Celebrate Those Down and Depressed Days!
We all have them, don't we? Those days when we wake up, wishing we didn't have to get out of bed and face the day?
Well I most certainly do! When I tell my clients I sometimes get depressed, they tend to look at me in a surprised way. As I explain to them, just because I do my best to help other people overcome their issues and move forward, it doesn't mean that I'm always in a state of peace, love and joy myself.
Today is just one of those days. It's Monday and it's pouring with rain outside. The surrounding Somerset countryside, whilst sometimes stunningly beautiful, is today grey and windswept and, in my present state of mind, seems desolate. I am definitely feeling thoroughly depressed!
Using unhealthy distraction for comfort
I most certainly didn't want to get up this morning, and I'm having difficulty in getting down to work, or indeed, doing anything at all. I'm aware that it would be easy to distract myself in some apparently harmless way, but also aware that, by doing so, I am sending a message to my subconscious mind that distraction is the best form of comfort. If I continue to distract myself every time I'm feeling depressed, my subconscious will continue to store that information and it will eventually become a belief system, and, therefore, MUCH harder to stop doing.
Let's just stop and think about the kinds of distractions I'm talking about.
Avoidance of uncomfortable feelings
In my case, if I lived in or close to a larger town, I might be tempted to go shopping, possibly spending money on clothes or other items I don't really need. Whilst there, I might also decide to go into a nice, warm, bustling coffee shop and drink coffee and eat cake. On my return, I would then feel guilty about spending too much money on clothes I don't really need, and eating sugar-laden foods. I might feel, temporarily, better, but I wouldn't have resolved the underlying cause of my state of depression, and so it would almost certainly return sometime soon.
We all have different ways of distracting ourselves away from uncomfortable feelings (those same feelings that can make us feel down-and-depressed for just a day or so, or sometimes for much longer). Some people drink too much alcohol, some eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods. For some, gambling is the first port of call, and for others it will be to light up another cigarette. Other forms of distraction can be surfing the internet, playing computer games or doing some heavy-duty housework.
When something in your life isn't working
However long it lasts, depression is a way of telling us that something in our life IS NOT WORKING and needs to be fixed. Distracting yourself away from the feelings never works for very long, but neither does beating yourself up about it, either!
If you're having one of ‘those days', then take the time to sit down and think about why you're feeling that way. Be completely honest with yourself. How are you really feeling? Anxious, sad, lonely? What is going on in your life that isn't working, or what needs to be changed? This is the first part of the process, and people often find it the most challenging, but stick with it and you'll be surprised at what comes up.
Developing a plan of action
Once you've identified the feeling and at least gained some insight into why you're feeling that way, begin to develop a plan of action. This will start to make you feel better! If you're having problems in doing this, then you might want to ring someone you can trust, and ask them to help you. Emphasise that you do not want sympathy (which will just keep you wallowing in the same state) but you want constructive help and advice. Between you, there's a good chance you'll come up with some good ideas.
Before you start, though, think about doing something simple and pleasant that might make you feel better and get you going (this isn't distraction, by the way.) If it's a dark and gloomy day, you could turn on some lights, preferably small twinkly lamps. If it's sunny outside, get out there, even if just for a few minutes and look around you. Take some long, deep breaths and fill your lungs with oxygen. That in itself will almost certainly make you feel a little better. A close friend swears by music. When she's feeling down, she starts by puts on her favourite music at full volume and dances round her kitchen.
Stepping outside your comfort zone
The next - and very important - stage is to take one small step in the direction of proceeding with your new plan. This can be challenging as it will almost certainly require you to step out of your comfort zone, but once you've gone through it, you'll find that new possibilities begin to present themselves, and with every step you take, you'll find yourself feeling lighter, as if the sun has come out in your mind, replacing the heavy grey clouds that were there earlier.
Reframe challenges as opportunities
I've come to understand that when we're feeling down, it's actually an opportunity being presented to us to make some important changes in our life.
So, next time you're having one of ‘those days', don't distract yourself away from the feelings, and don't feel sorry for yourself. Instead, celebrate feeling that way and know that once the clouds lift, you're going to feel so much better. There are exciting possibilities and opportunities out there, waiting for you, so go for it!
And me? Well, I'm already feeling very much better. When I delved into my own stuff, I realised I was just plain bored and my mind was lacking in stimulation. Writing this article has helped me a lot, and I've also just had a long conversation with someone I'm mentoring, which has cheered me up a lot because I was surprised to find how readily I could answer his questions and come up with suggestions.
Being open to the bigger picture
However, I'm open to being aware of the ‘bigger picture' and recognise that, over the next few days, something will emerge that will help me understand what I need to change in the longer-term so I don't keep repeating this pattern.
Meanwhile, it's still raining but I am no longer seeing a desolate landscape through the window, so I'm off for a wet and windy walk with my dog to blow away any remaining cobwebs. I'm also congratulating myself for not having distracted myself by shopping and eating sugar-laden foods. Big pat on the back!
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