believer that long-term goals add purpose to life. And I think that having some sort of external purpose outside of solely existing is important. It gives your life meaning, and it also holds you accountable to yourself. These goals are what you want to achieve, so it's up to you to make them happen. As you come closer to reaching these and start setting new ones, you'll also come to appreciate how much you are capable of!

#9: Work toward your short-term goals. It's no good to just think about your long-term goals and then do nothing about them. It's best to plan out some of the steps you want to take in order to reach that long-term goal, kind of like having stops along the route in a road trip. Smaller journeys within a long one. Goals within goals. Achievement doesn't happen overnight, you have to work toward it every day. Doing this will increase your sense of self efficacy, and perhaps your self confidence will follow.

#8: Have fun with friends. Kicking back and letting loose can really work wonders, guys. Since I'm more of a Type-A(sian) personality, I don't really know if I believe in the "work hard, play harder" mentality because I tend to find a lot of value in the work I do. But, what is the point of working hard if you can't spend your life doing anything fun with the people around you? When you're having fun, it takes your mind off the stress that can cause insecurity and improve your perspective on the people around you--and yourself. Make some new memories, and enjoy life! 


#7: Think laterally. I've addressed this in previous posts, but one's perspective on life can really transform when you think of everybody on a plain as opposed to a ladder. It ultimately comes down to accepting that every person has strengths and weaknesses, and the combinations of these strengths and weaknesses are unique to each person. Learn to embrace the people you come across as individuals. Think about yourself as an individual who has his/her own special place in the world. Find some self-acceptance, and then start building that self confidence.

#6: Eat healthy and be fit. We tend to have a more holistic approach to happiness, spirituality, and self esteem here at Smiles No Matter, and I would definitely say that although your physical appearance doesn't necessarily make you more confident, how you feel physically can make a huge impact. A lot of people don't think that they're the "exercising type" or the "healthy type." Although going to the gym every day or only eating salads sounds intense, these aren't the only ways to be healthy. People who spend 3-7 hours a week are already doing themselves a favor with little cost. And it's okay to still eat a lot as long as you're putting good foods into your body (it might even be better). Start with small steps. Instead of that bag of potato chips, try some carrot sticks or an apple. Instead of a Big Mac for lunch, try a grilled chicken sandwich. Go for a 20-minute walk after dinner. Drink a glass of water or tea every morning. These are just a few little ways to start moving toward a healthier lifestyle. When your body starts feeling better, you will too!

#5: Clean your space. This again goes into a more holistic perspective. Maintaining a clean and tidy desk, bedroom, and kitchen helps make work less stressful, rest more refreshing, and cooking more enjoyable. Take care of your home! 

#4: Do something kind for somebody else. There's a lot of talk about "survival of the fittest" these days, but one way a species stays fit is through altruism, which is a sense of self-sacrifice for the sake of another individual in the population. Why compete against someone if you can help her/him? Remember that you have the power to make a difference in another's life, and this can be a beautiful thing.

#3: Step out of your comfort zone. How do you expect to grow if you don't push yourself to try new things, take on different challenges, and experience life?

#2: Accept that bad things happen. Are you somebody who has a hard time getting over mistakes and bad times? I can say that I am definitely one of these people. When I see injustice or if I do something that hurts somebody else, I feel guilt for not having done more, and become filled with remorse for not having lived up to a standard or expectation that I'd held for myself. If you're like this too, I know what you're going through! Unfortunately, dwelling on the negative is harmful because it means that we're not focusing on the positive, and this can really tear down that self esteem. Instead of reliving the pain or guilt, accept it and find a way to move on. Whether this means making an apology, granting forgiveness, or addressing whatever needs to be fixed, do it as soon as possible. And when things blow up (and they will, because that's how life is), don't just learn to forgive others. Learn to forgive yourself, too.

#1: Remember the difference between self confidence and arrogance. It is possible to have self confidence and be happy while still maintaining humility. Self confidence is about accepting and loving yourself as a person--there is a lot of room to put others' needs ahead of your own while you have self confidence. 

So those are ten simple ways to increase your self confidence (and overall happiness too)! 

What's one thing you have done to help yourself? Any fun stories about stepping outside your comfort zone? Let me know in the comments below! 

I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day! 

Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 18, 2014

Sunshine Award!

Hello, world! I hope life has been bringing you great adventures and wonder.

A dear reader and talented blogger, Envy, nominated me for the Sunshine Award last week. I actually nominated her for the Liebster Award a while ago, and one of my upcoming posts was also inspired by one of her comments, so this nomination truly means a lot to me.

