How to be productive on a bad mental health day

Cesar SugitaBlog posts, Other

Bad days happen. Things go wrong, other people’s moods affect us differently or, as we look at here, sometimes we feel off. Knowing what triggers bad mental health days is a piece of awareness that helps massively in terms of ownership of our mental health. What makes us feel bad or makes us want things to be different is a piece that allows us to know what we need to do or how we can respond on those days on which we feel low, anxious, nervous or shy, beyond what is being presented to us in terms of the narrative of our day. 

However, even on those days, there are certain life tasks that need to be accomplished. The people around us have certain expectations and often cannot understand why something that was easy and manageable yesterday, is, today, causing us such difficulty.

The first thing to address within yourself if you’re having a day where you just don’t feel that you can cope is why this is happening. What particular system or structure within yourself is being triggered by the events around you at this moment? Some of this can only be assessed within a clinical therapeutic environment (it is very difficult to know why we have responses without spending time in a space dedicated to analysing them) but most of our understanding of self can come from asking ourselves simple and focused questions like the ones below:

  1. Have I felt like this before?
  2. What events brought about this feeling?
  3. What relational pieces are causing me to feel this way?

Knowing how or why a feeling has been triggered is powerful information. We can use this information to influence our mood. However, we can only do this to a point. More importantly, we can accept that this is how we will feel when certain triggers are pushed and when we inhabit a space where these feelings arise. 

We live in a world that tells us that the striving for happiness, contentment and displays of exuberant joy are what we need to aspire to. However, this has no basis in anybody’s reality. On the contrary, our lives are richer and more fulfilling if we have space within them for not only the positive feelings but also for the negative ones. The real aspiration for us all ought to be the acceptance of all of our feelings, rather than the exclusion of the negative ones.

However, this again brings us to the point that we need to cope within our lives when we feel bad. Even with the most enlightened of lives, where all feelings are understood and accepted, there is still a natural reticence about food shopping or bathroom cleaning when we feel sad, depressed, anxious or in pain. Further, there is often an associated decrease in energy and motivation on such days. Acceptance is the first step in allowing ourselves permission to these feelings. Allowing yourself permission to drop any non essential tasks is another good way of minimising the difficulties associated with a bad day. Rewarding yourself on the completion of any difficult tasks, no matter how little each is, is a good way to remind yourself that the space inhabited by your bad feelings is not the only motivator in your life. There is space in each of us for both bad feelings and necessary work. A mindful cup of tea when you’ve completed a morning’s work or ten minutes of time alone when you have delivered a presentation that feels more difficult than it ‘should’ can make all the difference in terms of how a day progresses for you.

Knowing what helps and supports you is the most important tool that anyone can have in terms of managing their mental health. Which people are the most supportive? What spaces feel most nourishing? What exercises or pleasurable activities allow the most comfort?

Knowing these things allows us to indulge ourselves when we aren’t feeling fully right. 

Treat yourself as you would a most cherished friend, particularly on days when you are having a tough time. Broken into smaller chunks, this is all about knowledge. Knowing what caused this, what this is, and how it can be helped are all the tools that you need to manage on difficult days. If you find that this is a piece that you are struggling to understand for yourself, book a few sessions with a trained therapist. This is the work and doing it reaps great benefit.

By Lorraine Hackett