We can’t be happy all the time, can we? No. Defininetly not. Even the most positive people have their moments when it all gets a bit too much for them. Whether it’s work related anxiety, relationship problems, a family feud, a fallout with a friend, financial woes, or just your period playing havoc with your hormones (thanks again Mother Nature). We all feel blue from time to time.
I think the really important thing to keep in mind is the ratio of happy to sad days. Are you sad twice as often as you’re happy? If so, it’s probably time to talk to your gp. Depression is on the rise in Ireland and though it can develop so slowly and subtly that you barely even notice it, left unchecked it will catch up with you and become a very big problem indeed.
However if your ratio is better then that, if you tend to feel happy more than you feel sad, but still experience the occasional blues, this blog post is for you and will hopefully give you some ideas on how to stop your bad days from turning into bad weeks.
I recently had a very bad day. I woke up feeling teary. I mean before I’d even put my feet on the floor I felt sad and weepy. Initially I couldn’t figure out what had me feeling that way so early in my day, but once I’d had some coffee and woken up a bit I noticed a particular set of thoughts were swarming around in my mind. I am not good enough. I’m not enough enough to find a job I love. I’m not good enough to earn a decent salary. I’m not good enough to succeed. I’m not good enough to live the kind of lifestyle I want. There was a very clear theme at play and it became pretty obvious why I was feeling so low.
I decided immediately to let myself feel the feeling. I don’t believe in sweeping our feelings under the rug and putting our positivity hats on just to mask what’s really going on inside. I think the only thing we ever really achieve by taking that approach is delaying and prolonging our pain. If we try to ignore it, it could last for days, even weeks. Whereas if we just own the feelings, accept them, allow them to do their thing and pass, and priotitise our self care in order to minimise the pain, it could all be over by the end of the day. That’s what I decided to do on this particular day.
Here are some ideas for how you can spend those days practicing self care.
1. Identify the bare minimum
Unfortunately most of us don’t have the luxury of just wallowing in bed all day when we’re feeling low. For those of us with real life grown up jobs or kids, a certain amount of adulting has to be done no matter how much we want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world. But that doesn’t mean you have to power through the day as normal and neglect your own needs. Start your day by identifying the bare minimum. What can you get away with not doing today? Planning on some light lawn mowing? Leave it for another day. Or maybe you were supposed to have the in-laws for dinner, or meet friends for post-work drinks? Text and cancel. Say you’ve a headache or whateveer you need to say to get out of your plans. Today you’re only doing the bare minimum. Don’t miss a day of work or forget to feed the kids, but beyond that I wouldn’t be bothering with much else.
2. Fair Warning
I think one of the really terrible legacies of the social media age has been the expectation that everyone should be positiviely pulsating with happiness at all times. NO. Just no! When we’re having a down day it’s actually really important to tell the people we’re going to be spending time with. The thought of it might make you feel anxious, but saying to your work colleague that you’re having a really bad day and just want to get through it as fast as possible will make them more aware of how they interact with you throughout the day and more likely to give you some extra space. If they immediately respond by asking you what’s wrong and offering a shit tonne of solutions, don’t hesitate in letting them know that you don’t want to talk about it and either walk away or change the subject. You don’t need to be apologetic about this. You’re not obliged to be cheerful. You don’t owe that to anyone. Cut yourself some slack on these days, and don’t be afriad to ask others to do the same.
3. Eat the Food
At some point in the years gone by, emotional eating became a bad thing. I personally think that weight loss clubs are responsible for this, because as an alumni of them all I remember well the emphasis they always placed on the evils of emotional eating. Well guess what? That’s horseshit. Food is there to nourish our bodies and our minds equally. When we’re feeling really great and bursting with energy we tend to eat more nutrious “clean” foods right? How is that not emotional eating? It is, and it’s totally fine, no problem, awesome! As is eating chocolate fudge brownie ice cream when you’re sad. On the days when you’re feeling blue, food can really help to process what you’re feeling. It won’t neccessarily fix the problem, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find comfort in tucking into a pizza in front of the telly instead of cooking up the spinach fritata you were planning to force yourself to make even though you just want to curl up and cry. Indulge. You’re allowed.
4. Be nice
Be nice to yourself for Christ’s sake! A really great rule that I try to follow everyday no matter how I’m feeling is this; never say something to yourself if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend. I apply that to my life everyday and while I do still slip up occasionally, it has really helped me think more positively and cultivate a true sense of self love. But on the days when we’re feeling blue it’s more important than ever! We tend to berate ourselves for complaining when we think we have no right to. We feel guilty for not feeling hapy. What is that even about? Who knows. But it’s most definitely not helpful and that’s for damn sure. So the next time that you’re having a bad day, try to apply this rule to the way you speak to yourself and you’ll notice a big difference in how you’re feeling. You won’t suddenly be happy again, but choosing not to punish yourself will mean you won’t feel as blue as you did before, and you won’t prolong it either.