Thank you so much, Envy!
The rules for the Sunshine Award are pretty simple:
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Answer their questions.
  • Nominate other bloggers.
  • Contact them to let them know that they've been nominated.
  • Put the award badge on your blog. 
So without further ado, here are my answers to Envy's questions!
  1. What is your favorite book and why? My favorite book has got to be The Princess Bride by William Golding. It is just written so whimsically and describes love and friendship that lasts through many terrors, and it is the only book aside from The Bible that I can stand to read over and over again. It's just one of those books that inspires me every time I think about it. 
  2. Do you have any hobbies that your friends think are ridiculous, but that you totally like? One weird hobby for me is probably being addicted to watching BubzBeauty and Bubzvlogz on YouTube. Bubz is an Asian beauty guru who grew up in Ireland and she's currently pregnant, so a lot of my friends kind of raise an eyebrow when they catch me watching (or if I make them watch with me) a pregnancy vlog or two. Anyhow, I started watching her videos while I was going through a breakup and stumbled upon her video "Secrets of Truly Happy People." It just warmed my heart to see such a genuinely happy person, and now she's the only YouTuber that I watch regularly.
  3. What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you? This is a tough question for me because I don't really feel particularly "embarrassed" since I'm pretty awkward overall 24-7. But I remember one instance during Taekwondo when I was sparring with one of my friends. I saw that he was going to do a back kick (his back kicks are wickedly fast), so I faked and moved out of the way. For some reason, my brain froze and I suddenly didn't know what to do, so I just screamed and charged at him into a clinch. He looked pretty confused, and my teammates and coach all giggled. My bestie teased sarcastically, "That's a great technique. Next time you don't know what to do while you're sparring, just tackle the other guy and hope for the best."
  4. What would you miss most about blogging if you had to stop? I would miss you guys, of course! I love sharing my thoughts and inspirations, and I love that you're reading Smiles No Matter and that it is still growing. If I quit blogging, it would be like quitting on a part of my heart. 
  5. Who's your biggest inspiration? There is only one person under the "People Who Inspire Me" section of Facebook, and that is Jesus. No man who has or ever will walk this Earth will come close to experiencing and showing the amount of love that Jesus did. His life, death, and wisdom inspire me daily to try to love with my whole heart and to have faith in his plans.
Today, I'm nominating:
I have been following each of these blogs for quite a while now, and it is an honor for me to nominate them. 

I just wanted to take this opportunity again to thank you guys for your readership and support. It is my prayer every day that Smiles No Matter will bring somebody else as much joy as it brings to me. The lovely comments you leave are so kind and inspiring. And this is why I'm nominating all of your for the Sunshine Award today too! 

Here are my questions for you all:
  1. What is your favorite quotation?
  2. Name one song that you listen to when you need to relax!
  3. What are your feelings about Snapchat?
  4. Describe a person who has picked you up while you were feeling down. How did this person bring you comfort or condolence? 
  5. What is an activity you love doing with your friends?
  6. What is your preferred mode of communication?
  7. Do you believe in love at first sight?
  8. What is one thing you wish you did more?
  9. How has your summer been going so far?
If you accept my nomination, please link your blog in the comments or send the URL to my email at smilesnomatter@gmail.com so that I can see your answers! 

Also, I've been thinking of changing up the look of my blog this summer while I have a bit of spare time on my hands, but I would really value your input. I added a poll Sunday night on the right sidebar, but if you haven't seen it yet, please give me your honest opinion and feedback. You can also let me know your thoughts on the blog's look in the comments or my email as well. If I were to change it, I would probably change it to have a more modern, clean look.

Much love to you all.
Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 15, 2014

What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

Good morning, world! How are you today? I'm doing okay overall. I had a job interview last week and am anxious for the results. I hope that I will be able to get this job as a chemistry tutor this coming fall, but I'm trying to tell myself that God will provide.

This morning's discussion is longer than usual because it's all about purpose--finding the right purpose in your life. A while ago, I had a conversation with a special friend about life. We touched a little bit on purpose, which kind of got the wheels in my head turning. Do you feel like you have purpose in your life?

It's basically the long-term debate in philosophy: looking for the right purpose. Aristotle said our purpose is to live a flourishing life in study. Epictetus believed that our purpose is to live a happy life by caring only about the things that truly matter (which are the things we influence). Mill thought that our purpose is to increase the overall happiness level in the world as much as possible, and reduce the amount of pain. (I often think of Mill as the mathematician of philosophers.)

We have books overflowing with arguments and ideas about how to live life, and these books fill the shelves of thousands of bookstores across the nation.

And yet, there have been times I hit that rut where I don't really know what to do. What is my purpose in life? When are some of the moments in your life when you've asked yourself this question?

