Some days I wake up ready to run. I don’t know where I’m running to or what I’m running from but fear tells me I have to get out of here. Things have to get different NOW. Other days I’m slogging through molasses and can’t seem to find any oomph. I like to eat and shop at those feelings but the long-term effects of those avoidance tactics don’t really help with the gloom so I thought I’d share a few things that have worked for me.
Step One: Start the day with prayer and meditation. For years I complicated meditation by focusing on results that I expected but didn’t receive. I wanted enlightenment now with no effort, growth or discipline. (Fun fact: I expect the same kind of results with two days of healthy eating as well.) Now, I just take some time to be still and breathe. Sometimes I will attempt to focus my thoughts on a single idea and some days I will attempt to think of nothing, but ultimately the being still and breathing is the most important part. God meets me in places where he doesn’t have to chase me.
Focus on One Thing at a Time: Breaking tasks down into single steps helps me keep my perspective. When ladies reach out to me and they are struggling, I always make the same suggestion; just wash your hair. Don’t worry about drying it or styling it or whether or not you’re going to have to face people today. Just get yourself some clean hair and then call me and we’ll see where you are. Once that first step is accomplished, it’s much easier to do the next thing. Lists are very helpful provided I only write a few things on the list at a time.
Serve Others: Sometimes I feel stuck because I have reduced the universe to this tiny confused space between my ears. I get hyper-focused on what I am thinking and feeling and lose sight of the bigger picture. Simple acts of service like calling to see how someone else is doing, or organizing something in the house that will make life easier for the family, or planning something fun with as a surprise for a friend (without expectations about how they are supposed to respond)–these acts often derail my gloomy outlook.
Make & Keep Plans: Look I know this one is hard. Some of us struggle with “people-ing” on good days but when the world is too small and the outlook seems crummy, we need some fresh air and some new information. Choose a friend and make a plan. Start with coffee or lunch. Ask lots of questions. Listen. Connect. There’s love all over the place, we just need to open up a little and let some in. If you’re in a 12 step program, meet a friend at a meeting! Deliver the body, the brain will follow.
Do Something Physical or Creative: It’s a fact that physical exercise gives your brain and your emotions a boost and I’ve found that drawing, painting and writing help with that as well. Bonus points if you work out with a friend or take a crafting class as it combines two tools!
Get Outside Help: Clinical anxiety and depression can be serious illnesses with grave consequences. If the symptoms hang on for more than a couple of days, you should talk to someone and seek professional help. When you have a sprain, ice and elevation are appropriate. When you have a broken leg, you need a doctor. A rough day can be treated with these simple strategies but anxiety and depression that hang on for more than a couple of days will require a more skilled approach.