10 Things to Help You Feel Better
Everyone has those days where everything feels rubbish. Getting out of bed is hard, getting out of your pyjamas is hard and so is just about everything else that could possibly be labelled as productive – from talking to other humans, right down to basic bodily hygiene (it’s gross, but we’ve all been there). To help on those grey days, Harpy has made a little list to get you through.
1) DON’T FEEL BAD. OKAY?! STOP FEELING NEGATIVE THINGS. Yeah, so this is more easily said than done. It’s really hard to change the way you think. I tend to tell myself off for feeling a certain way, using distorted logic such as ‘everyone else is fine, why can’t I handle it?’ to try and force myself into productivity. It doesn’t ever work and, once you enter this cycle it is very hard to escape. It often feels like there are two competing voices in my head – one trying to calmly and rationally handle the situation, and the other just running around like a headless chicken repeating how stupid/useless/ugly/ I am. When you are essentially fighting against yourself, those negative thoughts and feelings have the space to flourish and thrive off that internal confusion.
When I get into a flap, the first thing I try to do is reassert and strengthen that rational voice and recognise that I am treating myself like shit and that this judgment has no justifiable cause. The negative thought I am having is just a thought – something that I have created. It is not based in reality and any attempt made to try and ‘prove’ that this thought is categorically true, fails. For example, I might think that because I am still in bed at 1pm I am a failure, that everyone else is being productive with their day and that I am useless. But, what proof do I have that this thought is actually true? Isn’t it slightly ridiculous to believe that because of this I am, as a person, inherently worthless?
You cannot stop the thoughts from coming, but you can interact with them in a way that reduces their impact and doesn’t completely ruin your day.
2) Write it down: Use a diary to keep track of your emotions, thoughts and behaviours. This will help you to look at, and judge your emotions objectively. If, on reflection, your worries still seem legitimate then you can act to resolve them. However, if, when written down, they seem a bit silly, you can dismiss them as a distraction. Writing things down can help de-muddle your mind. It can also help to set aside ‘worry-time’. I don’t always have the self-restraint for this but, writing down your worries and deciding that you will take time to dwell on them later can help to impose a little order on your stressed-out brain. Often, when you do look back on them, they aren’t that bad anymore anyway.
Use your diary as a space to celebrate your successes. Make a note of what you have achieved, and it really doesn’t have to be anything big. (Point in fact: an extract from my own diary simply reads, ‘Got out of bed. Tidied the bathroom. Bought toothpaste from the shop and spoke to a shop assistant.’ These are not exactly Herculean tasks but, for me, they were pretty huge achievements and helped me feel more productive.)
3) Speak to someone: If these thoughts become overwhelming and if you feel sad, depressed or anxious frequently, then please speak to someone. Therapy can be incredibly helpful. Through talking to a professional and learning different methods of interacting with your thoughts and feelings, you can begin to undermine those damaging rules and behaviours and, most importantly, recognise that you are not alone in feeling this way. In conjunction with your GP, they can also recommend medication that may help alleviate symptoms.
However, therapy doesn’t work for everyone, so don’t lose hope. It may well be that you just haven't found the right therapist and it’s okay for you to look around. It’s important to talk to someone you can trust, and with whom you have a good rapport. Also, bear in mind that there are various different forms of therapy and counselling, so you may need to do some research, speak to your GP, and dabble in different types to find the perfect fit.
4) It’s the Small Things: When you’re feeling AWFUL and someone tells you to take a walk or have a hot bath it can feel really patronising. Self-care is more than new nail varnish and scented candles, but sometimes starting with the small things can help. Improving your mental health is hard work and sitting with a cuppa and some cake isn’t always going to cut it but, it won’t hurt to treat yourself kindly and work upwards from there.
Often, having a plan for your day is a good start. If I decide to go to the shops and tidy the kitchen, I automatically feel that my day has structure and that I have followed a routine. I got up and I did stuff, ergo I have achieved something (no matter how small).
5) Read a good book: So what, you haven’t eaten anything but potato waffles for three days? Who cares that the laundry basket is slowly developing its own eco-system? You are far away. Reading has always calmed me, but with my propensity to see everything as a potential indicator of success or failure, when I am feeling especially delicate I tend to stick to something light. The last thing you want is to decide that today is the day you will read Judith Butler cover to cover and understand it all completely. Because babe, that aint’ gonna happen.
When I’m feeling rough I tend to latch on to; 1) Short stories, 2) Easily digestible but still brilliant poetry and 3) A really good novel where you don’t have to think too hard (I would add to this any childhood favourites. Harry Potter sorts me right out.) Sometimes though, even reading is too tricky, so watch Disney, grab a blanket, and chill out.
6) Try and make your surroundings nice: If the flat is a complete tip, then maybe at least clear the surfaces and open the blinds. A little bit of light goes a long way and, as much as I condone living in your own filth, it can be therapeutic to tidy.
7) Eat what you want: Yesterday I ate an entire box of Guylian chocolates. They were good. If you feel like ice cream, eat the damn ice cream. If you want a pizza, then for god’s sake woman you get that takeaway. Comfort food is important. Also, maybe have a banana every now and again. Healthy food will improve your mood (and make you feel really smug).
8) Go outside: Being cooped up inside all day really isn’t great. If you have the energy (and the emotional strength) then go to the park, take a trip somewhere or meet up with friends if you can. If that’s too much like hard work, then at least walk round the block or go to the shops. Trust me, you will feel a bit better. I find listening to music super calming when I’m out and about, as it’s the perfect distraction from all those people that are out there existing. (And cats and dogs can be found outside and nothing beats a fluffy mutt when you need cheering up.)
9) Take a shower. Now don’t get me wrong, everyone deserves a PJ day every now and again but, being clean is actually really nice. Sometimes I go all out and choose a nice outfit, do my hair and put make-up on. On other days (most days), I feel better putting on some comfortable clothes and going fresh-faced. You do you.
10) Reach out: Call me old fashioned, but nothing can beat a hand-written letter. To think about someone else, and how you can improve their day can often have a positive effect on your own mood. It distracts you and reminds you that there are people in your life that love you. Of course, texting, messaging, emailing and skyping are all cool but I’m an old romantic. So sue me.
11) And here’s an extra little tip from me to you… Watch ‘Queer Eye’. Any feel-good telly is advised but ‘Queer Eye’ is a guaranteed mood-improver. It’s on Netflix. Watch it all and tell me that you don’t feel like the world is a better place henny.
Useful places to look for help if you’re struggling:
University of Leeds Counselling Service: https://students.leeds.ac.uk/info/100001/counselling_and_wellbeing
Leeds Beckett Counselling Service: http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/studenthub/counselling/
Leeds Mind: http://www.leedsmind.org.uk/
Counselling Directory: https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/
Information provided by Leeds Student Medical Practice: http://www.leedsstudentmedicalpractice.co.uk/health-advice/mental-health/
Cover art by Paru Ramesh