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Life can get pretty hairy sometimes. Whether it’s the unexpected that pulls the rug out from beneath the day’s plans, or global issues that seem insurmountable, our morale (as well as our overall mental and emotional health) can end up taking a big kick in the pants.
It may be tempting to just give in to despair when life gets you down, but wallowing isn’t going to do you – or anyone else in your life – any good. Furthermore, it can end up making the situation you’re in so much worse, as it’ll intensify and extend the difficulties going on around you.
Instead, let’s combat the shadows by taking some positive action instead.
1. Put on some righteous tunes.
Have you noticed that listening to different types of music can alter your mood?
Studies have shown that music doesn’t just influence our moods, but can also help to alleviate physical pain! One such study revealed that patients who were exposed to calming music before, during, and after surgery didn’t need as much pain medication, and also recovered more quickly than those who didn’t.
How’s that for music therapy?
Create some playlists of tunes you know will make you feel happier, and put those on when life gets you down. Whether you just lie on the floor and listen until you start to feel better, or thrash around a bit to release tension is up to you. Either way, let the music flow through you until the wave of darkness passes.
Take note of which songs make you feel happiest, and then try to listen to them on a regular basis. Sometimes an ounce of prevention can do a world of good.
So the next time you start to feel life weighing on you, crank up the songs you know will make you feel better. You may be able to fend off the darkness before it takes root in your mind.
2. Move your body, either through exercise or massage.
Moving your body around can help to alleviate adrenaline overload from stress, and it releases “happy hormones” that can elevate your mood.
Some people might like to go for a walk or a run, others may prefer to do yoga or dance. Whatever you choose, aim for 30-60 minutes of it so you get the full benefit of increased serotonin and endorphins.
No matter what your fitness level or able-bodiedness may be, you can undoubtedly find something that you can do to move your body around.
Alternatively, if you don’t have the physical capability to move your own body, or if you’re dealing with inflammation or pain that prevents you from being as mobile as you’d like, aim for a massage instead.
Book a massage therapist or ask your personal caregiver to do some deep-tissue work on you – preferably after a hot bath. Then drink plenty of water (lemon water is ideal!) to rehydrate you.
You may need a nap afterwards, but you’ll undoubtedly feel a lot less stressed and more positive after this kind of a session.
3. Tidy up your space.
I don’t know about you, but the best way for me to incorporate both of the previous methods is into a solid cleaning spree.
Life responsibilities often intrude on home maintenance, which means that chores that should only take a few minutes here and there can pile up significantly.
If you’ve been immersed in work assignments, relationship maintenance, family squabbles and such, you may come home one day to discover that dirty dishes have piled up across all the counters, you have no clean socks left, there’s clutter everywhere, and dust tumbleweeds are threatening to smother the cat.
Tidying up and decluttering your space can do you a world of good. Being in an untidy or even dirty space can do awful things for your emotions and morale.
Grab some bin bags and boxes, and either throw out or donate whatever isn’t vital in your life. If you live alone, for example, you don’t need 15 plates or 22 forks. Pare absolutely everything down to the minimum and get rid of whatever’s left over.
Then do a solid deep clean. Wash down the walls, sweep and vacuum every corner. Scrub the bathroom like your grandmother is going to eat off the floor tiles. Then open the windows, burn some incense or diffuse some essential oils, and make sure the place smells great.
I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better about pretty much everything when the space around you feels fresh and clean.
4. Come back to the present moment through meditation or focus.
Whether you’re dealing with personal issues or feeling overwhelmed by all the big stuff happening around the world, a lot can be alleviated by coming back to the present moment.
You may have heard this before, but staying present does so much good for one’s well-being that it’s worth repeating.
When life gets you down, return your attention to your breathing. You can count as you go or repeat a mantra or prayer with every inhalation and exhalation – whatever works for you. While you’re breathing, however, focus entirely on the breath energy moving in and out of your body.
As you’re doing this, nothing else in the world exists at all. Just you, and the air that’s circulating in, through, and out of you. Over and over again.
In Sanskrit, the energy that moves through the entire universe is known as “prana.” This translates to “the breath of life.” Breathwork is the foundation of yoga practice and is the most basic function that keeps us alive.
When you take some time to return your focus to this simple practice, everything else falls into perspective and order.
5. Be a force of positive change right here, right now.
A lot of people get overwhelmed and depressed by everything that’s going wrong in the world. It seems as though every day, there’s some new calamity that we’re expected to be scared of or outraged by, and that can be completely exhausting.
