This post is full of instructions. They’re instructions that we all need at some time in our tumultuous years. Sometimes the days begin to feel long and pointless. Maybe you’re sick – sick for a long time and it feels, or is, debilitating. Maybe you’re just low on inspiration and working the 9-5 because it seems that is all life has for you. Maybe Netflix has convinced you that you owe it your attention, despite nagging doubts. Pretty much anything can suck us down into the stuck place; a job, finals, parenting, moving, dim living spaces, too much pasta.
Please know I’m not talking about depression here. I know depression can be influenced by all those things and more but you usually can’t just “get un-stuck” when it comes to mental health. You’re worth enough, valuable enough, to close this blog post right now and get help. But if it’s just a weird little inward battle to get up and get dressed on those days that feel pointless, then this is for you.
I’ve had plenty of my own stuck days. In fact I think I wrote this during one of them. (To be honest I was just looking through my unpublished posts and decided it was time for this one to come alive.) But stuck days don’t last forever – I know this because after months of feeling sick and watching the light at the end of the tunnel receding as fast as I advanced, I’m beginning to come out into the light. It’s just been little things – morning sickness for four months, a sinus infection for as many weeks, a toddler who’s getting faster as I’m getting slower and more pregnant. But for all that, the sun is coming out. Joy is breaking through (accompanied by warmer weather, hey!) and now I want to share some of the things that have helped me walk through it with hope. In fact, many of these things are still working habits mine – practices to fight back against the dark we all face any given day.
Do what you can. Go slow, as slow as you need without critizicing yourself at all. But if you can get dressed, then do it. Getting dressed will make you feel better. And hey, now that you’ve come this far, eat some breakfast. Try to get some protein in. Do what you can, even if it’s a microwaved hotdog or a bowl of breakfast cereal. Do what you can. If you can get through work, do it. If you need to take a nap and safely enclose your contented little babes in their crib for half an hour while you sleep, you set yourself a time and get those 30 winks. Do what you can.
Move a little. Maybe exercise just isn’t really an option. Ok. I’ve been there. I’ve had my afternoons of laying on the couch watching old movies because my body won’t move without pain (or just nausea. Babies, I tell you.) But if you can, take a walk around the block. Get a little air. Maybe stretch out with some gentle yoga. Movement will help your mood, gently lift you just a little bit. Trust me – I’ve felt it happen on the most disappointing days. Heck, if you don’t have any physical restraints, push yourself a bit and get in some solid cardio. You’ll thank me later.
Go outside. Maybe the most you can do is go sit outside. Maybe you can’t even do that. Find a sunny window. Or sit on the patio if you have one. Walk around the yard, around the block, down to the park or coffee shop. Take a long hike if you have the ability. Exercise plus fresh air is a vital combination.
Set a goal. Pick something small that you can achieve within a day or so. Write a card to a friend, finish the dishes from last night, wash a load of laundry, cook a meal at home. There’s a sense of achievement that comes when you finish a task or a goal, no matter how small it is.
Put down the phone. I know it seems small, but try to replace a few minutes of phone time every so often. Pick up a book. Stare out the window and let your mind wander. Take that quick walk around the block we’ve been talking about. Take a few minutes to stop the games, the comparison of social media, the branding and promotion and posting to prove that your life is good too. Just enjoy your life for a few minutes. I don’t say there’s anything wrong with your phone, only that we humans have the capacity to get so sucked in that it begins to dominate every nook and cranny of our life.
I hope these ideas help you. I hope they remind you that even on the ugliest, hardest days you can find a small ray of light. I hope these ideas walk with you through the dregs of winter and into the spring. Here’s to you who feel stuck. We’ll make it, friends. Sunshine is coming.