For a long time, I believed I would “arrive” in adulthood and things would somehow just sort themselves out. But I am an adult now and have not felt like I’ve arrived anywhere. Instead, I’ve realised I’m on a continuous, evolving journey. Shedding layers and trying to understanding more of myself, life and what it means to exist in a purposeful way.
The thing that binds us all together as human beings is that we all must experience the pains and beauty of being alive. Both darkness and light must exist in order for us to understand and appreciate the other.
“Every man bears the whole stamp of the human condition.”
– Michel de Montaigne, Essais
I asked some of my dear friends how they managed to cope when life knocks them down. They all came back with varying responses. Each of their unique personalities shines through their words and I found it so touching to hear what helps them, I learned a lot about my friends reading their coping strategies.
I hope you learn new ideas for self-care and find it as interesting as I did.
“It’s not until the moment I pause and reflect- that is when I notice that I’ve pulled myself out of the darkness. When I’m in a place of darkness, I’m fully in it, deep. These days are blurred and I often feel nothing at all or heavy weight, physically. When I am there, I wait and try to do the following because I have a post-it note next to my bed that says the small things I enjoy: Waking up for sunrise, going on a walk to grab a coffee, taking a warm bath.
When I’m in this blurred time, I don’t want to talk to anyone because I’m emotionless and it’s hard to empathise and care. All I want to do is to be internal. A list of what I do is to be in nature, go on a walk to see the ocean go to yoga, read a book, write, turn off my phone. Or sometimes, when I have a glimpse of light, if I feel the courage, I will call a friend or ask a friend to go to dinner.
I don’t think there is a “switch” to get out but the list can help trigger hope to see the light and as they say, there is no lightness without the darkness.”
“When I was a teenager, there were times when I was depressed and suicidal. What kept me from hurting myself was my dog. We had a very strong connection and having him gave me something to live for. Back then, I didn’t do anything directly that would make things better. As I got older, I started listening more and more to my inner voice, I believe that made a big difference. I also believe that letting yourself feel whatever it is your feeling is very beneficial. If your emotions get held in or suppressed it makes things worse and harder to untangle in the end. But if you feel it right from the start and go through it then there will be an end to that, no matter how big or small.
Meditation has also been amazing, it completely clears my mind and puts things in perspective. I’ve gotten more into essential oils and crystals which I find beautiful and comforting. I’m someone who is affected by being around a lot of people and taking in energies is very draining to me, so I need alone time to function optimally. I also find quotes helpful to get through hard times like “today is only one day in your life” and reminding myself that I’m a good person through positive affirmation. I also believe in the laugh of attraction, whatever you think and whatever you say is your reality. So changing how you think is very important to feeling better. This is probably the thing that really got me through a lot.”
“I had a bad spell recently, I didn’t see it coming and didn’t know how long it was going to last. No matter how familiar this feeling is, it still has immense power to warp my life. If it is ignored, dismissed or pushed away it just comes back stronger. So I sat with it and cried, real fat rich tears that had sprung from a well inside. Sorrow can be all-encompassing and it latches on to other vulnerabilities to drag you further down. I don’t suffer from depression, clinically, but I have suffered in the past and know its power. Our minds are incredible forces, often pulled in many directions and what helps someone break through their issues may not benefit the next person.
What has helped me is sitting in that bleak space even though it is horrendous. As much as it may not feel that way I know IT WILL PASS. Breaking the pattern can help, literally just moving: clean your windows, wash some clothes, shower, walk. Sometimes you return to the same place so it seems defeating to even try. But sometimes we might see a dog that wants to be pet along the way and we can be simply pulled out of the slump and find we are smiling almost unwillingly.
I know there are times when I’m really tired, stressed, hormonal and feeling needy for someone to help pull me out but there seems like nothing can. I make a cup of tea and identify the bleakness. I find writing helps me. I can examine how these emotions are surfacing and create a character or a vignette of the situation. I can look at myself from across the room or put myself into the shoes of another. This distracts from the immediacy of the pain. It can help it subside and the intensity can diminish.
I have learned to look at all the pain as our honest view of life. Bad and bleak and sad and isolated are things we all suffer from as part of the human condition. It expands our understanding of ourselves and our perspective on the weird and wonderful life we live!
Curiosity, compassion and courage can help us all. Finding your own path of discovery to cope, be gentle and kind to yourself and identify what you see as brave.”
“For me, I try to do things to ground myself and remember who I really am. I try to refocus on what I’m striving for rather than what isn’t currently working in my life (easier said than done!) It’s probably the biggest life skill to learn for me.
Having close friends and family to talk things through with is absolutely key. Also, having a warm bath, getting an early night, having heartwarming laughs with people who care and can hold space are really helpful. It can be tempting to block people out and go at it alone at times but, ultimately, we need to feel connected and loved to push through hard times. Having a creative outlet is also really important for me.
One last thing is reading about or being around people I find inspiring. If I see someone else doing something against the odds that has a similar outlook to me, I connect with it and I think ‘yeah, I can do that too’.”
“When I am down in a very low place, I’ll call my mom which makes me feel better 99% of the time. I also like to gather my friends around and listen to what’s going on with them and bounce ideas off each other. This helps me realize that I’m not alone in the world, and that it is okay to ask for help.
I’ll also go get a massage, facial, or will buy a little something new. Getting a good workout is another huge factor. When I’m feeling stronger and in shape, it carries on to the rest of my outlook. Also, doing nice things for those who are less fortunate. Gathering clothes or donating to good will or volunteering with an organization is also a guaranteed way to raise my spirits. Helping others, whether people or animals always makes me feel better.”
“A lot of my tricks are fairly basic but If I’m going through a rough time I try not to shut myself away from my friends and family. But I think the hardest part is that you have to open and honest with them. It’s hard to say to someone “I’m depressed and I need you” because if you don’t really have a good relationship with that person they can turn on you. Or you can put a lot of strain on people. I think really you have to talk about it when it’s not effecting you. I’ll also take a dog for a walk (super hard to be depressed when you’re taking your fur ball for a strut!)”
“If I am really that low I like to talk to someone, who would understand why I am feeling the way I am. If that’s my mom, my husband or my friend. But, if its something kind of silly but really puts me in a bad spot but nobody would understand, then I’d get lost in a happy book or movie that I love with a happy ending, to pull me away.”