Sometimes, life throws you a bit of an unpleasant curveball, and no matter what area/s of your world it impacts, if you don’t look after yourself it can really knock you for six. So what should you do when it starts to feel a little like LIFE: 1 YOU: 0?
￼Well, let me preface this by saying that I am not a professional – not by any stretch of the imagination. All I can say is that at times I’ve felt lost, confused, exhausted, sad, anxious and all of those other scary emotions, and these are some things that have worked for me. I hope they work for you too.
1. Don’t be afraid of your feelings.
This is so SO important. When something goes wrong in life, denial may seem like the easy way out. But you need to wholly embrace those feelings before you have any hope of moving past them. Dulling your senses with alcohol, food, drugs (or whatever your vice of choice may be) is not going to help you in the long term – all you’re doing is delaying the inevitable. Cry, scream into a pillow, punch a boxing bag – do whatever you need to do to let it all out!
2. Don’t forget to eat.
This is a big one, particularly when you’re feeling heartbroken. You might have lost your appetite, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need sustenance. When you’re stressed or anxious your body burns through energy at a faster rate, so it’s even more important to eat – even when you don’t feel like it.
3. Try to make good food choices.
This means avoiding overly processed food, sugar and anything else that is prolonging your ride on the rollercoaster of emotion. Green leafy vegetables and good quality proteins are your friend. That said, now is not the time to beat yourself up if you happen to make your way through a family block of chocolate or tub of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.
4. Listen to your body.
Yes, it’s important to keep yourself moving and staying busy can be your saviour, but now may not be the time to attempt your 1RM bench press (unless you’re past feeling sad and into feeling really really angry, in which case it may just be the perfect time!). Do the things that you love, see the people that make you smile and try to increase the incidental exercise in your life – go for a walk by the water, get off the bus a couple of stops earlier – your body will tell you when it’s ready for more than that.
5. Talk about it.
Didn’t get that promotion? Don’t be afraid to ask why (keep in mind that a discussion with your boss is probably not the time to implement tip #1 though). This is also the time to utililise your friends and family – they were born with ears for a reason, so don’t be afraid to borrow them.
6. Get a good night’s sleep.
You’ve got enough to deal with, don’t add sleep deprivation to the list. Without adequate rest, your body (and mind) will struggle to function properly, your emotions will run amok and everything will seem 100 times worse than it is.
7. Take some time out for you.
Yes, you need your friends to be accessible, but when you’re feeling sad a little alone time can be just what the doctor ordered at times. Take your dog for a long walk in the park, settle in for a Suits marathon or indulge yourself with some pampering at your favourite spa.
8. Remember the positives.
I know, I know, when people tell you this, it kinda makes you want to hit them. But when you’re feeling sad it really does help to remind yourself that life’s actually pretty fabulous though. Each day, write down two good things that happened. They don’t have to be huge things, it could be as simple as your favourite song coming on the radio or a call from your best friend.
9. Get outside.
When you’re feeling sad or a bit lost, hiding under the doona can seem very appealing. But someone once suggested to me that the best thing for an overactive mind is a walk first thing in the morning. It’s much harder to feel sorry for yourself when you’re outside in the fresh air, so get up and put your joggers on before you have too much time to think about it. I promise this one is really effective!
10. Try not to look too far ahead.
This may not be for everyone, but personally I find that when I’ve had a huge upheaval, looking too far into the future is terrifying. I try to take things day-by-day, focusing on the present and how I’m feeling in a particular moment, rather than on some vague and unsettling picture of what my life could turn out like.
11. Hug your dog (or cat).
Studies have shown that stroking or cuddling an animal can calm and soothe us when we’re feeling sad and stressed, reducing tension and helping to improve our mood. Don’t have an animal? There are plenty of rescue organisations around who welcome dog walkers and cat cuddlers. Enlist the help of your friend Google and you’ll find a worthy hug recipient in no time.
12. Ditch the bitterness.
Don’t blame others for your misfortune or allow resentment to enter your life. This will only make your unhappier in the long run. Most things happen for a reason, it is your choice whether to react with anger or use it as a learning experience.
13. Believe that you will be ok.
When you’re suffering from loss or in the midst of a huge change, it can be almost impossible to imagine feeling good again. Trust me though, when I say that you will. It may not be tomorrow or next week. It may not even be next month. But you will feel happiness again, I promise.
14. Ask for professional help. Sometimes life is a little too much to deal with on your own, and that’s ok – you should never be afraid to put your hand up and say ‘I’m not coping’. There are plenty of professionals out there who have been specially trained to help you feel well again, and you should utilise them!
Obviously not all of these tips are applicable to all situations, just as not all people will find solace in all tips. But my hope is that when you are feeling sad, you’ll find a little gem somewhere in the above that allows you to sit back, take a deep breath and feel a little less alone with your feelings.
Take care of yourself and embrace this new week.
p.s Please note that this list of suggestions is in no way meant to replace professional help. If you think you may be suffering from depression or anxiety, I encourage you to speak to a professional, who can help you to develop the tools you need to feel well again.
I originally published this post about feeling sad a few years ago, but have tweaked it and re-posted it in the hope it reaches new people who need it.