5 Things Not To Do When Life Sucks (& 1 Thing To)

Happy Holidaze!

…or not. For many people, your erstwhile author included, the combination of winter cold and the societal expectations of the holiday season can be pretty depressing, or stressful, or both. “BE MERRY!” come the messages of the media and the world, combining with the usual endless litany of manufactured crises to support the 24-hour news cycle. Of course, this season in particular it’s not really necessary to manufacture crises, but the hearty ring of “Goodwill towards men…” might sound a bit hollow this time around amid hashtags of #ICantBreathe and #BlackLivesMatter.

Or maybe not. If you’re reveling in the holiday season with nary a care in the world, by all means, carry on! You don’t need this post. Meanwhile, for the rest of us:

5 Things Not To Do When Life Sucks

  1. Binge on Reward Systems. I’m looking at you, SUGAR! Don’t reach for that donut, or open up all the advent days at once with the excuse I was just planning ahead! Yes, it will make you feel better for a while – that’s how sugar and glycemic index works. However, you’ll feel worse afterwards. Social media works the same way, as does just about any intermittent reward system that relies on jolts of dopamine to keep your attention. Instead, eat something healthy. No, it won’t help your mood. But it’ll keep you busy, and nourished, and ya gotta eat sometime, right?
  2. Feel guilty for feeling bad. Hey, moods happen. You don’t have to be happy all the time. It’s ok to let yourself feel bad for a while – sometimes that depressed mood is just like a mental band-aid, protecting a raw nerve while it heals, and you’ll be able to take it off when you’re ready. Give yourself permission to heal. It may be that a marathon of Middle Man is exactly the time-out your mood needs.
  3. Isolate yourself. No one wants to be around a Sally Sad-Face. I don’t want to bring people down. Excuses like these are not the healing happening – they are instead projections. Let me be harsh: who gave you control over what someone else wants? Who are you to decide whether or not they want to see you? Now, if you don’t want to see people, that’s another thing – introversion can be honored. But to decide what others want is often a way you deny what you actually do want – and that’s human contact. I recommend a coffee shop, not a mall, or family (blood or chosen, depending on your mood).
  4. Skip Working Out. For most people, serotonin regulation is a big part of mood, and (again, for most) exercise is a good way to pump things up. It doesn’t have to be Big Workout Time – a brisk walk or even some grumpy yoga will help. If you do it to the music of your youth (in my case, the 1980’s) it will almost certainly make you smile in that I can’t believe I used to like this song kind of way.
  5. Ignore the signs of clinical depression. If anything in this post makes you think I’m dismissing clinical depression as a case of “the blues”, please don’t. There are very real physical and psychological signs of the very debilitating condition of “the black dog”, and it’s important to get help if that’s the case. One possible indication: the first four things in this list that you didn’t do didn’t help.

1 Thing To Do When Life Sucks

  1. Something Really Nice for Yourself. A massage. A luxurious 2-hour cuddle nap. An uninterrupted hour with your favorite pen and a pile of blank paper. A ticket to that movie you’ve been wanting to see. A ride in a hot air balloon. Step outside of yourself, look at that person who is in need of cheering up (that’s you) and then think what you could do to make their day better. Not what you could do to cheer them up; not what you can do to make them feel better. What you can do to improve their world. Time will take care of the rest.

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