01
Sep
10

beating the blues

Reader K.C. writes:

It’s been a really crappy past couple of weeks for me, and I’m starting to feel like the world is out to get me. What can I do to beat this feeling?

Dear K.C.:

Sometimes things go wrong outside of our control. You know this, I know this. Your feelings don’t know this. They’re just feeling overwhelmed. When things go wrong continually for a long period of time and we feel like we can’t stop it, the pattern of thinking things are going wrong turns into a habit that is really hard to break. You start expecting the wrong, rather than the good, and you to see only the bad things coming.

the blues

This is kind of what life looks like when you have a migraine. Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Once it’s set, this negative mindset is a tough habit to break, and can take years of behavioral and cognitive therapy to get out of.

But there are little things you can do on a daily basis to break out of the negative mood you’re in. You just have to force yourself to do them. And I do mean “force” — these are physical things you will have to get up and do. And that’s the idea. Remove yourself from the pattern. Forcibly.

Here’s my list of things I do to help me beat the blues:

Emote.

First and foremost, if I feel like crying, I cry. If I feel like screaming, I scream. The trick to this is only to allow it to go on for ten minutes max. After that, I change the subject for my brain and redirect my thinking elsewhere.

Accomplish something.

Finish a crossword puzzle or a sudoku; dive into your work head first; paint the kitchen. Just accomplish something. Finish it in its entirety, regardless of how you feel.

Get some sunshine.

I know this may be harder in those northern climes, but sunshine is imperative. This is why I got a convertible, in fact. Get at least 10 minutes of sunshine in every day. I’m not saying sunbathe and burn your skin off, but our skin reacts to sunlight by creating vitamin D, which can help regulate mood.

Take a walk.

Don’t take your phone with you, or even your iPod. Just take a walk around the block. Breathe. This is not about exercise per se. It’s about changing the scenery.

Go to the gym.

Get that heart rate up. Get your aggression out and build up some seratonin levels in your brain. Even if you’re too blue to really concentrate on a workout, get on the elliptical and just get going. Go for at least half an hour. Sweat some stuff out.

Interact with a domesticated animal.

Play fetch with your dog; take your neighbor’s dog for a walk; get on the floor with a cat; check out the gerbils at PetCo. Animals don’t get the blues the same way we do. They’ll distract you. Pet them and snuggle with them and let them entertain you.

Go see a movie.

Distraction is key when things are really bad. Seeing a funny movie can help. Hell, a sad movie can be just as good because it can get those emotions out into the open. Sometimes you need to cry at something other than your own life.

Do something really healthy for yourself.

I mean other than exercise. Eat some broccoli. Drink some green tea. Give yourself a facial.

Do something really decadent.

Chocolate is usually my recommendation here, but it just has to be something special you usually refrain from doing. Buy yourself that new pair of shoes. Go roll naked in the grass in the backyard. Just indulge in something decadent you truly enjoy. Don’t overdo it, of course.

Call a friend who’s having a worse week than you are.

Trust me. This will definitely make you feel better, and not just because you can do some comparison. Sharing things makes people feel better. We humans are social creatures, after all.

Call your mom.

This, of course, depends on your relationship with your mom, and I don’t recommend it for everyone. If your mom is terrible, call the closest person you have in your life who fulfills the actual maternal role, not necessarily your blood mother. This is the person who is on your side regardless of how stupid you may be, and will listen to you cry even if there’s no reason to. Call that person.

Seek professional help.

If things continue to be bad for longer than two weeks, or if you start thinking about suicide, you probably ought to talk to a doctor. I insist. I’ve had my own problems with doctors, and I know sometimes it makes you feel worse, but there are certain cases where it’s a necessity. If you had a giant tumor on your leg, or a gash in your rib cage, or a broken bone, you’d go to the doctor. Treat your mental health the same way you treat your physical health. There are warning signs and emergencies of the brain, too.

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