This May, more than ever, I’ve seen many social media posts, marketing campaigns, and articles talk about Mental Health Awareness month. When I read these posts, I can’t help but wonder why it’s only acceptable to feel the feels for 31 days out of the year and not the rest.
Our culture tells us that we must appear put together all the time. But there are days when the struggle is real and all we want to do is reach for that cookie, that extra glass of wine or whatever it is that helps us stuff our feelings away. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that people go to great lengths to appear put together because we’ve been told that showing emotion is weak.
In the past, when someone would try and share their bad day with me, it made me uncomfortable and I used to shut the conversation down by saying things like “hang in there” or “stay positive.” I now realize saying this only makes things worse. It doesn’t create a safe space for the person who wants to share because we’re telling them it’s not okay to have a bad day.
Now, I celebrate my bad days by really sitting through the emotions vs. reaching for something to stuff them away. I also don’t pretend to have it together and give myself a break when I do have a bad day.
Here are the three steps that I follow when I’m having a bad day:
1. Don’t Stuff, Feel the Feels
My favorite thing to do when I’m having a bad day is to write it all down. Whether it’s on a napkin or in my journal, whatever it is, I just start writing. This helps me release the feelings instead of trying to avoid them by distracting myself. The other thing I like to do is go for a run or lift weights. Both allow me to release the negative energy and practice self-care.
If journaling or working out isn’t your thing, listen to a sad song. I used to do this a lot when I was going through a difficult time. Listening to a sad song would always get me to start crying which was a very cathartic way of releasing the emotions. It allowed any weight that I was subconsciously carrying to melt away.
It doesn’t matter what your go-to is, but find a healthy way to sit with your feelings and release them. While can be uncomfortable, it always works.
2. Have A Q&A Session With Yourself
While I’m journaling or working out, I’ll see that the reason why I’m feeling the way I am is because I’ve been triggered. Whether it’s an old memory or something else, we all have our triggers. Even when we think we’ve worked on them or handled them, they sneak up on us. When I write things down or I’m “pounding the pavement”, I can see why I’m upset or anxious and that allows me to have a dialogue with myself. The first question I ask myself is “what emotion am I feeling?” Is it anger, sadness, fear, disappointment? Giving the feeling a label starts to identify where it might be coming from.
The next question I ask myself is “what past event or situation is this bringing up for me?” Once I start to have this Q&A with myself, I can start to see where my feelings are coming from and I can start to do something about it. The Queen of running from my feelings, I used to just let things sit or avoid them. I’ve learned that the feeling only comes back over and over again no matter how much I try and run from it. Turn inward and start to have a Q&A conversation.
3. Talk to Your Tribe/Trusted Advisor
One of the best lessons I’ve learned is knowing who’s part of my trusted inner circle. These are the people you can count on to be there when the struggle gets very real. Cultivating these relationships takes a long time but think about who’s a part of your tribe. It doesn’t have to be a lot of people, it can even be one person like a family member, best friend, therapist, mentor or life coach. But when you’re having a bad day, you should be able to openly share how you’re feeling without judgment or shame with at least one person.
It’s taken me a while to find the winning combination of steps to deal with a bad day and feel the feels, but it’s been incredibly helpful. We all have our bad days and it’s completely acceptable. What are some of the ways you deal with a bad day? Leave a comment below! To learn more about mental health and to find resources visit: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/