When things are not alright

There are days, weeks and months when people like me can really struggle, and I know I’m not alone. I have trouble finding the point of it all on a regular basis. I have trouble feeling good about myself on a regular basis. Busy, tired and a little uninspired, life can sometimes get you down, which is a part of life in itself. It’s pretty hard to know what to say in life, yet alone on the internet, when you’re not feeling particularly enthused by anything.

So, I haven’t written anything for ages. I’ve tried, insofar as I’ve come home from work on Tuesday rather than going out and doing something. I’ve brought my laptop downstairs and put it in its usual spot. I’ve even opened my laptop. I’ve looked at the story ideas that I have stored in Google Drive. Then I’ve waddled away and put on my pyjamas, feeling like a fraud and a loser because I just can’t muster the strength to tell anyone anything with any certainty.

What I do know, for sure, is that all the advice people give you when things aren’t alright is generally useless and exceptionally annoying. If one more person tells me to exercise when things aren’t alright I’m going to exercise by walking away from that person very quickly. The only thing I have to say right now is that there are some things that have worked for me in getting through the times when things aren’t alright. I’m going to share two of them with you today. By no means are these things going to work for everyone, but they sometimes work for me.

So, the first tip: Do one thing every day that you’re proud of. Something that is harder than it sounds when you’re feeling like shit is doing anything you take pride in. You might be miserable and not in the mood to like anything you do, but this is a goal that works well for me and can play out however you want it to. For me, sometimes it’s not doing something, like drinking wine and smoking cigarettes like I want to. Other times, it’s doing one piece of work really well, or walking home rather than catching the bus, or listening to a friend and giving good advice. It might even just be getting up in the morning and going to work. Whatever it is, make sure you get one thing done, something you’re proud of, every single day and give yourself a mental high-five for it. Or a real high five, whatever. The things that you didn’t think you could do right now, or the things that you think could make a difference. Sometimes I eat something vegan for dinner. Sometimes I do 30 squats. Sometimes I send a nice email to my auntie. Sometimes I spend twenty minutes researching a charity and donating ten dollars. Literally anything that you can take pride in and stand behind: do that. By acting on something and recognising yourself for it, you might find it gradually easier to face every day.

Life means that sometimes the things that make you feel good now can make you feel bad (really bad) later. While a hefty drink (or seven) might calm the nerves and make you feel more fabulous, it may not be a true investment in your future happiness. I think it’s really important to consciously note all the things that make you feel good that are legal, risk free, and can be engaged with in the comfort of your own home. Just figuring this out is an exercise in self-awareness and will help you to give structure to your misery. I call these things my rituals. When I need to tune in or tune out, I set the environment for myself to do so. Lighting candles, painting my nails, doing a few gentle stretches or yoga poses, taking a bath (lord how I wish I had a bath!) putting on a face mask or even watching a reality TV (Australia’s Next Top Model is my poison) can all help to put me in headspace for self-care. When the soul is tender, it needs to know it is being protecting from potentially unhelpful outside influences. That means no social media (it’s always bad, always), no depressing news coverage or sad documentaries, no needy friends or family members. Just you and your rituals. This should be like wrapping yourself in cotton wool, even if it’s just for an hour. If I’m freaking out before work, I spend some extra time with my rituals to make me feel a little better and stronger for the day. Try to be present in the time that you’re giving to yourself, know how it makes you feel. Thank yourself for it.  

These two things might not work for everyone but they sometimes work for me. I find that when things are not alright, I need little reasons to keep going, little goals, little victories. While it feels wrong to pretend that we have all the answers, it definitely feels right to share bits and pieces that worked for us. Just remember, things might not be alright now, but they will be. We promise.

by Penny

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