You’ve probably come across the phrase “think globally, act locally” before, and that’s a good way to counteract these feelings of depression and helplessness.
Each and every one of us is capable of creating change in the environments that are close to us. After you’ve grounded yourself with some exercise and breathwork, take stock of what it is you can do to improve circumstances where you are now, with what you have available to you.
If global food shortages are getting you down, put your gardening chops to good use. Talk to some local places of worship to see if you can help to get some community food gardens going on their property.
Of course, this technique only works if you’re the kind of person who feels better if they take action to conquer feelings of depression or despair. It doesn’t work for everyone and can even be detrimental to a person who’s already feeling drained. If this is the situation you’re in, then it’s best to go in the opposite direction…
Most people have been programmed to feel that they need to constantly be doing something in order to justify and validate their existence on this planet. If they aren’t working, volunteering, being creative, or otherwise outputting, then they’re somehow slacking or a waste of space.
This isn’t the case at all. You’re changing the world for the better simply by existing. To coin a phrase I once heard on the Simpsons: “you’re a human being, not a human doing.“
If you’re already feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, and everything going on around you is getting you down, then drop everything and just rest.
Talk to your employer and let them know that you need a couple of days off for mental health reasons. Cancel any get-togethers, let your family members know not to interrupt you unless the house is on fire, and go to bed.
If you’re feeling anxious or wound up, consider sipping a cup of relaxing herbal tea like chamomile, peppermint, or passionflower. Listen to some soothing music to help you wind down or put on a documentary that’ll bore you to sleep. My partner has one about deep-sea volcanic tubeworms that she’s never seen in its entirety, as it knocks her out within about 20 minutes.
7. Eat some nourishing comfort food.
We all have “comfort foods” that make us feel safe and loved when we eat them. For one person, it might be a cherished dish they loved as a child – one their parents made for special occasions, or to cheer them up when something bad happened.
Alternatively, someone else’s comfort food might be an entire tub of ice cream simply because it tastes delicious and makes them feel good.
If you’re the type to eat when you’re feeling down, then try to aim for something that nourishes your body, mind, and spirit. Sure, that ice cream and dorito split might make you feel great in the morning, but the gastric upset and self-loathing that’ll ensue later might be counterproductive in the long run.
Aim for complex carbs and healthy fats and proteins that’ll make you feel satisfied but will also replenish you. This is especially important if you’re anaemic, or if your body has been depleted from illness or stress.
Do you crave sweets when you’re feeling upset? Grab your blender and make yourself an amazing smoothie with frozen or fresh fruits and some naturally sweetened protein powder. Or make a big bowl of soup or stew full of delicious herbs and spices.
Then rest while your body absorbs it all, nourishing you to the core.
8. Spend time with animal friends.
There are several good reasons why emotional support animals are so popular and appreciated worldwide. Animal friends don’t just provide us with loving companionship, spending time with them, cuddling them, walking with them, and caring for them brings us an overwhelming sense of joy.
Furthermore, since these animals are completely dependent upon us for their well-being, we have a solid sense of purpose when it comes to taking care of them. Animals love us unconditionally and offer us affection and comfort simply by being near them.
When life gets you down, drop everything else you’re doing and cuddle with your pet for a little while. If you don’t have a pet of your own because you can’t have one in your current place, then consider going down to a shelter to snuggle cats or walk some dogs. Alternatively, if you can have a pet but just haven’t gotten one yet, this might be the perfect opportunity to do so.
There are undoubtedly animals in a shelter near you who are just waiting for people to scoop them out of those cages and into a loving home. Dogs, cats, and rabbits are some of the best ones to spend time with in my opinion, but if you really enjoy snuggling snakes or playing with hamsters or budgies, then go in that direction instead!
You’ll be amazed to see how much better you feel after spending some quality time with a furry or feathered friend.
9. Let go of the day’s expectations.
A lot of people get really upset when their plans go awry. For example, they might plan to make X day a work day, or insist that they’re going to achieve some specific things. Then, if they didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or they wake up feeling unwell, they’re devastated.
They feel worthless, like they’re never going to achieve anything because these really basic plans have been derailed. From there, they can fall into a spiral in which they feel down about countless other aspects of their life.
So try to lower your expectations a bit and remain mentally and emotionally flexible so that changes in plans don’t upset you.
Furthermore, when we go with the flow, we’re often pleasantly surprised by how beautifully (and easily!) things can work out for us.
10. Talk to someone.
Whether you book some time with your therapist or have coffee with a good friend, talking to someone can help to ground you and put things into perspective.
