We all have them. Those days that suck from the moment you open your eyes. Maybe you wake remembering that you’re still fired, or still dumped, or she’s still dead, or the diagnosis is still bad.
Or, maybe you wake and everything is just as it should be, your house is still yours, your children are still healthy, and still, and still, you have this feeling of dread and despair, and now on top of feeling just generally craptastic, you also feel guilty, because really, everyone should be so lucky, and why aren’t you more grateful, and when are you ever going to figure this gratitude/mindfulness/life shit out anyway, and the guilt begins to spiral into self loathing, and… whatever.
The point is, we all have days where we open our eyes, take one look around the room or the inside of our heads and think, “No thanks. I’ll pass.”
I had one of those days yesterday. And while I don’t have some great recipe for a homemade happiness tonic, it did occur to me as I dragged my sorry ass around, that I have learned a few things from years of waiting for the medicine to kick in, or the clouds to clear.
It’s no silver bullet. There’s no money-back guarantee claiming that this day will go from ass kicking to kicking ass, but maybe something here might help just the tiniest bit and we can go to bed hoping tomorrow will be better.
1. Get Some Exercise
It’s the very least appealing thing at the moment. But I’ve found that if I force myself to get moving, really deliberately moving, all that sweat and heavy breathing pushes a little of the funk right out through my pores. A group class (especially one with good music) is great. Getting outside is great. Zumba on the lip of the Grand Canyon would no doubt cure whatever ails you. However, even some serious hula-hoop Wii will work.
2. See Some People
This is why that group class rocks. Two birds, one stone. If that’s not in the cards, I’ll try to go anywhere where I’m likely to see friendly people. I have three toddlers, including identical twins, so I’m pretty much guaranteed a little happy interaction if I just drag the crew to Target. I can’t make it in from the parking lot without someone (usually a grandmother) stopping at the cart to talk to my girls, and by extension, me. If I’m without the girls, I’ll try Ugly Muggs, our neighborhood coffee shop, where I’ve got a 60% chance of seeing someone I know. Sometimes I’ll even head down to my kid’s school for lunch, after all, on top of the major mommy points I get for showing up, I also get to talk to the receptionist, the teachers, Jackie, the lunch lady, and anyone else that crosses my path.
It’s very easy for me to isolate when I’m feeling wretched and it’s a vicious cycle. I may not want to see anyone, but being by myself leaves me wandering the dark neighborhoods of my mind unescorted, and that’s a dangerous proposition.
3. Resist the Urge…
to drink at lunch, or start in on the Easter candy, or binge on hours of cable TV, or blow off work in favor of surfing Facebook, or WHATEVER it is that is your own personal path to perdition. You know, that thing that you do to comfort yourself, that instead leaves you feeling even worse – Don’t.Do.It. It will not work. Trust me on this.
4. Eliminate the Unnecessary
This one is tricky. You’ve got to be careful that you aren’t just avoiding the important – which is a sure way to stretch a bad day into a bad week. But whatever there is in your daily round that you do because you just always do it – ask yourself if it has to get done today. Order pizza for dinner, or eat leftovers. Write the blog post on Tuesday instead of Monday (ahem…). Pick up the dry-cleaning tomorrow. If it’s not going to make life harder later, but will make life easier now – skip it.
5. Consider What Makes You Feel Good, What Makes You Feel Bad, What Makes You Feel Right, and Tackle One Thing in Each Category
I got this idea from Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project. It’s a fantastic book about the year she spent pursuing happiness. Essentially, her premise is that happiness is achieved by doing things that make us feel good, eliminating things that make us feel bad, and pursuing those things that make us feel like our lives are moving in the right direction.
One of my greatest joys is reading. It feels really good to wrap myself up in well chosen words. So, yesterday, when I would have been writing a blog post, instead I sat myself down with Gary Paulson’s Hatchet (a great young adult novel) and read it cover to cover during my little girls’ nap. Then I got up, opened and paid all the bills that have been piling up on my front table. Paying bills does not make me feel good. However, staring at all those bills makes me feel bad (really, really bad) so I tackled them. Finally, after everyone was in bed, my husband included, I tucked myself into my favorite chair and decided to write this post. Because writing is what makes me feel right.
When the day was over, it still didn’t rank as the best day in the history of ever. But it was a far cry from the “Oh, hell no” day where it began. After all, my muscles were Zumba-tired, my bills were paid, a good book had been devoured, I had a plan for tomorrow, and I was still, amazingly, stone cold sober. So, while it may not have been a total win, it definitely qualified as cutting my losses. And sometimes, especially on a bad day, those things are one and the same.