Even the highest of moods has got to sink and when it does, the usual issue is that the severe bearer of the mood swing is unprepared for what happens next. Then the mood crashes to the very bottom and you get stuck for days and then days turn into weeks, then the weeks can turn into a month. It gets nasty when it gets there. And it makes you lose everything you’ve worked so hard to gain in the last few months. It’s a messy cycle to be in, really.
People have their own set of health problems and MAINTENANCE is important. I have decided to be more proactive about maintaining myself in a good place by knowing how to nurse myself in my own way. It’s important to take the medication and have a support group for any health issue, but it’s selfish not to have your own will to push yourself out of a bad situation.
I watched Inside Out at home with my husband and sister-in-law and it was such a good film. They even had scientists on board to help explain the fascinating work of emotions inside the human brain. I recently read from a NY Times article that some concepts from the film are scientifically accurate. It was a very touching film and I cried at the last scene… It made me think of what I do when I am feeling like BLUE has taken over my head the way it did Riley when she got sad. And as an adult, I realize that I have a tiny setup worked out for it after years and years of not knowing what to do when it hits.
I made a deal with myself that I will stay healthy and so I made this sort of protocol for my down times. Sharing them here in case someone out there needs it or finds it useful. From my experience, I find that it’s hard to maintain genuine friendships when I turn a friend into some form of emotional crutch to keep me feeling good about myself. It’s just not right to do that kind of thing to people. It’s really subtly manipulative and unhealthy. I have friends who do that to me (two of which I have fortunately expunged from my life this year) and I do not have too many fond memories of people who do that on purpose.
Here is a list of my SOP or protocol for down times:
1. The Trigger Detector. Knowing the triggers or the signs of an impending downward mood swing is the first step. I have observed that excessive caffeine or sugar is a trigger for me as well as certain topics, so I start cutting back on those when I observe that I am getting derailed. But a cup of coffee in the morning never hurts, so I keep that.
2. The Journal. I keep a tiny tickler notebook and a thick gel ink to let me dump the drops of tiny thoughts that threaten to steal the faith– those that tell me that I cannot make it, that it’s too far out to see the light, or that it’s too much of a long shot to work. Sometimes the tiny drops become torrents that rush into pages and pages of ideas. And it actually becomes a treasure chest for better days.
3. The Second Point of View. I talk to someone stable who I can trust with my situation and see another perspective. I can actually hate a person and love his or her mind. Usually I don’t need a third POV because it means I am obsessing over a topic and talking to everyone about it and this will backfire. When I have bounced the idea off once, I get the second opinion, go back to my cave and think about it.
4. The Self-loving Treatment. This is a list within a list: a back massage, binge watching on my favorite shows, binge reading on a paperback, hanging out with my sisters, taking deep breaths, reading my favorite Feedly topics, listening to podcasts, listening to music on my iPod Shuffle, discovering new music on the internet, exploring new places to hang out in, sleeping for hours without guilt feelings, bonding with my life partner <3, and basically keeping an unbreakable rule of not being too hard on myself. I also give in to food cravings without counting calories or buy a new pen.
5. The Diversions. This is the best! There are so many resources online so I pick a new random subject to study that is completely alien to me and I channel some of my sad energies on it until I end up enjoying because learning new things is never boring for me. Always works. For example, on my current down phase, I am studying chaos theory and stock trading.
Oh yeah and number 6. The Uplifting Company. Kind of self-explanatory. 🙂
While I do the protocol, I also acknowledge if there is a specific reason on why my mood went low. It’s no use fooling myself or putting it under the rug. And sometimes, I also acknowledge that my mood goes really low for no reason but hormones and I forgive my neurotransmitters for it. And I have relieved myself of the responsibility of making people understand what this is. Because it’s an additional burden to be another person’s interactive brochure just because some people are not caring enough to google it or get some health help for themselves.
I also step out and I say no when I cannot do something. I have to learn this soon or I will die early from overly committing myself.
In the life, we are not handed a cookie cutter manual. We make deviations to our own manuals as we go along and this constantly refining internal and external process is what makes life better, not the accumulation of goods or the number of people we know…
And this is a part of the manual of my life when things are down. Some people have their own methods. This is mine. Posting it just in case some kindred random stranger in this information highway finds it important. If it matters to even just one internet wayfarer, at least that’s one step closer to feeling better for another person. 🙂