If you would like to download these tips as a PDF document to look back at later, you can do so here: Self Care for Bad Days
Recently I’ve had a few bad days. Thankfully, I’ve had a bit more space to notice these things and to take care of myself. Previously, I would spend bad days relentlessly panicking about not being at work and generally making myself feel a whole lot worse. Whilst there is still, of course, a rumbling sense of guilt within my core, I’m a little better placed to acknowledge whatever is going on.
The overwhelming guilt can be replaced in some part by a little self care. I know that self care is something that sounds incredibly easy – just get up and wash your face! – but in reality is far from it. There are a few things that make me feel better, so I try to do them. Sometimes, though, it’s just about not doing anything that makes me feel worse.
I know, I sound like your mother. Well, I am, so listen to me. If your hydration levels aren’t tip top, well hey, there’s no time like the present to bump them up. This could be personal for me, but I drink a lot of water and when I don’t I tend to feel like crap. If I’m having a bad day I don’t want to look after myself. I don’t want to get out of bed, and filling my water bottle and drinking it just seems like too much. Ignoring my hydration needs will result in a headache, making me more exhausted and making me feel worse… it’s a long, boring cycle that can be avoided by forcing myself to drink more water.
Overwhelmed and tired? Have a nap
If you’ve ever met or encountered me online, you’ll probably know that I am somewhat of a sleeper. On a bad day, if I’m really struggling to cope, sometimes I just have to go back to bed and sleep it off a bit. It seems like a cop-out, as though I’m just escaping my emotions, but for an hour or so I really don’t see what’s wrong with that. Often, I’ll wake up and I will feel just that little bit better. Sleep resets me, maybe it allows my brain to process some of what I’m feeling whilst allowing me to not actually deal with it properly. I’m not saying it’s a fail safe solution, but it works in the short term. However, despite my great love for napping and beds, I’ll also say…
Don’t stay in bed all day
Last week, I had a couple of fairly shit days. One day I stayed in bed until the afternoon. I got up and had breakfast (took it back to bed), I had a nap, I think I watched a film or something. The blind wasn’t even open and I didn’t get dressed. Later in the afternoon, and not just because the TV signal in the bedroom is weak and I wanted to watch Tenable, I got up and sat my miserable arse on the sofa. It helped. The room was light, I was (sort of) dressed. I felt a bit more human. I love my bed, but I’m glad I’ve started to realise that spending all day and night there probably isn’t the best move for me.
Dressing in comfy clothes
On another recent bad day (no, YOU’RE reducing your medicine), I was quite content that I was going to remain in bed. Instead I got up, got ‘dressed’ in a loose sense of the word, and sat up. Getting dressed made me feel a bit more human, and it’d be less embarrassing if the fire alarm went off. By ‘dressed’, of course, I do mean that I put on something approaching but not quite a bra, some sweat pants, and a t shirt. Day pyjamas, as I like to call them. Just having these clothes on makes a difference. I’m not as tempted to lie around all day or nap more than once. I wear similarly sexy outfits when I’m ‘working’, so it makes me feel as though I’m less of a lumpy failure, and simply taking a break from my incredibly glamorous and busy lifestyle.
For goodness sake, if you need to, cry. I’ve spent too long not being sure if I’m allowed to cry, or so deeply analysing what I’m feeling that I never actually feel it. Recently, even if it’s over something daft and not necessarily related to my deeply confusing emotions, I’ve embraced having a nice cry. It could just be ‘I feel anxious, so I’m going to cry about it’, ‘I feel sad and I’m sick of feeling like this,’ or, ‘We’ve just watched something perfectly normal and not emotional but I’ve found some relatability and I’m CRYING ANYWAY.’ Sometimes, the trigger doesn’t matter. Just cry. Let yourself feel something, allow yourself an expression.
Talking is not an easy thing to practice, in my experience. Actually, I should rephrase. I can talk about whatever nonsense I like, but talking about my thoughts or feelings inevitably veers into a nightmarish confusion of word vomit as my analytical brain tries to make sense of my feelings. I can’t catch up with myself sometimes. It’s difficult to express properly, but sometimes simply just saying, ‘I feel shit,’ is enough. It gives me a bit of breathing room, and if I’ve acknowledged how I’m feeling it makes it a lesser issue. I acknowledged it, I spoke it out loud, now I can just carry on dealing with it and hope it’s taken its bat home by the next day.
Sometimes, it could be that there’s something in particular making me feel a certain way. This doesn’t need to be, and usually isn’t, anything tangible. When it is, though, sometimes I have to recognise when I just need a break from it. On a couple of days recently, I was feeling particularly bad about not having enough work, not earning money. I was worrying that my limited income streams were becoming increasingly sparse. One day, I tried to be proactive and search for more work opportunities. I didn’t feel much better by the end of it, to say the least. On another day, I tried a different tactic. I gave myself a fucking break. I completely ignored anything vaguely work-related, and I have to say, it was a welcome treat.
Eat something. Anything.
As with drinking water, my urges to eat proper, nutritious food go completely out of the window on bad days. I listlessly stand in the kitchen perusing the boring offerings of my cupboards; more often than not, I slope back to my place of rest (the sofa or bed) without having eaten anything. I’m quite good at having breakfast. I know I need to take my medicine and it’s mercifully simple to put some cereal and milk in a bowl. After that, though, I’m stumped. My appetite isn’t usually affected, it’s more the things I want to eat or what I can be bothered to prepare (spoiler: nothing). The best thing I can do is just to eat something to keep me going. If it’s a snack bar or a packet of crisps, more cereal, some oven chips, whatever. Health, wellness, and my five a day are not top of my priorities when I feel like I’d rather be sedated and put into a freezer like Bucky Barnes than actually live my life.
Brush your teeth and wash your face
Even on days where I don’t get out of bed until 3pm, I try to make sure I at least brush my teeth and/or wash my face. It makes me feel a little more ‘proper’, like I’m less of a deranged swamp monster and actually just a person having a bad day. Showers or baths are all well and good, but who really wants to spend that much time getting wet in their own company when they could be doing something important like sitting down or crying? In all seriousness, it just isn’t in me to bathe when I’m feeling that bad, so having a clean face and mouth is about as best I can hope for.
Write it down
Easier said than done, I know. I’m actually woeful at this, and my journal entries are as sporadic as a good Ed Sheeran song (ooh, risky). The thought of writing things down that make little to no fucking sense is overwhelming, so I just avoid it. A truly excellent strategy, I know. Would you believe that it doesn’t always work? Eventually, I’ll cave in and try to write something just to get it off my chest and onto a piece of paper I can then forget about.
It’s really fucking burdensome at times. I’ll freely admit that in the past, looking at my own handwriting has made me hate myself even more. Honestly. I can quite easily get angry and scrawl about how stupid I am and how I’m completely wrong about everything. Listen to me, though, as I don’t practice what I preach. Do as I say not as I do, and trust that sometimes, it helps. I promise.
I can’t assure you that these are life-changing habits guaranteed to make you feel like a stable, reasonable person all the time. They won’t. We’re all different, and not everything that works for me will work for you. Not everything that works for me works all the time. I’m fickle like that, it would seem. It’s ludicrous for me to ramble on about yoga, bubble baths, meditation and the like when I can’t even brush my own hair. These things help me get through those days that loom above us like impossibly steep, overbearing mountains.
Our survival can be down to just the little things when we’re trapped helplessly in the tailwind of a vicious car crash. Keep it simple, look after yourself, and one day I’ll see you on the other side of that mountain.