I have been having a rough week… a really rough week. For the past couple months, I have made some lifestyle, diet, and therapeutic changes that have seemed to help significantly. I went from being mostly sedentary to being able to travel to Salt Lake multiple times weekly, visit with friends, spend time outside, etc. Friday, I met a friend at City Creek Outdoor Mall on Friday to say goodbye before she leaves for med school (congrats, Nikki!). We did pretty normal twenty-year-old-girl-at-the-mall things: walked around, looked at shoes, talked about nothing. Without thinking twice, I grabbed a tea sample from Teavana. Whoops– silly Summer, you can’t consume things without knowing EVERY ingredient beforehand. There was pineapple in my “raspberry lime” tea sample, pineapple being one of the many sensitivities I’ve acquired in the past two years (before age nineteen, I had no food allergies). Not only did I have a bad reaction to the pineapple that lasted three full days, but I also had an immune crash from the allergic reaction, causing a symptom flare I’m still recovering from.
Transitioning from fairly functional to completely bedridden and miserable was so disheartening. I was used to being able to get up in the mornings again, and now I was stuck with head-to-toe pain, a pounding head, weak, tingly muscles, and an energy deficit I recognized far too well. I lay there feeling sorry for myself for hours, wishing I could do all the things I couldn’t do, trying to get up and running out of energy within minutes, biting my nails, staring at the wall, waiting for the pain to go away so I could be happy again. I thought about what I could do to change the situation, how to be mentally stronger, how to beat the symptoms. Then, I realized, there was nothing to overcome– no battle to win, nothing to “get through.” There is no way “correctly” handle a really bad day. When you get in a “funk,” the best you can do is nurture yourself, and make the time as valuable and rewarding as possible. Stop trying to control things you have no control over, and stop looking for the reason you might be at fault for the situation. Just be– ride the waves with patience and compassion for yourself.
I did manage to brainstorm a few things that seem to help me more than grouchily staring at the ceiling:
Change your scenery: I get stuck thinking about the parts of my situation I can’t change, and I forget there are still things I can change. Open a window, go for a walk. Get off your laptop. Take a trip to your favorite coffee shop. When my pain is bad and I’m restless, I’ll even walk in circles around the house. It’s amazing how a change of scene can change your attitude and outlook. Take a look at this post to read more about how this helps me.
Make a moment yours:
“Today is just not my day.” I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. Too often, we have the false idea that bad things happen to us, and we just have to bare them. Stop waiting for good things to find you, and decide to make a good moment in your bad day. Set some time aside, take a few deep breaths, and do something you like that you know you’re good at. For me, those things are usually reading, writing, or zentangling (see image above). Whatever you choose, let yourself really enjoy the time, and know that there are good things to enjoy, even in a bad day. That way, you haven’t “wasted” the day, or spent the time feeling hopeless and incapable. If you’re able to “make a moment yours,” you realized that you still have power and resources, and you used them to pull yourself out of a rut. That thought, alone, is something to feel good about.
Do not catastrophize the situation: When one thing goes wrong, we tend to think everything is going wrong. We spend our days creating protective barriers around sensitive parts of our psyches, and when a “bad day” punctures that barrier, all those sensitive subjects become suddenly vulnerable. Stop, view the situation for what it is, instead of what your fear and anxiety causes you to assume. Don’t let a bad day dig up more pain than it has too. Even though you had a tough time at work, you still have the same abilities you had yesterday, you still have loved ones to go home to, etc. One thing falling apart does not ensure that everything else will, too. In fact, it’s likely the bad situation itself isn’t as hopeless as it seems when you’re in it.
In all honesty, I think treats are an important part of self-care. You don’t want to become reliant on food as an emotional habit, but a special snack, or your favorite cup of coffee or tea can really help you calm down and reset a stressed-out body and brain.
That’s all for now, my dears. Now, onward and off to better days!