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Some days are just hard, no way around it. We all have those days where we are just feeling sad. No particular rhyme or reason. And we have to learn that it is ok to not be ok. It’s one of the hard parts about life and being human. The human condition, you could say.
The day your car breaks down and you have no idea how you’re going to pay for another one. Or when you get bad news from the doctor; you have a fight with your spouse and you’re not sure your marriage is going to make it… that’s having a really bad day.
Some days are just dark..
Sometimes days are dark, without the obvious triggers. Some days are like swimming through mud but when you look around, there’s only sunshine and you wonder why in the world you’re feeling as down, unsettled, and anxious as you do. These days are a unique burden.
What do you do when there’s not a situation to fix? Not a person to stand up to, a grief to outlast, or a fear to face? Just a feeling, void of context, hanging over you clouding what “should” be a sunny day. That, too, is the human condition. That, too, is having a dark day.
I have go-to coping skills that I use on a regular basis. Things like writing, taking a bath, breathwork, progressive muscle relaxation, etc…but some days nothing seems to work. Some days skills just seem to fall flat. Life has very dark parts, shadows and pains.
Life is not always sunshine.
I think sometimes we have this unrealistic idea that life is sunshine and if we experience dark parts, we’re doing something wrong. At least, I know I do. Sometimes I think the goal is to never experience anxiety. However, my logical self takes over and reminds me that I’m setting myself up with that kind of magical thinking.
Sometimes I think I should only be sad if there is an obvious reason. No one died? Ok, sad doesn’t make sense so stop it. Really healthy, I know. But sometimes it’s just hard to accept that it’s ok not to be ok.
Weathering the Monsters
All of this but I’m coming to the realization that sometimes the dark parts of life are filled with obvious monsters–death, heartbreak, rejection, loss… And sometimes the dark parts are shifting shadows without a tangible glimpse of exactly which monster we’re dealing with.
These monsters, the covert, ninja like ambiguous ones, come with a lot of shame and self judgement, running from them and trying to talk ourselves out of their presence. It can be difficult to remember, we all have these bad days and it’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to be feeling down. We all have those days.
The 9 Tips for Weathering the Dark Days
It’s these monsters that I’ve struggled more with lately. I haven’t beaten them with the usual weapons ie coping skills. These, I don’t exactly fight at all. These I weather. I’m in no way perfect at this yet, but here’s what I’m discovering…
No More Critical Self Talk
Axe all critical self talk. You’re already struggling, why would you add on more suffering? I can’t imagine kicking a friend when she’s down. “Of course you’re sad right now, you really suck and no one likes you. You should be better than this” Yeah, wouldn’t do that. Don’t do it to yourself either. It will only make your pain that much more intense.
Be a Friend to Yourself
On a similar note, don’t obsess over all the bad, terrible, scary, shame inducing, embarrassing, frustrating things you’ve experienced since you peed in the trashcan when you were three (don’t judge me). Again, if a friend is struggling, are you going to remind her of all the other stuff she should also be upset about?
You’re Not a Fortune Teller
No future telling either. “This is never going to end. My whole day is ruined and probably the rest of the week too.” That’s like a friend telling you that her boss was a jerk at lunch and you telling her “Yep, your whole day is ruined and probably the rest of the week to.” That would obviously make her feel worse….Yep. You guessed it. It will make YOU feel worse too.
Keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel, even when you can’t see it. It’s amazing the things that we can overcome and get ourselves through when we have hope and a strong will to make it. Keep your eyes up.
Connect with those you love. Connection may not “fix” the pain but it helps us weather the storm. It helps us make it through. We may still struggle, and some days we WILL still struggle, however, connection (real connection, not email, text, social media) is a like a life preserver. You may still be struggling with the waves, but connection will help keep you from drowning.
Be Accepting of Yourself
Accept where you are and what you are experiencing. It’s totally counterintuitive, but stop fighting. Stop telling yourself you should feel better, stop trying to force yourself to feel better. Stop giving yourself the message that this kind of ninja monster is unacceptable or not allowed.
Know that it is ok that you are feeling down. Sometimes what we fight only magnifies the longer and harder we fight it.
Self Acceptance Does Not Mean Self Pity
Accepting your experience doesn’t mean sulking in it or staying in it unnecessarily or even pitying yourself for the way you feel. Acceptance is like “this hurts” or “It is what it is” or even “it’s ok not to be ok.”
Lately I’ve been using “through it all, it is well” because I know that even when it doesn’t feel like it’s ok not to be ok, it actually is. Even when it hurts, I will make it through the storm. That accepting reminder eases the struggle while I wait for the storm to pass.
Reconnect with Inspiration
2020 has been an especially difficult year–mental health on top of pandemic, limited social support and access to getting needs met, concern over health and loved ones, and too much time has been a nasty combination. Add in the political division and other 2020 events and it’s no wonder we’re all struggling.
I found myself overwhelmed by it all and feeling like the world was just a nasty place (which only made me feel worse). My husband wanted to watch the Mr. Rogers movie and I kind of went along with it, unenthusiastically.
What I discovered was that reconnecting to inspiration and kindness in the world was exactly what I needed. Some time when things are feeling rotten and the world feels out of control, we need a reminder that good is still in the world. Reconnect with inspiration and those things that remind you that hope is not lost.
Be careful with Social Media
When I’m struggling, I often try to distract myself with social media. But I’ve noticed that when I do this, I end up feeling more discontented and anxious. Whether it’s because I’ve seen someone being particularly unkind or feeling “less than” from all the amazing things that other people have or are doing, it can leave you feeling empty. Especially on days that are already hard.
Replace some of that social scrolling with something more fulfilling like talking to a friend directly, reconnecting with something inspirational, or even just looking for something funny that you can laugh at. And maybe go through and weed out some of the people or posts that tend to be triggering–cultivate a feed that’s supportive and uplifting rather than one that has triggers around every corner.
Take a break from News
Whether you specifically watch the news, read it online, or get it from social media, when things are already bad, surrounding yourself with more suffering, more pain, more injustice, etc…is only going to make it worse.
Humans aren’t really built for the amount of suffering we’re exposed to on a daily basis now that we have news on a global scale. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ever expose yourself to news. Just no on days that you’re already at risk for spiraling. Take a break from heaping more on yourself.
Live Your Life
Don’t let the dark days keep you from living. This one is hard sometimes. We struggle not to let life come to a standstill when we struggle. It’s hard not to give in to the idea of locking yourself in your room and doing nothing. But that’s exactly what the monster wants you to do.
However, doing this sacrifices the connections that you need to weather the storm and it’s a sinkhole that will be harder to get yourself out of. You may not feel like living life but DO. IT. ANYWAY. It keeps the monster from winning.
Be Brave: Reach Out for Support
Life has its dark days and it has its joys and beauty too. At any given time in our life, we may find ourselves in a peak or a valley because that’s life, I suppose. These tips are meant for the ups and downs of life.
If life is consistently down for you and nothing you’re doing is working, it’s time for some extra support like a trained therapist or doctor. People often think that reaching out is shameful, but it isn’t. It’s courageous. So be brave and do what you need to do to support you. There are even options that let you text and video chat a therapist. Try a 14 day free trial from Betterhelp to get you started.
I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered to weather dark days and monsters. Leave a comment!