We all have times in our lives when we cannot fathom ever feeling right again. Sometimes it creeps up on us as a general feeling of unease and fatigue. Other times we weather stressful life events- losing a job, juggling study and uni or losing someone we cared about to name some of life’s challenges. We all have had days where it has been an effort to get ourselves ready to conquer the day.
Gradually, I have been able to recognise the times when my emotional wellbeing is nosediving, and I have come up with a few helpful tips for getting back onto my feet. We cannot remove all sources of stress from our lives, but we can manage the way that we react to them.
It is essential to recognise that there is a difference between a mental illness such as anxiety or depression and an especially hard time. If you have had a long term struggle with feeling like yourself and feeling unwell, I implore you to see a medical professional. That being said, these tips are helpful for possibly improving your mindset and getting you through a tough time.
Talk to someone
Life is not meant to be done alone. We are wired to experience relationships and to live in a community.
Talk to someone. Your friends, any family you have, even acquaintances. Call someone out of the blue which you have not talked to in a while, and I guarantee they will listen to anything you need to talk about. It is so easy to feel like a bother or a burden to those around us. I promise that you are not.
Talking about what is in our head helps us to put our challenges into perspective. Seeking alternative views can give us a fresh take on our situations.
At the beginning of 2018, I completed a fantastic teaching practicum in Darwin. When I arrived back at the beginning of the semester at University, I was already exhausted. This tiredness was compounded by the stresses of a new job and my assignments. I could not see much of a bright patch to my day. I was on auto-pilot mode.
I decided to try an experiment. Each day I would write a quick list before I went to bed of everything I was grateful for. I also made another rule for myself- my list had to be specific. Items such as ‘the conversation I had in the hallway today’ and the ‘beautiful colours of the sunset’ made it onto my list.
These lists trained my brain to think about the positive and to override its’ natural negative bias. Looking back now on what I wrote brings a smile to my face. It is a good habit to see the positive in life.
Recently I was having a hard day. I had just taught one of the most challenging lessons of my life, found out that I had an extra assignment to do than what I thought and had piles of marking to do. I broke down when a colleague asked me if I was okay, and I realised the answer was no. He encouraged me to breathe. Deep breathing has a calming effect. It brings our heart rates under control and forces oxygen into our system. The 4-7-8 technique is helpful for calming yourself down.
Take time just to be. Take a break and relax.
What we put into our body has a profound impact on our wellbeing. The foods that we eat change our emotions. We can go for sugary foods which can give us a short term boost leading to mood swings when we inevitably come down. When we eat healthy foods, our mind is healthy too.
Moving our bodies dynamically has a significant impact on our health. Just going outside and going for a walk can dramatically lift our mood. Exercising for only a few minutes a day increases our endorphins.
Do something you enjoy
When was the last time you did something that you enjoyed? Take time to do something that brings you joy. I love writing, reading and watching television shows that I am too old for (as a guilty pleasure, of course!). I can go for weeks at a time without doing any of these. When I am busy, the things I enjoy the most are the first to go. Our lives are not just meant to be relentless working. We must remember to take pleasure in the things we enjoy!
See a professional
A counsellor is not just there for us after a traumatic event; they are friendly faces that we can talk to about anything, including our everyday stressors. If you feel as though you are always overwhelmed and want some strategies to cope or you would like to talk through an issue but do not want to share it with those who know you well, a counsellor could be a profound help.
I encourage you to try seeing a counsellor if you feel it may be helpful to you. I was extremely hesitant to see a professional but found that once I settled in, it was just like talking to a friend.
Having a relationship with God can change the way we live our lives and view our struggles. In 1 Peter 5:7, it instructs us to cast all our anxieties onto God “because he cares.” We are also told in James 4:8 that when we “come near to God” He will draw close to us.
God also invites us to have a personal relationship with Him by speaking to him through prayer. It is amazing to think that God makes himself available to us at all hours of the day and knows what we are going to say before we even say it. Even more incredible is that when it is too hard to speak, or we cannot find the words the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27).
Take time to check in with yourself and see if you need to take some time to look after yourself and make sure that you are okay.
By Kira-leigh Josey