Here, I'm going to share with you my tips on what to do during these times, and also what I believe is my purpose. I pray that what you read will bring you inspiration and optimism as you think about your life.

Firstly, know that it's okay to not be okay. We recently finished a seven-part series studying a book called Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn. An overarching theme in the book is that although winning is lots of fun, many of the most powerful moments in life come from losing. Losing and feeling empty can be precursors to growing and maturing. Life can be represented with a yin-yang. There is the good, the warmth, the happiness, the health. And in that very same symbol, there is the evil, the cold, the pain, the sickness. Both exist together, within each other. The yin cannot exist without the yang. If you accept the wins of life, you must learn to accept the losses too.

I think that the modern society puts a lot of value in having purpose, in being happy. Society tells us to always answer "good" when we're asked how we are. Naturally, when we don't feel like we have purpose, we tend to feel ashamed, abnormal. But you know what? There's nothing wrong with having a bad day, week, month, or even year! There are many good ones to come. Remember to take the good with the bad.

Secondly, document your thoughts. I have personally experienced so many instances where I suddenly felt overwhelmed by absolutely everything. About a year ago, my cousin gave me this journal. At the time, I was pretty lame at journaling, so I made it my New Year's resolution to write something in it each day. This last January, I purchased another journal because it has been such a helpful tool for me to keep track of the daily thoughts, worries, praises, and events. In journaling, I've improved my time management, and sort of experience this sense of peace as I reflect. I do believe that part of our purpose is to enjoy every day that we're blessed with. One way to start appreciating every day is to write them down.

Thirdly, surround yourself with love. From my experience, the nuclear family has a powerful bond that you can rely on when everything else fails. However, while you can't choose your family, you can choose your friends. There are some people who will encourage you to do things that are against your morals or standards, and when you stumble upon people like this, run away in the opposite direction! Stay with the people who encourage you in the hard times, rejoice with you in your successes, and respect you even during your lowest points in life. Be with people who are also searching for and pursuing their own purposes. What's that saying again? "Birds of a feather flock together."

Fourthly, practice gratitude. Take some time every day to give thanks. While not every day may not be good, there is still good in every day. Find the good in every day.


And now we arrive at the second part of this post, which is where I will be sharing what I believe my purpose is. As it is evident through this blog, I believe that my purpose is to help people find happiness in their lives. But this purpose is part of a greater purpose. I have come to learn that life's purpose is to love.

I'll have to admit that until about a year ago, I was a half-hearted Christian. I talked the Word, and I thought I knew all about what it meant to be a Christian, but now I realize how wrong I was. The Church says a whole lot about "Believing to get to Heaven." Now, I'm not saying that believing isn't important. It's just that I wasn't guided to know what to believe in.

I was taught that if you believe that Jesus died and rose for you, it was like getting this one-way ticket to Heaven.

While it was acceptable as a child, as I grew older, I had trouble seeing what the point was. To me, it sounded like, "Believe in this story, and this simple story will allow you to escape a hellish void that mankind deserves to remain in after this life." So what if I believed that this guy died for me? People die for people all the time.

Last year, I went through some of the worst experiences in my life. The one person that I thought I could count on didn't just let me down, but came back to make sure that he'd beaten me to the ground. I was later forced to leave my beloved home due to a set of unfortunate circumstances. Christianity as I had known it could get me far, but not through this.

Although the most painful events of my life (so far) happened that year, so did some of the most important lessons.

I learned in a whole new way that God is love. God is also an abstraction. For instance, think of your best friend's name. Now try describing your best friend. Do you notice, that as you continue to describe this person more, there only becomes more information that you left out? Each person that you know is so complex. As you think you start developing relationships with people, the more about these people you discover. Well, the same is true with God. But God is so much greater than people, the abstraction indefinitely more complex. As I learned more about God, the more I realized that God is so much more than a noun describing the omniscient, omnipotent presence that created the world. God is an action. God is love.

Let's look at the life of Jesus.  A lot that my church did was talk about how much he showed up the Pharisees and the disciples with his wisdom and insight. "How wrong they were. How right he is."

A lot can be said about Christ's theological knowledge. But so much more can be written, studied, and shared about the way he lived. He lived with the people everyone else hated. He shared meals with the poor--and not just volunteered at a soup kitchen--he actually sat down and ate with them, like they'd been friends forever.

A man asked Jesus, "What is the greatest commandment?" And Jesus answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12).

He calmed the storms of people's hearts, healed the dying, comforted the weary. His life was so full of love as he lived the greatest commandments.

And then his death.

I cannot imagine a stronger example of true love than Christ's death.

