4 Mindful Coping Strategies for Riding Out Tough Days
May 07, 2020
This post was written by Alex Phillips, Co Founder of Saint Belford.
The next time you’re feeling all the feelings, sobbing inconsolably and your self-talk has taken a turn for the worse, just remember that you’re not alone. Bad days, tough days, sad days—it’s all part and parcel of the human experience.
What truly matters is how we care for ourselves on those days. While hiding under the covers until the storm passes sounds like a pretty good strategy, it might not be the most practical or helpful act of self-care.
Here are my 4 go-to strategies for getting through those stormy days with a little more ease.
Journal about your feelings
I know you’ve heard this before and it feels like the beginning of another generic list of self-care activities, but I truly swear by it. It’s the most effective form of unpaid therapy.
I’ll generally begin by venting and getting that raw emotion out on paper.
Then, I’ll ask myself questions, just like a therapist would. Did something trigger you? What do you need right now? What is this teaching you? What do you need to do?
Deep down, you’ll know if you’re being honest with yourself. It might not be what you want to consciously admit but the answers to your questions will eventually surface.
The beautiful thing about journalling is you can be brutally honest without fear of judgment, and It’s through honest reflection and introspection that “aha!” moments are born. When you choose to be curious instead of critical, you’ll uncover solutions and discover things you didn’t know about yourself. It’s a process though, so patience is the key.
Listen to your pre-recorded pep talk
This one requires a little preparation. It’s a little kooky, but here me out.
When you’re in a healthy state of mind, record a pep talk on your phone or write one out in your journal addressing all the fears and doubts and self-talk that surface for you on a bad day.
The purpose of this pep talk is to address the unhelpful self-talk that plays on repeat—the self-talk that strips away your confidence and showers you with doubt—the self talk that your loved ones struggle to tame because only you know deep down what you want and need to hear.
I recorded mine about a year ago and it has helped me through those seemingly inconsolable states.
What this pep talk ultimately provides is perspective. It can help remind you of the things you already know deep down but tend to forget when the voices in your head tell you it’s all downhill from here…
Whenever I’m having one of those days, I instantly fear that it’s the beginning of a downward spiral—the beginning of depression. It sends me back to my teenage years when I suffered silently and I can feel the pain all over again.
The pep talk neutralises those toxic thoughts. It reminds me that I’ve survived every other bad day. It reminds me that the only thing familiar about this experience are the tears. This 90 second pep talk is the epitome of self-soothing.
I’m not going to lie—it feels weird talking to yourself but you’re doing your future self a huge favour. Add this video to a separate album so you can easily access it when you need it most.
Take deep controlled breaths
Controlling your breath when you’re sobbing inconsolably can feel quite challenging, but stick with it. Deep controlled breathing is one of the most effective ways to reverse the body’s stress response and calm an overactive mind.
Try the 7/11 technique where you breathe in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11. It’s all about the longer exhales.
Move your body
Last thing you want to do, right? I get it. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this is the toughest one for me too. I usually need encouragement with this one, so if you have a partner or friend, let them in on your go-to strategies, so they can give you the gentle nudge you might need to do what’s right for you.
My go-to movement is generally burpees or some variation of squats. The goal is to get your heart rate up and get your sweat on.
There’s a huge link between exercise and mood but I also believe feeling some sense of accomplishment when you’re feeling down goes a long way, especially when it was the last thing you wanted to do, but you pushed through and did it anyway! The post-workout sense of accomplishment is sure to lift your spirits a little. It’s not the cure-all, but it can certainly provide some relief.
Ultimately, it’s about figuring out what works for you and how to best care for yourself on those challenging days. Remember, it’s not about skipping to the end or flipping a switch. It’s about nurturing your mind, body and spirit when you need it most.