Down days come. Like hailstorms of self-loathing or tsunamis of shame, they come. Even the happiest of people have ’em, and those of us who’ve suffered from severe depression or other mental health issues are a little more likely to face a stormy forecast.
That’s not to say inclement weather has to stick around for the long haul, though. The deluge of misery can be more like ripping off a bandaid than wallowing in despair — it all depends on how we handle it.
From my experience (which is pretty extensive), here are a few suggestions for what to do when you’re feeling down (and, just as importantly, what NOT to do):
What to do:
I know, I know. You don’t want to leave your bed, your house, your couch. The world seems ugly and unwelcoming, and it’s better just to hide yourself away. I get it. But hibernating won’t help. That’s you shutting yourself up in a box, when what you need most is to climb out of it. Nature helps, sunshine helps, knowing the world is a bigger and more magnificent place than your dark bedroom helps.
ANY exercise. Dance to your favorite song. Jump rope. Swim. Climb a tree. Do something, ANYTHING that involves moving your body. I don’t usually advocate force, but in this case, force yourself.
Feel your feels.
This is probably exactly what you’re trying to avoid. But often, feeling our feelings (instead of trying desperately to evade them) is the quickest way to fade them. Frequently, when faced, they’re far less frightening than they appear. Give it a shot. Allow yourself to embrace the hurt, at least for a little while.
Mindfulness, in short, is when you put your attention on the here and now. It’s when you’re aware of your body, your immediate environment — your current state of existence. You’re not buried in the past or obsessing over the future. You’re inhabiting your present. When your mind is out of control and your misery seems unbearable, try to turn your attention to now. Feel your feet pressing into the floor, the hot water on your hands as you wash them, your hungry stomach rumbling. Live in your body instead of your mind. Even for just a few minutes at a time, mindfulness can help.
Surround yourself with inspirational stuff.
Hope is everything. It keeps us going when the darkness creeps in. But holding onto hope can be a tenuous affair when you’re really low. That’s why I believe in surrounding yourself with positive propaganda. Listen to inspirational audio recordings, read motivational books, follow happy blogs. Tune in to what’s good and empowering and optimistic. Immerse yourself in it. It’ll help drown out the background noise, I promise.
What not to do:
Stay in bed.
Bed is your enemy. I know it feels like your comfy little enclave — like your protective layer, but in this instance, it’s out to destroy you. Bed will never make you feel better. Bed can’t help you escape. Just getting out of it is a step towards happier times.
If there’s an upbeat movie (or show) that makes you happy, that’s an exception. Otherwise, avoid TV. Watching hours of TV may seem like the best way to drown you sorrows. It’s not. It WILL make you feel worse.
Distract yourself with alcohol/drugs/addiction of choice.
Mind-altering substances come in many guises, from food to booze to credit cards. In moderation, most of them are fine. In excess, none of them are fine. Getting hammered or buying a new wardrobe or bingeing on Oreos will dull the pain only temporarily. Then, it’ll come raging back stronger than ever.
Talk to the wrong person.
We all have people in our lives who love us — people who’ll support us through hardship and toil and darkness. Most of us also have people who may mean well, but who probably can’t relate to our struggles. They may be confused by depression, convinced we can “snap out of it.” You know who those people are. Don’t turn to them if you’re feeling particularly low. Choose someone empathetic, non-judgmental and understanding. That might mean a therapist.
Got any other suggestions on what to do when you’re feeling down? Tell me all about ’em in the comments. <3