What to do when life gets you down
I'm sitting writing this in bed tangled in the covers after a well deserved afternoon nap. My hair is unwashed, I'm waiting for the machine to stop whirring so I can finally have some clean yoga pants and there's a pile of dirty dishes desperately wanting to be sudsy. Often in life it can feel isolating when I'm not feeling 100%, especially if I'm scrolling through Instagram at dreamy shots of Coachella or friends at Caribbean destinations. For years I felt as though my sadness was something to be hidden and 'dealt with' through eating copious amounts of bread and cheese or planning a boozey night out. You see, I never considered sadness as a normal part of life because it appeared my friends and acquaintances were always on Cloud 9.
What I've figured out in the last couple of years as that all humans crave vulnerability. I have seen friendships grow deeper, relationships build stronger foundations and even start to understand adults I admire by offering up my own insecurities. In fact, I've taken it upon myself whenever someone professes how perfect my life appears to let them know the last time I cried and/or had a meltdown. Our daily lives are saturated with idealised views of humanity and it's actually incredibly sad. I'll be the first to throw my hand up and say I'm now truly settling into the phrase "it's okay, not to be okay". By accepting myself and the fluctuations in happiness I experience it takes the edge off - perfection is overrated anyway.
I really don't care if you've got a major deadline, if your friends/family expect something of you or you're desperate to get on with ticking the boxes of life. If you're feeling down you have a beautiful opportunity to take a step back, breathe and remind yourself what life's all about. It's not about rushing from one to do list to another. Life is best lived in the moments lost in thoughts in the moment. Life is about sitting in the sunshine watching the clouds move over head and pet doggos that are running past. Life is about calling your grandmother and listening to how her week's been. Put simply, life is about so much more than feeling ecstatic the whole time. Sometimes the best you can do is to find calmness and stay patient that when you've checked back in with yourself that things will fall back into place again.
Rummaging through Tumblr a few years back I came across a 'What to do in case of Emergencies' list, except for when your mental health is deteriorating. The purpose is to write a list ranging from basic to extreme when you're feeling well, so that you have easy options when you're feeling down.
Here are some of the tactics I turn to ranging from quick to more extreme:
1) Take five deep breaths. Inhaling 1, 2, 3, 4, hold for two and then exhaling 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
2) Dogs: look for dogs in the street, look at pictures of dogs on my phone or ideally pet my dog at home.
3) Drink a big glass of water and actually taste it.
4) Make a hot beverage: tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Lately I've been really enjoying some heated milk with honey and cinnamon.
5) Go for a walk. (Even if it's just to the grocery store)
6) Find a 15 minute yoga class on YouTube and make a promise that it's okay if you pause it halfway.
7) Get a sweat on at the gym. (Once again promise to leave after 10 minutes if you still feel like crap)
8) A nice hot shower. For bonus points switch the tap to cold right before you hop out to give your body a little wake up.
9) Run yourself a hot bath and throw whatever you have into the water, such as essential oils, bath salts or just your shower gel for bubbles.
10) Cook or order your favourite meal. Money is no object if you're feeling down and for the love of god do not beat yourself up if you consider it 'unhealthy' - love yourself for f sake.
11) Call a kind friend and ask her about her day.
12) Call your favourite family member, ideally one with an animal you can say hi to on FaceTime.
13) Give someone a big hug or a cuddle.
14) Put on an album from your childhood and wiggle your hips.
15) Start sorting out your life with small steps: make your bed, brush your teeth, wash/dry your hair, take out the trash, put some laundry etc. Your brain loves accomplishing small tasks and most often I find it very addictive.
As a final note, why not treat yourself like this normally? One element I've started to incorporate into my life is treating myself like I'm sick even when I'm not - why is it we only start to look after ourselves when something goes wrong? Start now and hopefully the sad times become fewer and far between. But, don't beat yourself up if they don't. Life's a long old journey and it's too long to be at war with yourself.
All my love, Sam