I am having a rough period. And if you are one of the 7bn humans on this beautiful planet, you can probably relate.
I am away from my loved ones, with a loooong winter ahead of me, and amid a global pandemic – while struggling with its devastating social and economic impact.
Insult to injury, 2020 Christmas markets have been cancelled. I mean, Christmas markets – the sole thing that makes Belgian winters bearable!
But it is what it is, and we must find our way to cope. That’s why I am writing you these words.
I want you to know you are not alone; I want you to feel heard and understood; I want to give you some hope.
I am neither Mahatma Gandhi nor the Pope, and I don’t pretend to be as inspiring. But as a fellow human being, I genuinely believe empathy can make a difference at times like these.
Someone once said that “sharing is caring” and I want to do my bit.
1. Keep yourself busy
Whether you have a 9-to-5 job, or you are freelancing; whether you are a student or a stay-at-home partner/parent; whether you lost your job, or your industry is booming, working on something can really boost your energy and lift your mood.
One of the greatest threats to your mental health is idleness. “Doing nothing” makes you feel unproductive and useless. It also feeds your negative attitude toward your life and your future.
Being inactive leads you to overthink. This inflates your fears to the point you get trapped into your own insecurities. That in turn prevents you from making any move because you feel powerless and doomed anyway.
A simple gimmick to break the cycle is to keep yourself busy. Don’t get me wrong: I am not a “productivity guru”! I don’t strive for maximising productivity at all costs, and I don’t fancy jam-packed schedules that set you always on the go. But I definitely feel the benefits of a full and productive day when I have one.
Any time I engage in an exciting project; any time I publish a blog post; any time I make it through an intense workout… In a word, any time I throw myself headlong into something, I feel empowered, fulfilled, and happy. More than anything, I know I haven’t wasted any of my precious time feeling sorry for myself.
Just to be clear, between “being busy” and “doing nothing” there is more than just “working.” You are keeping yourself busy when:
- You are completing your job-related tasks, i.e. anything that concerns your primary source of income, so to speak;
- You are studying, planning, or working on any other side hustle;
- You are having a conversation with a family member or a friend;
- You are working out, going for a jog, or walking your dog;
- You are doing your chores, cooking a meal, or making a cup of tea;
- You are reading a book, listening to a podcast, or watching a film;
- You are having a shower, styling your hair, or doing your makeup;
I also include activities such as watching TV or surfing the internet on my list. That’s because I don’t see “passive” engagement as something inherently evil – as long as it sparks your curiosity and gives you food for thoughts.
Does it mean you can become a couch potato and binge-watch your favourite TV-series all day long?
Listen, who am I to say “no”? Try it for a couple of days and find out yourself. But I bet you will get bored enough in three…two…one…
2. Indulge on life, not on food
I once read this quote somewhere, and it stuck with me ever since. That will not ring any bell for people who have a healthy relationship with food. Lucky you! But those struggling with eating disorders – or any other addition for that matter – know what I mean.
Uncertainty and insecurity – coupled with daily proximity to the fridge – can be crushing for people who see food (or alcohol, or drugs) as a threat or something they can lose their control over. And I feel you guys.
In my ten-year struggle against a nasty binge eating disorder, I tried out pretty much any reasonable – and sometimes unreasonable – tricks to win over it.
The most effective self-help solution to date has been to not cart “trigger foods” altogether. But depending on your emotional state when you go shopping, you may not keep your resolution to the counter.
It goes without saying that the only way out is seeking professional help, aka medical and psychological support. But what if these unprecedented times are putting you to the test and you experience a relapse every now and then?
When that happens to me, I repeat this motto in my head. I then scout for an alternative “life indulgence” to treat myself to. That may be a movie I have been wanting to see for ages, a hot bath with bubbles and candles, a new book, you name it.
The activity I pick makes me feel equally fulfilled, but spares my body the post-binge bloat – and its unhealthy consequences – and saves me from an awful self-loathing session.
3. Forgive yourself
We are humans, not machines. We are flawed; we make mistakes; sometimes we totally screw up. Does it suck? Of course it does. But being exceedingly hard on yourself will not change the outcome, let alone make you feel any better.
Change your perspective instead. Don’t call yourself names; don’t punish yourself. Be kind to yourself and look after your weaknesses. They may become your greatest assets tomorrow.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel like it either. Self-love also means realising you can’t do it alone.
Acknowledge your misstep and move on.
It will be alright.
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”
Stay safe; stay well.