How I Cope on ‘Bad Days’

I didn’t have any orange days in February.

I started keeping a mood chart in the back of my planner three years ago and I love being able to look back at the entire year and see many good (and bad) days I’ve had. Anyway, this year orange is the color for an anxious day and February was completely devoid of orange. Instead it was filled with turquoise (for a ‘meh’ day) and blue (a happy day!).

Unfortunately the streak didn’t make it though March, but it was still a big deal!

I’ve been feeling disturbingly good mental health-wise the past few months. Disturbing because some days it just feels weird and suspicious. Unnatural even.

I wrote this on my personal insta a couple years ago and it still says it the best.

For the first time in, probably a decade, I feel like I’ve really got my life on track. I can finally focus on my physical health more. For so long I had to put my mental health at the front of the line because if I didn’t have good mental health, my physical health didn’t really matter. But now I’m at a point where I can focus on eating more nourishing foods and getting more movement.

I’m having fun.

It’s always scary when I start to feel this way because I know it won’t last. I could wake up tomorrow and have a bad day. I could have a series of Bad Days. With Anxiety and Depression there is just no way to know.

Over the years, I’ve developed a routine of sorts. When those Bad Days come (and they will), I know what to do. And that makes them just a little less terrible. For me, I know nothing but time will make that terrible feeling go away. I just have to survive each day at a time until it runs it’s course. Having a routine makes those days a little less scary and reminds me that it will end, just like it did the last time it happened.

Here is how I cope on the days when I wake up and know instantly that things are not all right:

  1. “Comfort” Shows.

I use television as a coping mechanism a lot of the time. I find the background noise comforting while I do other things. When I am anxious, the distraction becomes even more important.

I have two main shows that I use on Very Bad days: Psych and Castle. Both are light hearted shows that always make me smile, even when I don’t want to. They are well written (at least the early seasons) and the characters are like good friends that keep me company when I’m sad.

On days that are a little less bad, I have others I add into the mix: The Mentalist, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Elementary. You’ll notice these are all police procedurals. I find the predictable format reassuring and they all have clever and quirky characters that keep things from getting too serious. (I love Criminal Minds, but that one has to wait until I’m much more emotionally sound!)

  1. Comfort Foods.

When I’m a little anxious, I might eat a pint of Ben n Jerry’s to cheer myself up. But when I’m a lot anxious, I’m too nauseated and sick to eat. However, I also know that if I don’t keep something in my stomach I will only get sicker feeling as my blood sugar gets low.

So what do you grab when you’re nauseous? Ginger Ale and crackers. Sipping Ginger Ale (Canada Dry being my preferred brand) and nibbling on crackers doesn’t make me feel more sick and it keeps me from feeling worse because of not eating anything. There have been weeks where I drank nothing but Ginger Ale because it was a simple comfort to cling to and remind myself that things were going to be okay.

I even have a specific type of cracker for the occasion. My current ones are Tollhouse Foccacia crackers in Rosemary and Olive oil flavor. I buy them in bulk and always have a box on hand. Over time, I’ve come to associate these crackers with the comfort they provide. Not to mention they are delicious.

  1. Distraction.

This can be a tricky one. I need something complex enough to keep my brain engaged but also fairly simple. (TV isn’t enough, I need something to do with my hands.) Bad Days bring brain fog, which makes it hard to focus or concentrate, which is why reading doesn’t make the cut. I also shake, especially my hands, and find that I’m more clumsy and prone to dropping things.

Very basic knitting projects have made the list. One year I joked that you could tell the status of my mental health by how many dishcloths I had knitted. (I made a lot that year) The kind of project I usually find tedious and boring is all I can manage on Bad Days.

One year when a medication change left me really messed up for a couple months, I sorted buttons. My mom who is a professional seamstress, has always had huge jars of loose buttons. As a kid I remember playing with them. That year, I spent the better part of those two months sorting buttons by color and type, stringing like ones together on pieces of yarn. Was it a useful project? Eh, that’s debatable. But the act of sorting and organizing was a simple job that kept my mind occupied.

