As much as we would all like to imagine a perfect life is possible, even the rich and famous have bad days. Certain life events happen to us all; not getting that job, the loss of a loved one or spilling sauce on your new trousers. Behind the flawless façade of social media, the ‘beautiful people’ still get spots on date night or lose their car keys. No one can escape the curse of being human. What we can do, however, is learn how to better manage the bad things, so, we don’t get completely thrown off when something bad happens. We can become competent surfers (if you like) and learn how to ‘ride the waves’ of life.
Rule no.1 – Be kind to yourself
To better manage bad things that happen in life, you must first be kind to yourself. People often think uncomfortable feelings are a bad thing. Some people feel embarrassed, or like they have failed in some way. Some people worry about when the uncomfortable feelings will go away; IF they will go away or if they are going to have a repeat of something uncomfortable which happened in the past. One of the biggest barriers to being able to manage bad things, is beating yourself up over having uncomfortable feelings. It’s like expecting to stay on your surf-board the entire time you’re in the sea. Embarrassment, shame or fear stop so many people from doing the things they need to do to look after themselves and feel better. They stop many people from asking for help, when they desperately need it. It is important to be kind to yourself; acknowledge uncomfortable feelings as a part of life. Stop; have a break, maybe tell your friends you’re having a bad day, and think about what to do next.
Rule no.2 – Short-term versus long-term ways of coping
The most common way to manage uncomfortable feelings is to try and make them go away as quickly as possible. Many people try and do this by using strategies which often work in the short-term but have negative consequences over a longer period of time. These short-term coping strategies can be anything from drugs or alcohol, to shopping or sex. Now, a short-term strategy is fine every once in a while; it’s okay to go for a drink after work if you’ve had a busy day, but if you are managing some really heavy stuff, drinking to cope can become problematic over a period of time. You may also find that the coping strategy only works for a short period of time, and the uncomfortable feelings come back 10-fold not long after. To manage ongoing heavy feelings, or even as a way of making it easier to get back on the surf-board on a day-to-day basis, it is essential to practise self-care.
Rule no.3 – Practise self-care
Self-care involves doing whatever you need to do to look after yourself. This is important to practise daily to maintain good mental health. Self-care becomes even more important, however, if you are experiencing uncomfortable feelings. On a regular basis, self-care may include eating nourishing food, getting enough exercise, rest and spending time with friends and family. When you are feeling low, it is important to do the things which help you to feel calm and relaxed (but aren’t harmful). This is likely be different for different people but may involve taking a break from a situation or talking to someone you trust. You may feel better by having a ‘duvet day’ and watching your favourite film, going for a run or doing something creative. Many musicians have written their best music when feeling low and suffering from heartbreak. It is important to do whatever you need to do to help you to feel better and boost yourself back onto that surf-board.
Rule no.4 – Know when to ask for help
Unfortunately, hiding under the duvet and watching Harry Potter may only get you so far. We all have responsibilities that we need to adhere to. If you start to find that you are having more down days than not, you’re struggling to cope with your everyday life or perhaps you can’t even put your finger on why you feel down anymore (you just do); it may be time to ask for help. Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of and is likely to make you feel better through the sheer act of doing it. Many people say that they feel a relief when they realise they are not alone and can begin to have hope for the future.
Signs it may be time to ask for help
- You don’t enjoy things the way you used to.
- You feel overwhelmed by worry or negative thoughts.
- You’ve changed your habits because of worry or negative thoughts e.g. you’re not going leaving the house very often, you’re having difficulty at work, or you are using regular short-term coping strategies
- You’ve lost all hope for the future.
- You’re having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
- You’re having trouble eating or eating too much.
- You’ve had thoughts of harming yourself or ending your life.
What to do
If you are experiencing any of these signs or noticing them in someone else, there are several ways you can ask for help. It may be helpful to talk to a friend or family member who you trust to explore ways they can support you. There are also a number of support lines such as The Samaritans (numbers differ dependant on area) which can provide trained advice if you’re in a crisis. Or you can book in for a consultation with your GP. It’s okay, to not be okay. Ride the waves by being kind to yourself and practising self-care, but if you’re struggling to get back on the surfboard, don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand.
Please call us at Midland Health if you need help or just a friendly person at the end of the phone 0121 769 0999. Alternatively email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get you in with one experienced, friendly GPs who are very good at listening and coming up a shared treatment plan to help you get better and back on track.