When life gets you down, chances are you start to feel like everything around you is complete crap.
Tiny things that may have been niggling at the back of your mind may suddenly feel overwhelming. Then you might start to think of all the other things that may be going on in your life, and from there you spiral outwards to the state of the city, country, continent, etc. Before you know it, you’re having a full-blown panic attack.
Talking to someone can help to both calm you and inspire you. This doesn’t mean that you need to dump everything you’re feeling onto another person either, because that can seriously overstep into their world and add to their own burdens.
Instead, try to focus on positive things that are going on. Your friend might mention a new book they’re reading or TV series they’ve discovered, and all of a sudden you have something brilliant to focus on.
Alternatively, your therapist or religious advisor might remind you that although X number of things might seem to be going badly around you, three times as many things are actually going really well.
Sometimes, it just takes someone else checking our blind spots to let us know the good stuff that’s happening. That crunching noise coming from your car might in fact be a diamond stuck in the tire.
11. Focus on gratitude for all the great things going on in your life (and then share them).
To expand upon the previous tip, there are undoubtedly some amazing things happening in your life right now. They might not be monumental, but they’ll be special and good, and worth celebrating.
As an example, let’s say you’ve been starting seeds for this year’s garden, and you’re delightfully surprised to find out that your seeds have had a 95% germination rate.
This means that your garden will be absolutely packed with vegetables, herbs, and flowers! Additionally, it means that you’re going to have more plants than you have space for. Do you know what you can do with that extra bounty?
You’re going to have the benefit of a lush space full of food, so see if there are others around you who could benefit as well. Post on local Facebook swap pages, Craigslist, or Kijiji and offer free seedlings to people in your community. Or ask if you can set up a “free plants” table at your local church, city hall, community center, etc.
What are some of the good things going on in your world right now? Have you mastered some yoga poses that have been challenging you for years? Or discovered the best way to bake the most perfect bread imaginable? These are huge successes to be grateful for, and are worth celebrating!
And what better way to really celebrate gratitude than to share it with others? When life gets you down, be an example of the kind of change you’d like to see in the world, and watch how the ripples move outward from there.
12. Remember that this too shall pass.
You’ve been through some pretty difficult situations in your life before, haven’t you? Furthermore, chances are those awful situations resolved and you moved on from them, and learned from those experiences as well.
For example, painful dental work might have been awful in the moment, but the pain was temporary and you were back to eating normally within a few days. Similarly, you might have had an amazing birthday party, only to be horrifically hung over the next day and wondering how on earth a llama got into your living room.
If you’re familiar with tarot cards at all, then you may already recognize these patterns in the Wheel of Fortune card. Alternatively, if you aren’t much of a tarot aficionado, I’ll break it down for you.
The Wheel of Fortune card reminds us that life’s wheels are constantly in motion. As such, nothing ever remains in the same situation for long. If things are great right now, it’s inevitable that there will be a downturn to deal with. But on the other hand, if life is getting you down at the moment, rest assured that it’ll pass and something great will roll around shortly.
Whatever is happening right now will pass. Some things may take longer than others to do so, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Furthermore, if you can crawl back onto the horse and focus on moving forward, through the gray clouds that are enveloping you, chances are you’ll get to that light a lot more quickly than you expected.
13. Don’t give up.
Difficulties are inevitable. We all experience setbacks, whether because of personal issues or because of external circumstances that we have no control over. We are all going to be defeated at times, but that’s okay. In fact, that can be of great benefit to us.
Consider this passage from “The Manuscript Found in Accra” by Paulo Coelho:
Defeat is for the valiant. Only they will know the honour of losing and the joy of winning.
I am not here to tell you that defeat is a part of life: we all know that.
Only the defeated know Love. Because it is in the realm of love that we fight our first battles – and generally lose.
I am here to tell you that there are people who have never been defeated.
They are the ones who never fought.
Defeat is temporary.
We may experience defeat in battle, but we regroup, learn from the defeat, and win the day by other means.
The key is to not give in to despair and never give up.
Things will get better soon.
Still not sure what to do when life gets you down? As mentioned above, talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
A therapist is often the best person you can talk to. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can provide ample coping mechanisms so that you can withstand hardship and guide you back to a better mental place.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
You might not think your problems are big enough to warrant professional therapy but please don’t do yourself that disservice. Nothing is insignificant if it is affecting your mental well-being.
So seek the help you deserve today. You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. Now it’s time to do what’s right for you.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
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