So you have your self-care plan, and you’re taking the right medication, and you’re feeling great. You’re well-rested, happy, and healthy and it’s fantastic! In fact, so fantastic that you figure missing a day or two of your self-care or your medications or your healthy eating or whatever your self-care plan includes will probably not be a big deal. And you feel totally fine for the first couple days. Yay!, You think, I can finally relax a little on the self-care!
And then the third or fourth day comes around, and you’re dragging a little, but you still feel mostly fine. And then a week or two goes by and BAM! You’re lying on your couch, crying at a video of a raccoon and binge eating peanut butter straight out of the jar.*
I have a tendency (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) to continue indulging in whatever bad habit I’m indulging in instead of changing anything because I already feel like crap, so it doesn’t really matter at that point. Obviously, this isn’t a great solution. It doesn’t matter how many times I go through this, I always feel completely helpless and hopeless. I manage to convince myself that I have no idea how to get back to that awesome, totally in control feeling.
The last time I had this feeling (which happened to be a couple days ago), I talked to a friend who is much, much wiser than I am, and she gave me some really wonderful advice. She said that a bad day doesn’t mean the healing process doesn’t work or that you’ll never be better. It just means you need to go back to the basics and start your healing process from the beginning again.
See? I told you she was wise.
So I made a plan for what to do when I inevitably backslide, and now I’m going to share it with you.
Ask for help. I don’t care how you do it, but this is the very first thing you need to do. Call your parents, call your best friend, tell your partner, post on Facebook, shout it from the rooftops. It doesn’t matter, just tell someone (anyone) that you’re struggling and you need a little extra support. On Wednesday, I posted on Facebook, “Dear Facebook, I’m having a really rough day. Can you say nice things to me, please?” You know I hate posts like that, but in this case, it was the absolute best way for me to get the help I needed. The comments came pouring in with love and support and kind words and it really, really helped. It can be hard to be honest about your struggles, but more often than not, it’s the best way to get the help you need.
Break the cycle. Put away the peanut butter, dump the wine, throw out the cigarettes, stop online shopping for things you don’t need and get your ass off the couch. Whatever your particular brand of self-sabotage, you have to break the cycle if you ever want to feel better. Stop doing whatever harmful thing you’re doing and get out of the house for a little while. Go have coffee with a friend, explore the stores in your neighborhood, or just take a short, mindful walk. Pay attention to your surroundings: the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the world around you. You might be surprised by how much it helps.
Go back to your self-care basics. Bust out your self-care list (and if you haven’t made one yet, go to that post and make one now. It’s so worth it.) and check in with how you’re doing. My guess is that you probably aren’t sticking to it very well, if at all. Do your needs, and if possible, do them immediately after you get back from your mindful walk. If it’s safe and healthy for you with the energy you have, throw in as many of your wants and bonuses as you can.
Write affirmations and post them everywhere. Sit down with a post-it pad or a bunch of note cards and write down all of the nice things your best friend would say to you if he or she was there. “You’re beautiful.” “You’re brilliant.” “You’re so talented.” “You have a seriously fantastic ass.” “You can rock this day!” Then post them all over the place. On your bathroom mirror, your dresser, your bedside table, your kitchen cabinets, your fridge, your car. Make your favorite one the background on your phone. Your friends can’t always be there to tell you how fabulous you are, but you can do it yourself.
Treat yo self. Do something nice for yourself that doesn’t involve eating or spending money. My therapist sent me this awesome list a couple days ago (have I mentioned how much I love my therapist?) and I love it. Not only will whatever you do make you feel happier, just taking the time and effort required to do something nice for yourself will remind you how important and worthy of love you are.
Be kind and patient with yourself. Health and happiness isn’t an end goal, it’s a continuous process. You’re allowed to backslide, fall into bad habits and have bad days. It doesn’t make you bad or less than; it makes you human. Remind yourself of that when you backslide, and remember that you are still a wonderful person and everything is going to be okay.
*This is a totally fictitious scenario that is 100% made up and not at all based on my own life experiences**