shoulders. And when a down day turns into two or three or four down days, I begin to fear that I’ve started on a slide backwards into the hell hole of despondency from which I worked so hard to escape.
I’ve recently been going through such a period and so my therapist challenged me to come up with suggestions I would make to someone else if they were facing this. We’re often advised to practice what we preach; it seems I’m being asked to preach what I should be practicing. Hmmm.
So here goes: five things to consider when you feel like you’re going under.
1.) Look at how far you’ve come. It’s so easy to begin to take things for granted – in all aspects of our lives. We learn to crawl before we learn to walk. Once we've learned to walk (think figuratively here), we forget that previously we could only crawl. A fluctuation in our moods may not seem so scary if we can look back to where we used to be and note the progress we have made.
2.) You’re not back to “square one.” When we put a lot of work into accomplishing something, we are gaining more than just the immediate consequences of our efforts. We learn skills along the way that will make future efforts easier. If we trip a time or two, it doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten how to walk. We’ve gained the wherewithal to pick ourselves back up and keep going.
3.) Are you walking the walk? (I’m not intentionally trying to beat an analogy to death here... I’m just “walking” us through these points.) Are you using the tools you’ve been given to keep yourself stable? I’m talking about the “basics” that I've been outlining in previous posts. Are you getting enough sleep, eating properly, taking prescribed medications, connecting with other people... all these practices factor into how we feel mentally and emotionally, and it’s easy to let them slide.
4.) What are you thinking? When I begin slipping into a funk, it feels like it’s something that is happening to me, rather than something I have any control over. But my feelings are highly dependent on my thinking and while I may have limited control over which thoughts pop into my mind, I do have control over what I do with those thoughts. I need to monitor for negative messages I am allowing to seep in and challenge those ideas. It requires constant vigilance.
5.) Be patient with yourself. Like most things in life, mental health is a journey, not a destination. I’m not going to wake up one day and be miraculously “healed.” Our lives are in constant flux and there are going to be some days that are more challenging than others. It helps if we can go with the flow rather than fight the tide.
If we can put our low moods into perspective, we will realize that we’re not merely under the influence of a gravity that – once the pull begins – is destined to drag us down to utter desolation and depression. There are things we can do to circumvent our worst case scenarios.
So… after considering all these items, do I feel better? Maybe a little. What I know for a fact is that I have to keep trying.
Now it’s time to practice what I preach.