More recently I’ve added puzzles to the mix. I buy mostly 500 piece puzzles from the dollar store (and thrift shops too) that are small enough to assemble in the top of a copier box. That way I can sit on the couch while I do the puzzles. I buy colorful ones and sort the various colors into special puzzle sorting containers before I begin assembling the pieces. (Any small plastic container work just as well. I used them until I decided to treat myself to the “fancy” version.) For me, the sorting is just as enjoyable as actually putting the puzzle together.

Phone apps cycle in and out of this routine as well. I don’t like anything timed, nothing stressful. Solitaire is always a favorite. (I did grow up in the 90’s with a bulky desktop that only had solitaire and minesweeper on it after all.) Other puzzle games cycle in and out depending on the day.

Those are the three things that I primarily use as coping mechanisms on Bad Days. I’m sure other’s look different, especially people who don’t have the ability to stay home as much as possible when those terrible days come. In many ways I know I’m very blessed, although staying at home has it’s own disadvantages.

What do you do on those days that nothing is going to make the darkness better? How do you power through to the other side? I’d love to hear from each and every one of you.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for your posts! I always find them helpful, comforting and encouraging. It’s so nice to see how you never give up despite dealing with these sometimes debilitating ailments. I suppose i would say I suffer from mild depression and anxiety, (that I’ve dealt with all my life), it is no where near as lengthy or severe than so many other people like yourself face. A month or so ago I thought the darkness would never end, I had no idea why I couldn’t be happy or what made me that way. It’s so scary to not know where the light is. And the worst part is not being able to control it. I felt no desire to do anything although deep down I wanted to but I couldn’t put anything into action. It’s like your mind is stuck in quick sand and you can’t quite pull yourself out without feeling like your sinking deeper into the pit. Although I strive to be a faithful person, sometimes I can’t even pray because I have no words, my mind is just blank. I just ask Jehovah to listen to what my heart is trying to say… Anyway that month was especially bad and I wasn’t prepared for it. But now I am striving really hard to do everything I can to be prepared, to keep my spirits up the next time it happens, because you know, it always does. I’ve been making it a goal to always read or listen to something encouraging every day but especially on days that aren’t as good. I’m hoping to keep it a habit so that on bad days I still do it. Even if it’s just a song or a short verse from the Bible or something. I’m so grateful for the audio recordings so I don’t have to strain my dyslexic brain! I also try to not be upset with myself because I can’t do everything I need to do because my brain just can’t handle it. Sometimes just watching a funny show is all I can do, I love psych but don’t get it on Hulu. I watch Seinfeld, sometimes old shows and 30 Rock is funny too,I’m so much like Liz Lemon it’s not even funny! Also looking through Instagram’s plethora of awesome comics helps too. Anyway that’s my little rant, thank you so much for always sharing your thoughts with us. I love your mood tracker idea and congrats on no orange days in February! How exciting! Thanks again 🙂

    1. I’m so glad that these posts help you! It’s one of the reasons I do this, I want to be open about my experiences so people know that they are not alone, that so many other people struggle with these feelings. I’m sorry you had such a tough month but happy you made it through. I have trouble praying myself, the last time I was really struggling with that my mom and I started praying together each night. Definitely don’t get upset when you can’t do it all! We do what we can and sometimes that bar is set pretty low, lol. I try to do one productive thing every day, even if it’s as simple as hanging up one shirt. If I get too discouraged I write down everything I’ve accomplished that day, no matter how small (got dressed, ate a vegetable, ect lol). Anyway, it was great hearing from you and I’m sorry I didn’t notice this comment until today!

  2. Great post, really inspiring. There are many folks they feel the same. Is hard. But you can cope with it and this is amazing. Is Maybe getting a new hobby a good idea?
    After the death of my gran, I was sad for about a year. When I say sad, I mean really low on everything. But I have found many hobbies and it helped.
    But thank you for sharing your thoughts. Thanks

    1. Thank you for your thoughts. I’m sorry about your gran, losing a grandparent is so hard. New hobbies are absolutely a good idea! I tend to want to do EVERYTHING so I have a lot of hobbies. I’ve found any hobby where I can express my creativity is a good one.

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