It's the innocent sacrifice in exchange for the tainted, the lamb to the slaughterhouse. His death was pure. But as I thought about it, I came to realize that Christ did not die only for the people who would eventually come to believe in him a couple thousand years later. He died for all mankind. Even the sinners. Even the people who hated him. Even the people who killed him. He suffered knowing that from these people who tortured and crucified him, he would gain nothing in return. And yet--he still suffered for them.

When I look at Jesus' life, death, and ascension, I see purpose that is not only worth living for, but dying for. And that is why I am inspired by the Word to seek love, and to share it with others.

The beautiful thing about love is that it is shown through small gestures and huge, grand ones. Although I don't think I am capable of doing great things alone, I know that I can do small things with great love. This is how I want to live. Love is what I'll hold on to.

Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 11, 2014

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn Conclusion

Hi there, everybody! I'm going to start this post off with a big thank you to everybody who's been reading this series and commenting on the posts. It has meant so much to me! And I also thank John C. Maxwell for his inspiring words and stories in his book Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn.

Visit John C. Maxwell's leadership blog here.
This was the first time I've done a little "book journey" on Smiles No Matter, and reading Maxwell's book was a good start to hopefully do more book journeys in the future with you guys. I've learned a lot and have started thinking about my worth as an individual and what I want to take out of life on a wider scale. Also, doing this has allowed me see a new perspective on life and happiness, so I have many new ideas for the future!

Thinking about life can get pretty heavy for some, but as we come to a state of maturity, it isn't all that bad anymore. Instead of seeing failures, pain, and sorrow, we also are able to see the lessons that come with them. I also think that going through hard times leads us to appreciate the good things that we would otherwise take for granted.

Let's have a brief glance over the topics we've covered in this series:

  1. Humility: The Spirit of Learning
  2. Reality: The Foundation of Learning
  3. Responsibility: The first Step of Learning
  4. Improvement: The Focus of Learning
  5. Hope: The Motivation of Learning
  6. Teachability: The Pathway of Learning
  7. Adversity: The Catalyst for Learning
  8. Problems: Opportunities for Learning
  9. Bad Experiences: The Perspective for Learning
  10. Change: The Price of Learning
  11. Maturity: The Value of Learning
Now with the entire series done, here are some questions I have: 
  • What was your favorite part about learning about learning? 
  • In Maxwell's final chapter, he says that life isn't about winning, but about learning. Would you agree with his statement? Why or why not?
  • Of these past weeks, have you experienced any growth from self-reflection and thinking about the challenges you've faced in life?
Please let me know your answers in the comments below!

As for myself, reading this book has inspired me to learn to appreciate more in life. I personally went through a series of unfortunate experiences last year, and reading this and reflecting upon it has helped me learn to live with the pain and move on. It's also helped me find more patience and poise when dealing with myself. 

I wouldn't say that this is the best book in the world, or that I would never have found what I did without reading it--but it is a handy guide and an easy read for anyone looking for a bit of light self-improvement. It's pretty basic, so it's a good place to start. 

Thank you again for joining me on this journey, and please comment and subscribe for future updates!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 8, 2014

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn (VI)

Hello, everybody! Since I was busy celebrating the Fourth of July last Friday, I am posting my reflection on the eleventh and twelfth chapters from John C. Maxwell's Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn today. This week, we are looking at change, the price of learning, and maturity, the value of learning.
Quote of the week: "One of life's important questions is 'Who am I?' But even more important is 'Who am I becoming?'" (John Maxwell).
I had to appreciate Maxwell's chapter on change because I discussed it a bit on last week's post on dealing with stress (funny how a lot of things can tie in together). Change comes in different forms, but as I read through his words, I thought a lot about change of heart and attitude.

There is a quotation by Charles R. Swindoll that says, "We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude."

This is one major theme that comes up in philosophy. I actually wrote on change of attitude a while ago in the post "Finding the Good in Every Day." Change is a difficult subject to write about because it is often triggered by something, and it is also often unexpected. So, how do we conscientiously change ourselves to become better people?

Well, a lot of this comes with everything we have been talking about so far in the series. It's about being open-minded and aware, embracing your life (whether you're in a good part or bad), accepting that you're not perfect, and resolving to grow stronger with every step you take. It's about looking for feedback. What could you do to be a better friend, co-worker, student, boss, sister, parent? It's never losing sight of hope, and remembering that although your situations may be bleak, you still have the choice to keep going--to keep pursuing happiness, love, and joy.

I often associate a positive change in attitude with finding peace in one's heart. For me, a person who has found peace carries a sense of dignity in his or herself. S/he accepts both the good and the bad with grace and esteem, like a warrior who is prepared for anything and everything at all times.

