It seems that September is a month many people seem to prioritize self-care. Coincidentally, I had actually started to draft this post in late August when I was coming out of a particularly dark mental state. I don’t really know how to describe it. Breakdown seems a bit strong and panic attack doesn’t sound right either. I’ve just been calling it a mental rough patch (or a case of the mean reds).
Let me try to describe it. You know that feeling where you find yourself getting angry at someone who maybe doesn’t truly deserve it and you know that but you’re still just itching to lash out. And you can recognize you’re being entirely irrational but don’t know how to cope or drop it. And then this negativity just kind of turns inward and you find yourself unable to think about anything but every single fault with yourself.
Oh, you don’t know what I mean? OK, so but maybe you’ve felt extreme self-loathing that sticks in your mind and make you want to curl up in a hole and never come out? I’d say this happens to me on average around 2–3 times a year. (If there’s a word for this cycle/state, let me know!)
I feel like there are a lot of articles out there about things you can do for self-care. But every person is different, so I thought I’d share the things that gradually help me navigate my own despair and remember how to feel more like myself again.
✎ 1. Have a good cry. Let it all out. Cry until you can’t cry anymore. I promise, you’ll eventually feel better or at least in a place where you can begin to heal. (ALEXA PLAY ARIANA GRANDE’S “NO TEARS LEFT TO CRY.”)
✎ 2. Take a nap. If you’re feeling particularly inconsolable, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is just flip the switch and take a nap. Call in sick to work. Take a mental health day. If you’re finding it difficult to sleep and keep your brain from spiralling, maybe listen to some of your favorite music to be sad to. Bathe in the catharsis of another’s art.
Power ballads can be great. Listen to some classic Noah and the Whale or Smashing Pumpkins or Fleetwood Mac.
✎✎✎ AFTERWARDS, THINK ABOUT IT ✎ ✎ ✎
Think about what’s making you sad or angry. Maybe vent in a journal or online diary before you try talking to someone (if you think talking to someone is a good option). Try to think about what the real issue is, the true reason why you might be upset. Maybe something has been building up for a while subconsciously.
However it happens, you need to make peace with the fact that you cannot control others, you can only control yourself. You might be able to tell someone why they are bothering you, but you can’t reasonably expect them to change. You have to realize that you are in control of how you let others affect you.
✎ 3. Take a hot bath. Light a candle, have a water bottle handy, bring a book or your laptop (for watching Netflix, not scrolling through social media). The hot water will make your muscles feel great. You can sweat out the negativity.
Don’t think of it necessarily as a luxury. Think of it as a chore, something that must be done. I think it’s good to do every once in a while, even if you don’t like taking hot baths. It forces you to be alone with yourself. If you don’t have a bath tub, first let me say I’m sorry. Alternatively, you can take a long hot shower.
✎ 4. Clean up your room. Do you have a corner where everything seems to end up? It’s amazing what tackling a small task can do for your mental health. Celebrate the small things you can do to make your immediate living environment more clean and clutter free.
✎ 5. Dress up to go nowhere. How do you expect to feel better about yourself on the inside if you’re not taking care of yourself on the outside? I think a lot of people think that we dress up entirely for other people, but I think we dress up so that other people can see us as we want to be seen. For normal people, it’s not about being the best dressed or most attractive. It’s about showing that we want to be treated with respect.
When you’re not feeling great, think of dressing up as a form of “faking it until you make it.” Even if you’re not happy right now, you got to treat yourself with respect. It’s easier to be happy when you feel clean and are dressed up.
✎ 6. Cook your favorite meal. Feel productive by fueling your body with something of your own creation. Preferably something that won’t make you feel gross afterward. I know it can be appealing to make yourself a carb-heavy meal and to wallow while you grieve whatever it is that is causing you grief, but feeling gross afterward can make things worse. Especially, if you already have an unhealthy relationship with your body.
I love making a satisfying strawberry salad (fat-free feta, chopped walnuts, & strawberries over lettuce /spinach mix with some raspberry vinaigrette) or chewy vegan oatmeal cookies [Liv B’s Recipe Video].
On the topic of food, you might feel better if you change your diet. Even if you don’t think you have a problem with what you eat, integrating new recipes into your diet might rejuvenate how you’re feeling.
✎ 7. Assess what can stay and what must go. It might be time to clear out all the clutter taking up space in your life, whether that be mental or physical. Clean out your desk. Get rid of those clothes you never wear. Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you really need that orientation packet from that job five years ago? Do you really think you’ll still like that blouse after you’ve lost 20 pounds?
Also think about the people in your life. Is there anyone who causes you more unhappiness than joy? Think about ways to distance yourself from their negativity. Even if it’s hard to cut off certain people completely, you can find ways to gradually minimize your time with them. Maybe a break is all you need to heal. You don’t need to burn your bridges completely.
☙ ❧ END NOTE ❧ ☙
If you are feeling despair and none of my tips seem to work, you might want to consider seeking professional help. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Choose self-care over self-harm. I’ve never been truly suicidal, but a couple of weeks ago when I was at my lowest I did find myself very curious about the resources available at the suicide prevention website.
I found it really cathartic to read other people’s stories and learn about how they came back from the brink. Maybe it’s because I’m a reader, but sometimes I find easier to care more about other people’s stories of pain than it is to sit in my own. I feel selfish for feeling any pain at all when others suffer far worse than I do.