When I went to FHE, I set a goal. My goal was to be able to navigate PTSD and mental illness. I knew then and I especially know now that tough days happen. Sometimes the tough stuff is just everyday life and stress; ask anybody’s budget lately. Other times it is whole new traumas that you never thought would happen in your life. The point of recovery is to be able to walk through those moments.
Recently, I’ve had a handful of tough days. I experienced something that I never thought would happen in my world. Fortunately, for me, I had the skills to walk through it. While I try not to speak for others, I hope that you can find something of use in what I do.
Acknowledge That It Is Tough
The first thing I do is acknowledge that it is tough. I find this to probably be the most important aspect. When I don’t talk about how I’m really doing on the inside, shame starts to grow. Shame grows in secret. The more secrets, the more shame. Even if I’m secretive about having a tough day, I find I start to feel ashamed about it and then shame creates more depression and it’s a vicious cycle.
Admitting that it’s tough prevents the vicious cycle of shame and allows me to use my skills without thinking I need to just “pull myself up by the bootstraps.” It allows me to claim my recovery and take care of myself for a moment so I can get back to living my life. It allows me to speak freely with those in my support circle as well.
I used to think I had to do life on my own. Over the last couple of years, I have learned that I was erroneous in that. Now, I refuse to do it alone. Humans aren’t made to be isolated. Even back in caveman days, we were members of a family. It’s important to at least have a family of choice.
When I have a tough day, it’s easy to justify isolating myself. Sometimes a social recharge is necessary but it’s a very fine line for me as I am more extroverted and need connection to recharge. However, even on my “recharge days” I still reach out in some way. This looks like a simple text saying hi to a friend or even, gasp, a phone call. I need to know I’m not alone, even when I need to be alone. Reaching out prevents a recharge day from turning into isolation and allows me to communicate to my support people what’s going on.
Find a Reason to Smile
I touched on this in the last article I wrote about finding my smile. My brain likes to tell me that a tough day will be a tough eternity. So, I battle that by finding a reason to smile. My favorite thing is to watch a funny movie. This brings laughter and helps release endorphins.
Another thing I will do is to create art. I really enjoy having a sense of accomplishment. Making something beautiful out of something uncomfortable provides that. What makes you smile?
Make a Gratitude List
One thing I do that helps me find a reason to smile is to make a gratitude list. Oh, how I used to roll my eyes when I heard that. One day, while I was in some self-pity, I asked myself why I hated gratitude lists. My answer was that I hated them because they all seemed to stay the same. I felt like my answers always had to include the basics like “faith, family, and friends.”
To be honest, at that point, I wasn’t grateful for any of those. So, I decided to be honest about what I was really grateful for. I came up with two things: toilet paper and flushing toilets. See, I don’t do outhouses well. I hate them. I don’t even like using public restrooms. I also would prefer to use Charmin over a Corn Cob or whatever it was the pioneers used.
So now I have a rule that I can’t use the Four F’s (Faith, Family, Food, Friends) when making my lists. It makes it a bit more challenging and also gives me the opportunity to get a bit goofy as well. Although I am honestly grateful for flushing toilets and toilet paper.
Let’s face it, sometimes I need a day of comfort. In the toughness of life, sometimes I need some softness. Comfort can be different for people. For me, it looks like puppy snuggles, my soft blanket, my favorite show, and my biggest mug of hot cocoa. Some people it’s their favorite book. Others find comfort in hugs or doing a gentle activity.
What is comforting to you? Life isn’t always comfortable. Recovery isn’t always comfortable. It’s often filled with growth. So, it’s ok to take a moment and give yourself some healthy comfort after a tough day.
Change It Up
Now, if you are anything like me, that moment of comfort can easily turn into weeks of being a sloth. Sloths are super adorable, but I do not look great after a week of clinging to my sofa like a sloth. So just like a sloth makes a once-a-week trek down from the tree, I need to also get moving and change it up. Those are the days that I set a single goal.
The other day, I noticed I was sloth in both my physical and mental life. I set a goal of taking a shower. Yup. I simply took a shower. It’s ok if the change is just a small one. The next day my goal became to change my scenery for work since I struggle to focus when working at home. I packed up my laptop and favorite headphones and journeyed to my favorite coffee shop, so I could be productive with less distractions while listening to my favorite tunes. I found myself pleasantly surprised that after a couple hours, my mood had significantly lifted.
I really just needed a change of scenery, some tasty magic bean juice, and catchy tunes (this time it was Dolly Parton) to get my brain functional. It also helped me be productive and get some work done. The productivity that came with accomplishing the goals I set helped me change from a sad sloth to a proud sloth.
So, if you are having a tough day or even a tough season that you need to “bounce back” from, maybe you could acknowledge that it is tough, reach out to support/friends, find a reason to smile, make a gratitude list, find comfort, or change it up to help you return to your baseline. Maybe you have something different that helps. Go do that!
Whatever you do, please know that everyone has tough days and even tough seasons. Remember, you are not alone! You are worth recovery – you’ve got this!