Maxwell focuses on change in the more general sense. What changes must we make in our lives? Change yourself; change your attitude; change your nongrowing friends; determine to live differently than average people; and unlearn what you know so you can learn what you don't know (189-194). Basically, be in an environment that fosters growth, innovation, and sincere desire to make the world a better place. It all starts in your own heart.

As change occurs, maturity is reached. Maxwell says to keep in mind the following truths if you long to gain the true value of learning (199-208):

  1. Maturity is the result of finding the benefit in the loss.
  2. Maturity is the result of learning to feed the right emotions. I personally think about my high school Geography teacher whenever this idea comes up. I was pretty shy my freshman year, and before I had to present to the class, she told me not to let it get in my way. Even if you're having a bad day, you just need to put on a smile, and sometimes force yourself to be positive and do the right thing. Even if it meant faking it for the time being, these actions would come to define character. Sometimes, you need to work backwards to find happiness.
  3. Maturity is the result of learning to develop good habits. What are some of the habits you've established to reach your goals?
  4. Maturity is the result of learning to sacrifice today to succeed tomorrow. (Sacrifice is a pretty scary word for us these days, but it's a must. I'll discuss this in a future post!)
  5. Maturity is the result of learning to earn respect for yourself and others. (I'm also planning to discuss this in the future, so stay tuned!)
So look at yourself, and compare who you are now to the model of maturity. What are you going to change today?

Smile on,
-Riley XO

Thank you for reading! The last post for the series Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn will be out on Friday at the usual time. Please don't forget to comment and subscribe! I look forward to seeing you again and have a great day!

July 2, 2014

5 Ways to Deal with Stress

Greetings, everyone. July is already here, and although there is still quite a bit of summer left, I've already found myself preoccupied with making arrangements for this coming school year. I suddenly began making a small hill of stress as I began piling up my plate with more challenging classes, finding a position working in a health psychology lab, taking a leadership role in the university's neuroscience club, and landing a new job. I am so ecstatic to be starting each of these new things, but as I begin to think about my leisurely schedule freshman year, I feel this little shadow of anxiety and doubt creep on when I consider what it could be like participating in these activities in addition to my previous routine of taekwondo training, writing, music, and chilling with friends...

But I guess, being a workaholic of sorts, this coming school year's schedule isn't what concerns me the most. 

No, it's thinking about how expensive medical school will be in the (relatively) very far future. 

...Say what?

So, yeah. I've just realized that I am experiencing some anxiety.

And I can be sure that many of you out there are facing it, or will be facing it soon. (If my list stirred any stress in my fellow students out there, I'm so sorry!) Some of my friends are taking on the responsibilities of owning apartments for the first time, some have just started new jobs, some are getting ready to apply to college, some are moving out of home. Most are looking at major changes in their lives. Are you experiencing or anticipating change right now? 

Often, change (even just thinking about change) brings on some anxiety. Of course, how you feel depends on both your situation and personality, but here are my top five methods to mitigate the stress; I hope one, two, three, or all of them will work for you! 
  1. Don't worry about tomorrow. This may sound a bit cliche, but cliches do exist for a reason. (Is it cliche to say that too?) If you just focus on what you can do today, and then do your best to finish all of those things with as much energy you can muster now, trust God and yourself that tomorrow will also be a good and productive day. 
  2. Remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing. The end result should ultimately be because it makes either you or another person happy. Stressed about an internship? You'll need that internship to ensure a good job to be able to take care of yourself and your family. Nervous about moving out? You need to do it so that you can find your independence, your freedom. 
  3. Focus on the positives. Hopefully, this will tie into #2 at least a little bit because if your reasons for doing something are all negative, is there really a point in doing it? But now try extending that aura of goodness to the rest of the change occurring in your life. These new challenges and experiences are opportunities to learn and grow. Focus on the lessons you'll learn, the friendships you'll form, the character you'll develop, and the new memories you'll make each day as change takes place. 
  4. Get active. Those of you who've been with me for a while now may have seen this one coming, but there are few things that center and calm me as well as physical activity. I've done a variety of exercise, from high intensity running and circuits--to relaxing, meditative yoga. No matter what form the activity may take, try dedicating a couple hours a week to it and see how much it'll improve your determination and focus in all aspects of life!
  5. Remember this blog's title. Don't underestimate the power of your smile! Seriously, just smile for a second. Now hold it for five seconds: one, two, three...four...and five! How do you feel? 
How do you deal with stress? Let me know in the comments below. Don't forget to share and subscribe!

Smile on,
-Riley XO
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