Steps to Take on Days That You Suspect Will Be Rough

October 7, 2009 at 5:16 am | Posted in Dealing with Depression, Productivity, stress | 1 Comment

Having a rough morning?  Try these techniques to smooth out your day.

Having a rough morning? Try these techniques to smooth out your day.

Yesterday was a tough day, and I suspect today will be, too. I’m under a lot of pressure at work, and my new antidepressant doesn’t seem to be doing much for me. So, following my usual technique of giving all of you the advice that I’m giving myself, here are several actions and activities for days that will be particularly rough.

1. Come up with five easy activities that will be gratifying to finish. Mine for this morning were picking up 27 items around the house (feng shui suggests moving 27 items to get your house’s chi moving); watering my houseplants (if you don’t have plants, getting one might not be a bad idea — they’re much like animals in that they respond to and repay love and care); emptying the lower rack of my dishwasher and hand washing one icky dish; doing five small very small tasks around the house that I’ve been meaning to do for quite awhile, including taking the price tag off of the table at the top of the stairs and entering my sister’s street address into my iPhone; once I’m done here, I will fold five pieces of laundry. As usual, the keys are to do no more than you’ve decided to do unless you feel genuinely motivated, and praising yourself for what you can do, no matter how small.

2. Go for a short (10-20 minute) walk, and make it as brisk as you can. Repeat every few hours. This can help with depression over the long term, and may lift your spirits immediately.

3. Do something sensually gratifying like fixing a cup of fragrant tea or inhaling aromatherapy oils. Keep both around for this purpose so that you won’t have to go out to get them, which can be nearly impossible on tough days.

4. In line with number one above, do just a step or two in a larger project around the house. For instance, I finally persuaded myself to read the installation instructions for my programmable thermostat. Next I will assemble all the tools that I need and put them in one place.

5. If you absolutely must skip work, be sure to schedule alternate activities so that you don’t lie in bed brooding. I tend to feel guilty if I take a sick day and then go hang out with friends, but really I’m just doing what I need to do to get well.

6. Tell people that you’re having a rough day and enlist their help. This is where it really helps to have a confidante or two at work, especially if that person is a supervisor. It can be rough to ask for help at work. As I’ve said before, it always seems to me that it’s OK for to be bipolar as long as you don’t have any symptoms — the minute you get ill, people tend to let the judgment roll. Even so, I’m going to try to seek out support at work today. I already have one coworker in mind.

7. Make a schedule or plan and stick to it. For me, a plan means looking at my to do list and choosing the next three to five actions that I will take, and the order in which I will take them. This prevents me from falling into a funk and staring at my list, feeling overwhelmed, every time I finish one task and try to choose the next one.

8. Congratulate yourself sincerely on every success, no matter how small. Only you know how hard it is for you to wash an icky dish right now, so praise yourself when you do.

9. Do not reward yourself with a shopping trip, chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol if these are problems for you. You know best if these are problems. Be honest with yourself.

10. When you’re well, design and follow morning and evening routines. When you feel crappy, stick to them — no excuses. I struggle with this one — when I feel lousy, morning prayer and yoga tend to go out the window.

11. Write down your negative thoughts and replace them systematically with positive ones, as described in David Burns’ The Feeling Good Handbook.

12. Orient yourself regularly by noting five things you see, five things you hear, and five sensations you feel. Don’t judge this sensory input — just note it. It’s a good way of clearing obsessive thoughts for a minute or two.


1 Comment »

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  1. Great advice! Stress is inevitable and it is very healthy for all of us if we equipped ourselves with certain strategies , especially at the workplace, without allowing stress to overwhelm us.

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