What to do when everything is against you.

We have all had one of those days.

• You wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
• You stub your toe as you get out of bed.
• The zipper on your trousers is refusing to budge.
• Your thighs look like someone pumped air into them overnight.
• Your hair has decided any direction is better than the direction you want it to go in.
• Your favourite top shrunk in the wash (or whatever happened to your thighs happened to your arms as well!)

All this before you have even come downstairs for breakfast. This was me one day last week. I was in a foul mood by the time I got to office and I was taking no prisoners.

There is no shame in having those days every now and then. In fact, show me someone who doesn’t have those days and I will show you someone who is so divorced from their reality that they need professional help. This week is mental health awareness week and research shows that:

• 2 out of every 3 people experience mental health issues at some point in our lives.
• 1 in 3 women are on anti-depressants.

This means if you are having coffee with two other friends, chances are, one of you is being medicated. For us women, taking care of our mental health is a big deal because the emotional wellbeing of our children is hinged on our mental health.

I do of course go on about women and our mental health in my book (Octopus on a Treadmill). Those of you who have read it will know that I don’t hold back, and it is raw in parts. When I say I know what it is like to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I know what I am talking about. In those moments, telling someone to focus on the positive and count their blessings is simply wasting your breath. It is like telling someone to cheer up when they are in a bad mood.

When someone is down in the dumps, the lens they are looking through to see their blessings is so jaundiced, nothing looks like a blessing. All that I want to do when I am like that is to whinge and whinge and whinge some more. There has even been the occasional threat from me of stabbings in the eye if people didn’t leave me alone to wallow. This is very serious indeed for me because I am not a violent person and have never been in a physical fight in my life. Once in primary school when another girl challenged me to a fight outside after school, I just ran away before school was over.

The trick is not to allow oneself to get below a certain baseline when one is down. That is where self-care comes in. If you are looking after yourself and staying balanced, then the occasional wobble here and there is fine, and you know you can easily clamber out of it. But if you have sustained periods of being out of balance, that is when you run the risk of plunging past your baseline. And when you take a plunge, whilst wallowing doesn’t help the situation, you can’t seem to help yourself because that is the wavelength you have got onto. Sometimes all that you can to do is ride the wave until you come out of the other side. Unless there is something clinically wrong (in which case you should seek professional help) you will eventually come out of the other side.

For some reason, we have all bought into the ‘be happy always’ fallacy. I don’t know when it all started but I do remember that when I was growing up, being sad was allowed not just for kids, but grown-ups were sad sometimes and showed their sadness and that was alright too. There wasn’t this fear that once you get sad, you will never come out of that state. This fear which forces people to have to pretend to be happy all the time is exhausting. Being sad or feeling your life is going nowhere is part of the human condition. Life is full ups and downs and we should be able to reflect that in our emotions without being at risk of being medicated because we dared to show our emotion.

What to do

In my book, I explain how our lives are back to front and therefore we are not living lives that suit us, which in turn lead to stress. Poor old stress is being blamed for a lot of mental health issues and I agree that stress a major factor but, we cannot live a life devoid of stress. Stress is just a fact of life. Here are some steps to help you get some balance so that you don’t have to fight with your wardrobe and hair first thing in the morning:

• You need to structure your life so that it is aligned with your values. Have you figured out what your values are and is what you are doing for a living aligned to that? This is a long term alignment but if you don’t invest sometime in it, you will forever be battling constant underlying stress threatening to breakthrough the surface. With that type of stress, all that is takes is for you to be a bit hormonal and you are pushed over the edge. No one wants that.

• You also need to look after yourself by eating the right foods. Foods that will support your moods. Start with wholefoods, you can’t go wrong. You don’t have to be a good cook to eat well. Find out about what foods are good for you and you will surprised how your creativity will kick in and support you to come up with all sorts of weird and wonderful concoctions.

• Exercise, exercise exercise. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something physical and release the endorphins to cut through your funk. Dance like no one is watching! Of course if you are in a bad mood, then dancing will be the last thing on mind, but the point is you need to move and sweat to do it before things get that far.

• Take time out to relax and unwind with people you love. Schedule time into your diary to just chill out! It is that important. Stop eating lunch at your desk and go and meet some friend for lunch.

• Get yourself a good book or listen to an uplifting podcast or read a blog.

• Practice mindfulness or meditation.

If we look after ourselves and live the lives that suit us, then when we come across the inevitable stressful times, we are better able to handle the stress and it does not knock us sideways. When sad things happen, we should also allow ourselves the space and time to feel sad and not try to stuff the emotions down. The quicker we allow ourselves to feel the emotions the quicker it passes through, for us to move on.

As for me, I am still not sure about my hair or thighs but at least I am out of my funk so I promise you, if those two things don’t have a chance of destabilising me during mental health week when I need to keep my wits about me.