Part 1: Looking after your body

We all have bad days. And sometimes we have REALLY bad days.

  • What do you do when you have one of those days?
  • Do you keep busy? Do you try and fight the feelings?
  • Do you try and think your way out of those feelings?
  • Do you get stuck with the feelings?

I have tried all of the above but my usual way of dealing with the really darks days is to feel super-anxious about them and to overthink, ruminate and overanalyse everything in the hope that I will solve the puzzle and finally feel perfectly happy. It always ends in emotional distress. It never works.

Once I realised this I had to learn to pay more attention to my patterns and cycles. How does it start and what do I do? What triggers me and what do I do to keep it going (and oh my life, can I keep it going!)?

It’s difficult to try to stop thinking when it feels like your thoughts are sirens in your head calling out to you to get entangled in them. Some would say it’s very much like an addiction. So how do you resist this evil temptation?

For matters of the mind, defusion usually works best. Defusion describes the process of noticing when your thoughts try to get you hooked into them and to refocus your attention away from your thoughts. Teach yourself to notice what your mind is doing in a detached way. Name your feelings. Label your thoughts. Normalise your experience. Do all humans experience what you are experience at one time or another in their life? Most do? Yes, then that is normal because you are a human too. And because you experience those thoughts, feelings and sensations, it also means that you are alive. Always good news!

Looking After Your Body

From a practical and physiological perspective check the following 9 things:

Did you …

1. … drink any water? If not, do so now.
Being dehydrated not only exhausts our body, it also negatively influences our mood, our ability to think clearly and our energy levels. So pay attention to how much water you drink every day because you might not drink enough.

2. … eat something nutritious?
Avoid snacking on carbs and treat your body to something healthy, ideally fresh fruit or something with proteins like nuts. Hunger or junk food rarely helps you get through a difficult day. Research also shows that mental health issues increase the poorer your diet is.

3. … shower and tended to your personal hygiene in other ways?
It’s important to maintain your personal hygiene and to look after yourself. You might not feel like doing it, but you’ll almost certainly feel better afterwards. Having a warm bath can also feel very calming. Research shows that physical warmth is closely related to mental warmth. It’s therefore likely that when we drink a hot cup of tea or have a hot bath we also warm ourselves up emotionally.

4. … go outside for a walk?
Getting some fresh air helps us to get out of or little hole. Be mindful and pay attention to your surroundings.

5. … listen to your favourite happy song today?
It’s VERY difficult to stay sad when you are listening (or even better dancing!) to an upbeat, happy song!

6. … stretch?
We are often unaware of how tense we can get so stretching is a great way to relieve some of your bodily tensions. Every time you notice discomfort, do a body scan and check for tension. Then stretch to release any tension.

7. … get in contact with another human being?
We are social beings and social interactions are essential to our well-being. Being connected to others keeps us engaged in life and gives it meaning and purpose. Studies have shown that stress levels are lower when working with others and that experiencing a sense of belonging reduces rates of depression, alcoholism and suicide.

8. … have a hug recently?
Physical contact releases oxytocin, which has a calming effect on us. Hugs alleviate stress reactions and anxiety responses because cortisol levels decrease. Feelings of attachment, connection and intimacy are elevated so hugging has huge positive effects on our mental and physical health.

9. … had enough sleep?
Lack of sleep can seriously tamper with your cognitions and exacerbate how you are feeling so try and have a nap to catch up on some sleep if you have been struggling to get your needed rest.