Author: Ruth A
Since being diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2018, I’ve come a long way. Through a combination of counselling and medication, I am feeling much better.
There are, however, still plenty of days that trip me up. My brain feels clouded, and I can’t think straight. The familiar, but unwelcome, voice of my mental illness creeps in to tear me apart.
There are a few strategies I’ve found to make these days bearable.
Accept it, for exactly what it is. A bad DAY. It doesn’t have to become a bad week, month or year. Everyone has bad days. Don’t let it become something bigger than it is. Look at it and say, “okay, you can have this one, but tomorrow is mine.”
I’ve found resistance to be rather futile when it comes to bad mental health days. Recognising it’s just one day helps to keep it in perspective.
Identify at least one good thing
You know that phrase “everyday may not be good, but there’s something good in everyday”? Well, it’s true. Some days, you just have to look a little harder than others.
One of the habits I developed during my time at counselling was writing down one “happy thing” from the day. It can be ANYTHING. Seeing an old couple holding hands. Fluffy clouds. Birds singing. Chocolate biscuits.
Make a note of it, if you think it would be helpful. I like to do this because it separates it from the rest of the jumble in my brain. It’s there in front of me and easy to identify.
Be kind to yourself
You are human. It’s okay to have a bad day. Even the happiest people are not immune to them!
Squeeze some self care into your day somewhere. Think of something you could do that you enjoy and do it at the first opportunity. Sing along to some cheesy pop in the shower. Watch funny videos on your lunch break. Read your favourite book when you’re at home. Have a nap. Just show yourself a little kindness.
Don’t believe everything you think
Your mental illness is going to swoop in when you’re vulnerable. It’s going to latch on to any insecurity and be as unpleasant as possible.
Remember, whatever poison it spouts is not the truth. It takes practice to do this but learn to stop it in its tracks. I have some affirmation cards in my desk so that I have quick access to something that helps me.
You are good enough. You are capable. There are better days ahead.
Go for a brisk walk
Exercise has plenty of benefits for mental health, but the last thing anyone wants to do on a bad day is head to the gym or run around the park.
A quick walk is sometimes all I need to blast the negative thoughts away. There’s much more to see outside than there is in my flat. All of those distractions give me something else to focus my attention on. Though it’s hard to resist hiding in bed, the fact I know it will help is usually enough to get me out there. It may not work for you, but it’s worth a try!
(Psst, if you don’t feel up to it, then don’t feel guilty! Sometimes, a date with your duvet and Netflix is all that will do the trick.)
Talk to someone
I used to do my best to muddle through bad days and not let on I was struggling. I’m slowly learning to be more open. If my boyfriend asks me how I am, I’ll say “I’m having a bad day today.” Sometimes, we go into it more. Other days, there’s not a lot to say, because I can’t identify a reason.
A lot of us feel awkward about not giving the automatic “I’m fine” response when asked how we are. The truth is, it’s not healthy to keep it bottled up. If you’re feeling down, it’s okay to tell someone.
On my very worst mental health days, I spend the majority of the time on the verge of tears. I do my best to fight it, which usually only results in a headache.
Crying is a good and perfectly healthy release of emotion. If you feel the urge to do it, don’t suppress it. Let it out! Otherwise, you’ll end up crying when you discover there are no teabags left in the jar. Yes, I’ve done that.
Bad days are going to come, but guess what? They’re going to go, too! Sometimes, it’s a case of utilising every trick in the book to scrape through the 24 hours in front of you. And that’s what you must do. You have come through bad days before, and you have the strength to do it again. I promise.