Maybe it’s just me, but most ‘how to’ articles about mental health of any sort advise people to doing things, when, from experience, when you’re low/depressed/anxious, the last thing you want to do is read articles about how you’re wasting your time lying in bed, being depressed. Don’t you know that life is flying you by and there are all these things you can be doing, and why aren’t you dragging yourself out of it? I don’t disagree that there are things you can do to stop yourself from being depressed. I am a firm believer of self help and self healing. But our cultural need to constantly be doing things, to be on the go, staying updated, staying relevant, staying active in itself can be a cause for being depressed. Now, more than ever, are we doing more with our time, with our lives, compared to say, even a hundred years ago, yet not many of us stop and allow ourselves to take a day to lie and be still without calling it ‘lazy’.
Personally, I waver. My moods often sink the most during the winter. I sometimes get anxious when I’m in huge crowds that makes me forever awkward and on edge. My words stumble sometimes when I’m at the checkout and doing something simple like ordering food. I sometimes sit during a whole lunch hour with my colleagues talking all around me while I just focus on putting food in my mouth because I’m feeling too mentally rigid to speak, too pulled down by gravity. But like I say, I waver. My weeks waver. I will have weeks where I write 3 poems, 1000 words, read a book, socialise with friends, travel to a field on the outskirts of my city, go to work, spend time with my family, wash my hair on time. Then there are weeks where I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water. My inner critic takes over and I feel like I will never make it in life, and everything I do is meaningless.
I had one of these days about a month ago. I had 2 weeks of Easter holidays ahead of me, which should have made me happy, ecstatic with that ‘Friday feeling’, but for some reason, a huge weight fell on me. I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t write. I couldn’t communicate with my family. I got home from work and went straight to bed. The weight was enveloped in a cloud of self-doubt and fear of life itself. Imposter syndrome and pressure to succeed had been out drinking again and had left me hungover as a result. The first day, I tried to force it. I tried to read books, engage in social media, or message my friends. Yet eventually, I logged off. I curled up under the cover, slept on and off, and just lay. I let my mind drift and didn’t force it like a dog on a leash from here to there. I only got up to eat and shower, wandering from upstairs to downstairs. Maybe I knew subconsciously that whatever was happening would pass, and I would go back to my projects afterwards, which is exactly what happened on the third day.
So going from that experience, here’s some unsolicited, unorthodox advice for self care when you feel low:
Stop calling your day or period of rest ‘lazy’ and stop agreeing with people who throw that word in your direction. I know. That meme is meant to be a joke but I kind of take it seriously. Selective participation means saving your energy for things that are more worthwhile, projects that are more important. Prioritising, rather than running around like a headless chicken trying to do anything and everything. No one will give you a superwoman (or man) of the year award for stretching yourself thin. Seriously.
You don’t have to reply to your emails, texts. Nope, you don’t. We thrive on being a tweet, an email, a Facebook message away, and it’s considered rude to not reply instantly. Maybe I haven’t gotten to that intensely busy stage in my life yet where tons of people are relying on me, and I can get away with it, but seriously, screw your emails. They can wait. You can reply a day or two late. Just switch off your phone and avoid social media completely, which, with its constant language of comparison and celebration, will only make you more depressed.
Befriend your blue mood. I try to imagine it as a little creature that wants my attention, so I slow down and give it that attention. Which again, is opposite to what would be advised. It somehow becomes easier to accept it is a part of you, rather than oppose it and ask questions of why me? and try to fight it off. Accept it and be patient and kind to yourself during it. Your mental health, just like your physical, is an indication that there is something wrong and needs to be changed or healed. If you break an arm, you aren’t advised to go bowling. Same needs to be applied to your mind.
I guess this is a mixture of advice as well as my own experience of how I deal with it. Take it or leave it. Feel free to not make plans, do yoga or go for a walk and instead just lie in bed, sleep, and watch as much Netflix as you like, but just don’t let it become a habit. If that’s all your doing every weekend and every time you’re feeling a little low, then it can become a vicious cycle to get out from.