Terry woke up with kind of a vague feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Life just feels hard. Her medication regimen is going fine. She feels fine. Life is fine. Nothing specific. Maybe just everything.
She’s had days like this before. And they sure are difficult to go through. Her energy feels lower. And so does her mood.
In a way, Terry wonders if it isn’t almost worse to feel just generally out of sorts than to experience a “real” problem. At least with a real problem, she can figure a strategy to address it. But a day when she isn’t feeling it? What do you do when can’t identify what’s bothering you? Terry knows from experience that on days when she is a feeling a little off track, and without a clear reason why, her mind tends to go to dark places.
“It’s not like you’re sick,” she tells herself. “You can still do the basics today, even go to work.” But she can’t help but also ask herself: “Is there something going on with me? Do I have a something going on with my mental health or my physical health that I should worry about?”
Terry knows how important it is to stay optimistic. So she can’t help but feel concerned about herself – her health, her emotions, her outlook.
How about you? Do you have days when you aren’t quite feeling yourself and can’t help but feel alarmed that your emotional or physical health might be headed south? Scary, right?
Here’s some help in coping on those days:
Give yourself a pep talk. The last thing you need to do is to fall into self-criticism. Instead, be kind to yourself by talking back to any negative self-talk with words of encouragement. Remind yourself that you’ve had not-so-great days before. That you’re doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. And you’ve got a support team you trust backing you up. A good pep talk can help keep your mind from wandering into darker territory.
Avoid catastrophizing. Use your self-talk to help keep your perspective on the big picture. Remind yourself that a day when you don’t feel at your best is just that: It’s a day when you don’t feel at your best. Nothing more. Don’t turn it into a catastrophe by giving it meaning it doesn’t need to have. Engage your rational mind.
Remember: Normal is a moving target. You can waver from feeling your absolute best self and still be at what, for you, is your range of what’s normal. Most likely, if you haven’t already discovered this, some days are better than others. A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. It’s just a bad day. If you keep this in mind, you will be more able to take a day like this in stride.
Talk it out. One of the best ways to regain your perspective, and stay focused on the big picture, is by talking things out with someone you trust, someone who can listen without judging or telling you what to do. Someone who knows you can help you sort out how you’re feeling, and remind you of some of those other days, when you felt more like yourself, or even when you didn’t feel so great but found a way to cope. A question: Is it time to consider reaching out to a mental health professional to learn some new coping skills? Don’t go through this alone!
Distract yourself. When you spend too much time focusing on what’s bothering you, you can end up magnifying it and making it feel bigger, or even come up with some other reasons to feel bad. That’s the pathway to catastrophizing. So try some positive distractions. Getting involved in your daily tasks. Doing something you enjoy or that relaxes you. Socializing.
Push forward, but not too hard. The message here is to stay involved in your life. That’s what I mean by pushing forward. Take things one step at a time. Rest when you need to. Be nice to yourself. This is not a day to be a hero, so also consider asking for help.
Listen for a message. Keep in mind that a day when you feel out of sorts may be the result of pushing yourself too hard the day before. Listen to your body. Talk to yourself. Lean in. Is there a message you need to hear about how to take better care of yourself?
Trust your instinct. There is a difference between pushing through a day when you’re not at your best and denial of emotional or physical symptoms you need to pay attention to. You know yourself. If your instinct tells you something is not quite right, then do what you need to. Including calling your doctor and letting them know what’s going on.
Not quite feeling yourself today? Not feeling all that okay doesn’t mean you’re not okay. Stay focused on the big picture. Each day – a good day, a not so good day – is another opportunity to learn about what you need to do to be at your best.
Take good care of yourself. Always.
Dr. Gary McClain, MS, PhD, is a psychotherapist, patient advocate, blogger, and author, specializing in helping clients deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses, as well as their families and professional caregivers. His website is JustGotDiagnosed.com. His email is [email protected] He welcomes your questions and comments.