By nature, I'm a pretty happy person. I feel really lucky for that. I don't know if it's the wiring of my brain, how I've worked to train myself to see the good in all situations, or my special set of hormones that makes me who I am, but I'm thankful that most days I am genuinely happy.
But to be very honest, I have bad days, too.
I have days when I'm sad for no reason. When I cry at the drop of a hat. When I'm way too sensitive to normal things in life. And I really struggle with this.
I struggle with the fact that I don't have it all together because I like to pretend that I do.
I Fear (with a capital "F") the people I love finding out that sometimes I'm not okay and then deciding I'm not worth their time.
Sometimes my house is a mess. My heart is a mess. And I don't have the energy or willpower to clean it up.
I am guessing that I'm not alone, that sometimes you have "off" days, too. I don't have this figured out by any stretch of the imagination, but I want to share with you how I handle these days. They're inevitable. Sometimes it's stress, sometimes it's a life event that triggers them. They will pass, but they will be back, too.
Here's what I do:
I brush my teeth.
If this day 'o sadness appears on a day when I'm not working, it's tempting to stay in bed all day. I don't want to get outside, I don't want to talk to anyone.
On this day I don't do my make-up, I throw my hair in a bun and put on sweatpants; I'm not presentable at all.
But I brush my teeth. Because it makes me feel like a human. And I need to feel like a human.
I eat a vegetable.
It's tempting to eat chocolate and junk food all day long. I've succumbed to those cravings before. The pleasure is fleeting, though; I feel like crap when I eat crap.
So instead I find whatever vegetable I have in my fridge, freezer, or cupboard and eat it. Here are some examples of "off" day meals:
Spinach salad (literally straight from the bag) with blue cheese crumbles & blue cheese dressing (because I love blue cheese)
Canned green beans with shredded cheddar cheese, heated in the microwave
Steamed frozen broccoli, quinoa, and black bean bowl
Lentil Frito Pie (super easy. super tasty. super healthy. ideal comfort food)
I get outside.
Rarely do I have the motivation to go on a run or plan a hike, even though I know it would be good for me. But if it's the least bit sunny outside (even if it's 10 degrees and snowy), I get my butt off the couch and go experience it.
Sometimes I sit on my back step and read a book. Sometimes I take a 10-minute walk around my neighborhood. Sometimes I drive to this lake near my house that has a lovely bench and I sit and stare at water.
Whatever it is, I force myself to get into nature, to breathe fresh air, and to let the sunshine fall on my cheeks. It's good for the soul.
I do some yoga.
Yoga is the perfect combination of exercise, stretching, and meditation. My whole body feels good when I spend time on that yoga mat.
It's sort of like getting outside, though - I have to force myself to do it. I use a yoga app so I never have to leave my house - because I guarantee I wouldn't be motivated enough (check it out: Yoga Studio for $4).
Exercise provides an outlet to relieve stress and refocus your attention on your physical movement rather than whatever it is that's bothering you. But that's not all - it also physically improves your mood by increasing your body's production of the feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins. Endorphins work by blocking pain receptors and producing feelings of pleasure. Exactly what a gal needs on an "off" day.
Let me re-phrase that: I stress-cry. Did you know that you release stress hormones when you cry because of emotion? Crying also causes your body to release endorphins. Thus, I'm not interested in apologizing for being a hot, crying mess when I need it.
So while some folks try to hold back their tears, I find a re-run of Parenthood or Call the Midwife (two of my favorite feel-good shows) and I cry. I call my best friend and sob. I just feel like crying and I let myself cry.
I reach out to a friend.
Because that's what community is all about - sharing in each other's joys and sorrows. I go to women's group or girls' night. I go on a run with a friend. I ask a co-worker out for dinner. I call my mom or long-time bestie.
We're not meant to live life in isolation. You're not meant to suffer in silence. I don't have to go through my tough days alone and neither do you.
Sometimes I just feel sad.
Our society has a tough time with emotions. Anything other than "I'm fine!" isn't really an appropriate response to the question, "How are you today?"
But the reality is we're not always okay. And you know what? It's okay to not be okay sometimes.
It's okay to grieve a loved one. It's okay to feel stressed out about work. It's okay to be frustrated with your kids (even if you simultaneously love the hell out of them - these feelings aren't mutually exclusive).
You don't have to be happy all the time.
All this being said, if your "off" days don't go away and if it's rare to have a happy day, you might be experiencing depression. Depression is an unbelievably common, treatable disease, and it's something about which you need to have a conversation with your doctor.
If on most days of the week you have little interest or pleasure in doing things or if you feel down, depressed, or hopeless - please go talk with a trained counselor, psychiatrist, or doctor. Depression may be common, but it's not normal; you don't deserve to feel like this and there are treatments (many different options) to help you feel better.
I hope your "off" days are few and far between. I hope that happiness is the overwhelming descriptor of your life. I hope you pursue joy with a vengeance, and I hope you find it.
With happiness, sadness, and love from Peas and Hoppiness.