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When you feel despondent
When you feel despondent, life can seem very bleak. I have been there. It is usually triggered for me when my health deteriorates and I have to place ‘life on hold’ and get myself well again.
As I have been in this hopeless place many times before, I have sat with the despair and asked myself, with all my mental health experience, what I could possibly do to feel hopeful and happier again.
Here are a few tips that I thought might help you if you ever feel hopeless. We can’t avoid the negative feelings but there are things we can do to speed up the recovery process:
Psychological flexibility is one the best kept secrets in mental health. Research has proven that the more flexible you are in your approach to the world, the happier you will be and the less stressed you will be. It’s as simple as that.
When I get ill and need intravenous medication, some of my authomatic thoughts are often along the lines of, “Here we go again. Life is so hard. Why me? etc”. I am quick to recognise this type of defeatist thinking nowadays though, and immediately look for alternative ways to look at the situation. I can’t change the fact that my health is fragile, so beating myself up or criticising myself is a waste of good energy and is unhelpful. Instead, I give myself a pep talk, remind myself of how strong I actually am to carry on with life and manage my health and ‘feed’ myself with thoughts that are more flexible and less rigid.
Rigid thinking leads to anger, resentment, depression and anxiety. It paints a very black and white view of the world. We live in a grey world and when we deny that fact and try to see the world so narrowly, it comes back to bite us. The more rules we have, the more easily the world around us breaks them. Learn to be open minded, learn acceptance and this psychological flexibility will improve your coping skills dramatically.
Always look for alternative explanations for what is upsetting you. Check whether you are being too rigid in your thinking. Nothing/no one is all bad or good. See the world in varying degrees instead of two categories – good/bad or success/failure. It’s not useful, it’s not practical and it will keep you feeling despondent.
This will pass
It feels shit when you are in the depths of despondency. I have had thoughts such as, “Oh what’s the use? I may as well give up. Nothing I do ever works”.
This thinking isn’t helpful -it’s not true that nothing I do works. (Too rigid!) I also comfort myself by knowing that as awful as I may feel, I have always seen light at the end of the tunnel after a while. Usually it’s due to a combination in the way I see things but also in the external situation changing too. Whatever the reason, you won’t stay down forever. Just stick with it, accept the down time and use this as a reminder to increase your self care and look after yourself. Don’t beat yourself up – treat yourself with compassion.
Self care and compassion
When you feel despondent, it’s important to increase self care. This includes treating yourself with kindness and respect. Imagine how you might treat your five year old daughter or son, or a friend you cherish. You would be loving and supportive and give them a pep talk. Do the exact same thing with yourself. Go for a walk, pamper yourself and take extra time out to reward yourself and be good to yourself. This automatically increases our feel good levels. Our brain secrete a hormone, Oxytocin when we show others love and when we show ourselves love and appreciation – same part of the brain. When you feel despondent, it’s a warning to re-assess what is going on in your life and possibly change direction.
When did you last have a good giggle? When were you last really playful and acted like a child? This simple exercise has a HUGE impact upon our mental well being. Watch a comedy, go ice skating, find a park to go play in – anything that helps you to feel carefree and unburdened. Trust me it works!! Bring out the child in you and let go for a while.
The above tips work well for me. I always take time out when I get really down and analyse where I may have gone off track. Sometimes, it’s just a sad mood that passes but usually it’s because I am not being true to myself and I am trying to force something that I have no control over.
I get back to focusing on myself and what I can control and I always make time for fun. It’s boring being an adult 100% of the time!