Like everyone, I have grouchy days, negative thought days, days where I just want to sleep all day long, and days where I don’t want to do anything. This is part of being human. Sometimes when I tell my clients that I experience all of these kinds of days I listed, they are shocked. I always laugh with them because they forget that therapists are humans and experience a range of emotions and experiences as well.
As a cognitive-behavioralist, I’m less concerned with how a mood begins but more importantly what keeps it going. I challenge my clients all the time to change course, redirect, and seek for what is helpful, not what is hurtful. It is SO important to recognize that you’re having one of those days and be determined to jump in the driver seat of your own emotional car and choose your next behavior or thought that won’t reinforce your mood.
And, as much as it is so important to know what to do when the going gets rough, it’s also important to know what to keep ourselves fueled to avoid getting ourselves into emotional holes that are so hard to climb out.
Well, I feel strongly that I cannot ask another human to do something I wouldn’t do and I feel like having personal experience is vital to connecting with other humans. I want to share with you a few of my personal “do’s and don’ts” to keep myself mentally okay.
1- Get up Early! And do something active.
We know from mountains of research that behavioral activation is key, key, key to managing depression. When I say active, I don’t necessarily mean I go for a run, but I might throw a load of clothes in the washer, start making a yummy breakfast, take a shower, get out of bed and go watch my kiddos sleep for a bit, or if I’m lucky, walk the dog. Being active for me as soon as I get up sets the pace for the day. I’m usually much more active about my day when I start from the first moment.
2- No yoga pants.
For me, nothing says “I’m not going to do anything today” like yoga pants. I don’t really get anything done unless I’m dressed to get something done. I either get in the shower and get dressed in “people might see me clothes” or I put on workout clothes complete with shoes. If I put on yoga pants, I might as well stay in bed. If I’m in bed, I’m probably going to think badly. If I think bad thoughts, I’m probably going to feel bad, and so on….
Now, this doesn’t mean if you are super productive in yoga pants, don’t put on yoga pants. This means recognize your own chain of events and make your chain a positive one. I have found that if I dress like I’m going to do something, I probably will.
3- Love your food.
Eat like everything you put in your mouth is going to nurture your body. Love your food. Enjoy your food. Spend time on your food. Think about wonderful yummy, healthy food. I feel strongly we become our food. If we don’t love the food we’re eating and feel good about the food we’re eating, we will not love ourselves. When we love and feel good about our food, we can easily enjoy having dessert, enjoying chocolate, ice cream on a hot day, and birthday cupcakes on our birthday. If we are eating poorly, we never get to enjoy these things and these only perpetuate our guilt.
4- Have some “have to’s” and some “get to’s”.
This is essential for me and I plan my day this way. I almost never have a day full of “have to’s” and if in the off chance I do, I plan a day of “get to’s”. My “get to’s” are as simple as sitting outside, browsing the internet, or going to Costco (that can sometimes be a have-to, so I always evaluate). I also like to get my “have to’s” done in the morning and leave my “get to’s” for the afternoon and evening. This doesn’t always work but checking in with myself and knowing that I need some fun or some productivity keeps a relatively good balance going.
5- Doing the dishes.
If you know me at all, I hate doing the dishes. But, I feel less stressed when they are done. I have decided that it is the ONLY chore I do everyday. Everything else can come in a balance with my “get to’s” and “have to’s” and sometimes my house is a disaster and my life can feel chaotic, but I have that one practiced behavior that can make me feel like I have done at least 1 thing that day. Sometimes it is only that one thing that can help motivate good thinking or other helpful behaviors.
My hope in reading this is that you won’t necessarily make these 5 your 5, but that you will evaluate your own chain of events and find one spot of intervention to redirect your course. I tell my clients all the time who are struggling with negative thoughts that when they produce a positive or helpful behavior, they will experience something different in their brain. Keeping these good behaviors going eventually leads to more good behaviors, and more good thoughts, and ultimate can help manage difficult moods. So think about your most vulnerable times, map out what your behavior is, and see what you can do to make a slight change that you can keep going and see what happens!
Until next time,