You’re alive, dear reader, which means you’ll inevitably come across really bad days. These dark, scary days don’t actually have to be so dark and scary, if we lean into them in the right sorts of ways. Instead of running away and ignoring the hard times, what if we see them as a reminder of our aliveness whilst building our resiliency to these challenges?
I’ve been known to run away—it seems to be my natural in-built coping mechanism—but over the years I’ve managed to work at finding healthy coping strategies for dark days that give me a little light when I need it the most. And I’m so confident these strategies and techniques will help you, too.
Remember, it’s not the stuff that’s thrown at us that matters, but how we choose respond to it all. Here’s my 6 ways to find lightness in really hard days.
1. Get Outside
Nature is one of the best healers we’ve got in our toolbox (even scientific studies tell us this). Get out into the woods, down the park, up a mountain, or frolic in the sea for a while, and you’ll improve your cognitive function (hello problem-solving) and mental health, reduce your blood pressure, and, because you’re exposing yourself to daylight (which supports your circadian rhythm), this will also support good sleep.
If I’ve not got much time, I’ll take a couple of laps of my local wooded park (add in the heart-rate increase and we’ll get to number 2 on this list), or for more of a dive into nature, I’ll get on my paddleboard for a few hours on my local canal. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just get into the natural world for a while and notice how much better you feel.
I mentioned this above, but movement really is a powerful, positive elixir for bad days. I mentioned this in a podcast episode: there’s no way you’ll move your body (in a yoga class or elsewhere, assuming you’re moving safely and not getting injured), and not feel better for it. We often turn to our movement practices as a way to tone up, or to maintain our physical appearance. Wonderful things, of course, and the mobility we gain from these practices is super important. But so often we down-play the mental health benefits of moving our bodies.
So when you’re having a bad day, don’t move for an abs goal, or because you want to do more reps than last week. Move because it will categorically and absolutely shift you into a more positive state of mind. Try this easy, 15-minute chair yoga class if you’re struggling to begin.
3. Relaxation – you don’t need permission
We have this notion that rest, time off, and relaxation is something we work to earn, some sort of reward, or something we need permission for. There’s lots of reasons we think this way, it’s a sort of societal mass conditioning, so we need to work a little at shifting our mentality towards time off.
Repeat after me: we don’t need to earn our downtime. Rest and relaxation is an absolute human imperative; your body doesn’t function right when you don’t factor it in. Think of the most stressful times in your life. How was your mental health, your digestion, your heart rate, your sleep? Even if we sprinkle a little of that stress and tension into our every day lives, those same negative effects happen. So rest, my friend. Rest.
After a walk in the woods and a little heart-rate increase, I often take a non-sleep-deep-rest or yoga nidra session (like this one at only 18 minutes) with a weighted blanket. Or maybe you just want to watch your favourite Netflix show. Or both! It’s all good.
4. Comfort Food
Yes, I know, is it really okay to promote comfort food? But I say it is. Because food is comforting when we need it to be. My favourite go-to would be a home-made mac and cheese, replete with too-much cheese and butter, with a few veggies thrown in for good measure. Maybe you like to bake, maybe it’s a full roast chicken lunch.
Sometimes we just need the taste of our childhood, or something comforting, warming, and carb-filled, to give us the warm-and-fuzzies, and that’s okay. You can always find balance tomorrow.
This ties into number 3; meditation is a way for us to wind-down, organise our busy minds, and find some proper calm (yes, even if your mind is running at a million miles an hour).
When I’m feeling particularly run down or overwhelmed, I like to visualise a golden light bathing my entire body when I meditate. It’s like a light of total positive energy, burning off all the stuck, hard, stressful parts of my experience. And, as woo-woo as it might sound, it really works. Try it for five minutes or more before bed.
And finally, speaking of bed, getting a proper night’s sleep is basically the key to the universe. Once you’ve ticked all of these day-changing tricks off your list, settle down with a good bedtime routine.
There’s something we can get stuck in when we’re having a bad (or even just a busy) day: bedtime procrastination; a way for us to ‘extend the day’ by doing the things we want to do. But this just ends up in losing sleep and feeling worse for it the next day. See if you can give yourself extra time to slow down before bed and get the shuteye your body’s craving. Promise you’ll feel better for it.
Being alive is a wonderful thing, but it comes packaged up with some really shitty days; they’re unavoidable. But practice these tips above and, I promise, you’ll be able to find resiliency and your hard days will become a hell of a lot easier to manage.