You know those days when you just can’t even?
When adulting or even getting breakfast feels a million miles away?
If you’ve had a bad night, a flare, a pain spike, the grief is doing a number on you or the anxiety just won’t quit and give you space to breathe?
I’m a psychotherapeutic counsellor at Talk to the Rainbow and I wanted to share here some ideas I’ve developed from working with clients.
Often in days when we are down, we are told to get it together, to shift our thinking, shake up our mood and make the day AWESOME. And that’s all well and good, but I have found in my therapy practice and my personal experience that sometimes these exhortations to be great can feel bullying, shaming or yet another thing we haven’t reached.
I want to present an alternative.
Perhaps we are having a bad day for no reason we can see, but the fact is, we are feeling bad. That’s our experience. Sometimes it’s more compassion to ourselves and more healing, in the long run, to just let a bad day be a bad day. To not put pressure on it our ourselves and just let it be. Then see what happens.
Side note: I don’t actually call them bad days, myself. Because I am concerned with labelling sadness, anxiety, anger, regret, pain, grief, loneliness or similar feelings ‘bad’. I think they are painful, sure. They are uncomfortable, certainly. But they aren’t inherently wrong or worthless. They are a part, I believe, of being human. The other side of the coin of happiness, contentment, trust, confidence, ease, love, companionship and other feeling states we often label ‘good’.
But just as I have great respect for the shadows and what work our bodies and minds do in the darkness, I wonder if a life with only the ‘positive’ emotions would truly be like? Would it be a spiritual transcendence? Or would it be an exercise in denial and repression, always running away from the shadow side of life? How could we live in the world without being sad, angry, lonely or in pain, which so many things happen that are sad, and unjust and call those powerful, real, responses forth in us?
Often, in therapeutic work, some of what we do is to explore the shadowy places. In this way, we acknowledge the painful parts, but you don’t have to do it alone.
Just as I crave the rest of darkness and couldn’t live with the light on 100% of the time, so I find relief if letting myself be in the uncomfortable shadow times.
Instead of good days/bad days, I say optimum/non-optimum days, times when we feel at our optimum, perhaps with more comfortable, pleasant emotional sensations. And times when we don’t feel at our optimum. Because, no mistake, feeling all those darker emotions, can be painful, it can hurt hugely.
I have felt the hurt of a bad day we really, really wish was good.
The rising panic when they stack up and we can’t see an escape.
Growing resentment and self-doubt when we compare our painful reality to the edited online world which shows only the best. Which truly displays lives in only the best light (literally).
ON A DIFFICULT DAY, WHAT CAN WE HOPE FOR?
Perhaps to contain it, to let it be a bad day and take action so that it doesn’t spiral and trigger other issues or expand into weeks.
To avoid the pressure and sense of failure from needing to make every day perfect.
SO, WHAT CAN WE DO?
1. Take care of basics
The pressure to feel wonderful can lead to further feelings of stuckness and disempowerment. Have you ever got to the point where you are so full of information and inspirational material that you can’t even get out of bed with the weight of all the wonderful, self-care things you aren’t doing?
The solution? Stick to the basics. I love this website (NSFW re. language)
Why? It takes you through the basics that humans need. So often we forget the basics. I know I all too often forget to drink water; say I will get up/go to the loo/take a break just when I finish this one thing….
Often when we feel awful it feels like we need a nuclear level solution.
I once had really, really awful nausea. It was so disabling, so awful.
Everyone told me to try ginger. Ginger tea, ginger capsules, ginger essential oil. Well, I’m afraid to say, I scoffed.
I thought, ‘Ginger? I don’t think you understand, I am sick! It is serious, it will take more than just ginger to sort this.’
I went for the powerful anti-emetics. Of course, you’ve guessed the end of the story. Eventually, I tried ginger and it helped so much, without any side effects.
Just because we feel seriously awful, doesn’t mean the only solution is a serious treatment.
Sometimes the simple, day to day things can make a huge difference. And if you want to go nuclear, try setting up all the basics first (if you are bed or housebound check out my new book on doing this accessibly) and then if you are still struggling, the nuclear option will still be there for you.
Often this saves a lot of hassle and money e.g. if I take care of my back. I don’t need to see the osteopath so much. It’s boring, day to day work, taking breaks, using my roller, stretching in the morning, checking in to see where my pain levels are and what I need, but it makes the difference, daily and long term.
2. Take off the pressure
Often, we are struggling, we are under a lot of pressure.
Have you ever had the experience of feeling awful and then feeling awful about feeling awful and then feeling trebly awful about all the things you aren’t getting done because you are having such a difficult time?
It’s so easy to fall into this cycle and it generally spirals downwards and feeds any sense of shame or not-enoughness we may already be carrying.
How to handle this? The useful question here can be ‘what can I do to take the pressure off?’
Often, we feel we have ‘got’ to do things, but do we?
What are the things you have got to do? And how can you give yourself a break from everything else, just to take the pressure off?
In my work, ‘Blazing Hearts Flight School Coaching: Pursuits and PassionforPeople Living With Limits’ we work on setting up systems. Systems hold things so you don’t have to. We can often automate much more than we think – and I don’t mean by outsourcing your life to underpaid overseas virtual assistants – but by looking at what you do over and over and making a formula for it. Then checking if any of those sites can be held by someone/thing other than you.
e.g. meds on repeat prescription, reminders to book your next chiropodist appointment when you finish your current one, having the groceries you may use on repeat order etc.
I also love the concept of an “at the very least list” – credit to Xandra, of Heroine training.
An ‘at the very least list’ is a list you make if what you will do even on a ‘bad’ day.
This will be individual to you, but it could be getting dressed, taking your meds (if any), having some food, having some non-screen time, connecting with someone, or doing something restful.
3. Dip into our self-care kit resources
Do you have a self-care kit? If not, here’s a guide for how to make one.
How do you make your own Self-Care Kit? The first thing is to get a box, designate it as your Self-Care Kit and then keep it in mind. Fill it with things you love, you can begin by looking around your house and asking if there are any letters from loved ones, postcards that make your laugh or funny cartoons etc. that you like and add them to the box. Keep thinking of your box and you will keep adding resources and use the box when you need.
When we dip in, we are literally resourcing ourselves, remembering that we have tools, options and support.
We can use out self-care kit to prevent a difficult day spiraling into a difficult week or longer.
Really, it’s a process of listening to ourselves and adding nourishment where we need it.
You are not alone. If you need to talk about it further, check out the support of therapists at Talk to the Rainbow.
For immediate urgent support call:
(UK & ROI) Samaritans – 116 123 (their new freephone number)
(USA) Suicide Prevention Life Line – 1-800-273-8255
(Australia) LifeLine – 13 11 14
If these ideas resonate or intrigue you, why not conduct a personal experiment, try and see how you find it?
- Bookmark this page and come back to it when you are low.
- Make your ‘At the Very Least’ list and save it in your journal or your phone. Try setting a five-minute timer now and making a draft list, then try it out when you next have a difficult day and refine as needed. Each non-optimum day will give you more data to polish and personalise your plan.
- List the three things you repeat most regularly (like paying a bill, ordering food, running out of something or repeating something). See if you can find a system for one of those this week. Set up a standing order, get a repeat delivery or prescription, set up a reminder to order or write a canned response in gmail. Your future-self will thank you.
- Begin making (or order) a self-care kit and use it when needed.
thumbnail image credit @yuris-alhunaydy