How do I take care of myself on emotionally heavy days?
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“What do you do if you’re having an emotionally heavy day and you find yourself slipping back into a dark place? Let’s say you’ve had a very bad fight with a loved one and they’ve made you question your worth and value, and you feel like you’ll never be good enough for them. For me, it’s taking long walks and thinking and reaffirming the good and strong things that I believe—and know—about myself. How do you cope with it?”
I feel you and I see you. Am I you? Some days I am invincible to criticism and mean-spirited attempts at getting under my skin. Other days, I’m so vulnerable that a raised eyebrow can defeat me. Even after years of learning to affirm myself, I can still be derailed by a single comment. You can say “it’s a ‘them’ problem” until you’re blue in the face, but it still doesn’t change the fact that you feel hurt.
In my own life, it has been critical for me to recognize my hurt as something I have ownership of and separate from the loved one in question. When the “I’ll never be good enough” song starts playing on repeat, I remind myself that I’m placing control into the hands of someone who relishes it. They’re placing the work on you to change yourself rather than changing their own preferences about who they want you to be. Key word: preferences. These can, and will, change, leaving you always reeling to try and keep up with them. Knock the ball back into their court. Stay the course.
I’ve found that keeping a journal helps so that I can look back on days, weeks, or months and be reminded that not every day feels like today. I have a friend who keeps a calendar where she marks good, bad, and neutral days so she can remind herself that not every day has been a difficult one. On my heaviest and darkest days, I tend to forget that anything ever has been right in my life—so gentle reminders that I’ve been okay are helpful.
And when all else fails, and if I am able to, I call it a day without judgment. If it’s too early for bed, I play a video game or re-watch 30 Rock and eat macaroni and cheese until I’m sleepy. I climb into bed and allow myself to feel the heaviness, but I also invite restoration from what comforts I can find: a soft blanket, a good book, peppermint tea, a pouring out of my heart into my journal. Before I drift off, I affirm a happy bedtime story for myself; one where I am celebrated, beautiful, successful. I focus most on filling my mind with the people who’ve supported me most in my life, and it feels like the warmest hug.
Most often, I wake up feeling refreshed, resolved, and full of new ideas about how to take care of myself. If I’m still feeling heavy the next day, I assure my heart and my head: “we’ve been here before, and we can move through this.” That’s when it’s time to reach out—to friends, family, therapists—so you don’t have to carry the heaviness alone.
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Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio.