A Toolkit for Down Days
Down days. We all have them. Days where you’re just not feeling yourself, maybe a bit sad, even depressed. Days where we don’t have any motivation to do anything, where we’re just not comfortable in our own skin.
Having suffered from depression for a long time, I’ve had more than my share of these days. And as I’ve worked through recovery from depression, I’ve developed a number of tools I can use to help me try to turn these days around. But as I think about it, you don’t have to be depressed for these tools to be useful to you.
Here’s a list of things you can do to help turn a down day into a better day.
KEEP A GRATITUDE PRACTICE
Whether it’s through a journal, photography, arts and crafts or something else you like, start surrounding yourself with the things that you’re grateful for. Keep a scrapbook – you can draw, use photographs, cut pictures out of magazines. The idea is to keep you focused on positive aspects of your life that you want to keep in your life. Practicing gratitude takes some of our heavy focus off of ourselves and places it onto things that make us happy.
THE THINGS I HOLD CLOSE TO ME
This is an exercise I did in the hospital that stayed with me and I keep in my mind for reference. Draw a grid of 15 to 25 blocks on a blank sheet of paper. Place yourself somewhere near the middle. Fill in the surrounding blocks with the people, pets and things that you hold closest to your heart. You can just write names, draw pictures or decorate this however you’d like. When I did this, I placed my closest family and friends in the center nearest to me and then secondary things – things that were still important though – like my doctor, my therapist, my hobbies, my dreams in the outer blocks. When I finished, the page was full and it created a map for me to use of what I held dear. It’s a good reminder when things get tough.
For me, this area has been running. It’s something I can wherever I am, all I need are my shoes and a watch and I can go out and change the scenery. It’s something that challenges me, but also makes me feel good. If running isn’t for you, maybe it’s yoga or tai-chi. The point here is being active, doing something that is intentionally healthy for you, that gets you up and about. Doing this regularly is going to help improve your mood and can also have wonderful long-term health benefits.
TAKE A WALK OR A SHOWER
I use these two activities as examples because – to me at least – both are cleansing activities for both mind and body. Both allow us to let go of some tension and reset ourselves. I like to look at both activities as meditations of some sort, where I can focus my attention on what I’m doing in minute detail, whether it’s the colours of a flower I’m walking past or the feeling of soap suds popping on my body. By allowing my mind to dwell on such details, I allow my mind to let go of everything else it’s holding onto.
DO SOMETHING CREATIVE
This is your choice. And you don’t have to have any particular talent. This is all about getting what’s inside you to come out. So paint, draw or knit. Make something with your hands. Give your mind a rest from what’s normal and allow it to go to unusual places. Have fun with what you’re doing. The end result doesn’t have to be the goal, just allow the process of creating something, anything to flow through you.
So I saved my favourite for last. Surprise, surprise, the writer wants you to write. I find writing to be therapeutic for me on so many levels, I can’t begin to name them all. But again, this is about getting what’s on the inside out. Writing allows you to put a new perspective on things, you can re-arrange your thoughts however you’d like, put them bottom-to-top or in no particular order. You can catalog your feelings or list out what you want to get done.
The idea in all of these activities is to get you to approach yourself and your thoughts differently, hopefully allowing your mind to take a break a reset, giving you fresh perspective on the world and all it holds for you.