Making Space for Bad Days

This past week has been pretty rough for me. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ve been in a bad mood for a while now. Nothing bad has happened. In fact, on paper this week looks pretty great. It was my birthday. I got lots of thoughtful gifts and well wishes. I got to spend an evening with my best friends. It’s nearly Christmas. My boyfriend will be coming home next week. Life is good. Yet for some reason I just can’t seem to enjoy it right now.

I’ve woken up the past couple mornings looking for that lighthearted, eager, bright-eyed feeling that I normally find waiting for me as I walk into work. However, instead I’ve been greeted with irritability, impatience, and disinterest. None of the things I normally look forward to in a day have brought me any enjoyment. And I’ve been making it worse by being upset with myself and frustrated because of it.

I keep searching for some reason or explanation so that I can make sense of this strange off place I’ve been in. But sometimes there doesn’t need to be an explanation. Sometimes we just have days, weeks, or even months that are less enjoyable than others. There isn’t anything wrong with that. The problem is holding these unrealistic expectations for myself. I’ve been doing amazing for months now. I’ve had high energy, low stress. I’ve been upbeat, proud of myself, and treating myself well. We can’t hope to continue experiencing only positive emotions indefinitely though. Off days are a natural part of the human experience. Progress is not linear.

Even knowing that, it can be hard to sit with uncomfortable emotions. Everything passes in due time, even our hardest moments, but there is something inside of me that worries it never will. I keep waiting and hoping that the next day I’ll feel better. Then I am furious with myself when I don’t. Fighting and rejecting how I’m feeling isn’t doing me any favors though. It’s just prolonging this funk I’m in.

I can’t help feeling a bit like a petulant child, pouting because I’m not getting my way and allowing my stubbornness to prolong my suffering. My higher self keeps offering me kind words and helpful suggestions, only to have them angrily cast aside by my wounded ego. Sometimes I just don’t feel like listening to my own advice. It’s hard to know what to do with myself when I’m in this undesirable mindset.

When we’re faced with these situations, all we can do is allow ourselves to be where we are. It’s okay if I don’t feel like joking and smiling as much with my coworkers this week. It’s okay if I don’t feel like doing as long or as intense of a yoga practice. It’s okay if I need to set down my to-do list and just breathe for a few days. We must have faith that this storm will pass and the time will come when we feel motivated and upbeat again. It’s okay for us to put some things on the back burner while we wait for that day to come. Even though your mind might be telling you this feeling is forever and we need to keep pushing forward, that is only an illusion. There is nothing wrong with offering yourself the space and compassion you need in order to rest. Just because your hobbies aren’t bringing you the joy they did a few days ago doesn’t mean you’ll never find joy again.

These difficult days are just as valuable as the easy days. Perhaps even more so, in that they hold important lessons for us. They give us the perspective we need to more fully appreciate the good days. They are an opportunity for us to practice offering ourselves love even when we want to reject it or feel like we don’t deserve it. It’s a chance for us to practice equanimity and patience. It’s a challenge from the universe that we can choose to overcome. It’s a reminder of how lucky we are that we have so many good days, that a few bad ones feel jarring and unnatural.

When we find ourselves in these moments, continue to treat yourself gently and with love without the burden of expectations. Just because we don’t get the same pleasure out of acts of self-care, doesn’t mean that we should cast them aside. Toxic positivity is when we continue to do these things in an effort to force ourselves into a different mental state. But you cannot force happiness, nor should you try. Sometimes the greatest act of kindness that you can offer yourself is just allowing yourself to feel your feelings, whatever they may be.

It's okay to not be okay. by Sabrina E. Coyle on Dribbble

When Self-Love Turns Toxic

Self Love with Sigrid Tasies — Jodi Plumbley - Bespoke Boudoir + Portrait  Photographer

Ever since I began my “self-improvement journey” I’ve struggled with toxic self-love. I’ve heard this term used to describe a few different things, and it seems counterintuitive at first, so let me just start by defining what I mean. For me, toxic self-love is when my best intentions become new ways for me to criticize and cut myself down.

Here is an example: I’ve been practicing yoga for years now. I started with just seven minutes a day and for a while I was doing 30-60 minutes. However, recently I’ve found myself being too busy to do more than 15 minutes of yoga on my lunch break at work. Yoga is about self care, self love, self exploration, mindfulness. It’s not about a rigorous, unbending routine. Nevertheless, I’ve been super hard on myself about doing less than I once did. It’s ironic, actually. In the end, what’s worse for my mental health, missing 15 minutes of yoga or berating myself for it for the rest of the day?

Often the very routines I cultivated to manage my anxiety become sources of stress instead. I’ve always had a hard time avoiding that “all or nothing” mentality. If I don’t do an hour of yoga and meditation every day, than I might as well have done nothing. If I don’t eat with perfect mindfulness, then I might as well scarf down my food as fast as I can. This kind of black and white thinking has the potential to be more detrimental than if you had never started the practice at all. It seems like when I do manage to find time for a 60 minute yoga flow, I don’t give myself any credit. I think, “Well of course, I don’t get a pat on the back for doing what I’m supposed to do.” However, if I only have time for 5 minutes one day, I agonize over what I failure I am.

This is toxic self-love. It isn’t loving at all. Self-love doesn’t mean I’ll love myself when I’m perfect. Self-love means I’ll love myself where I am right now. I’ll love my flaws and imperfections. I’ll love myself when I don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning. I’ll love myself when I gain 5 pounds. I’ll love myself when I’ve made a big mistake. Self-love is unconditional. Toxic self-love says: meet these standards first.

This pressure we put on ourselves to perform and keep up with all our positive habits every single day without exception, ends up making us forget why we began these habits in the first place. Was my goal to check a box, to be unwaveringly consistent? Or was my goal to be happy and to take better care of myself? Regularly reminding ourselves of our intention is so important, so that we don’t become sidetracked while going through the motions.

It’s also important for us to pay attention to the way we talk to ourselves. What kind of language are you using inside your own head? One of my worst mental habits is saying “I have to.” This is probably one of my most repeated phrases each day. I have to workout. I have to do yoga. I have to meditate. I have to eat healthy, mindfully. I have to go to work. Honestly this phrase probably comes before most of my thoughts. It’s no wonder I always feel so stressed and exhausted.

My entire life might be completely transformed by gently correcting myself when I notice this phrase coming up. I don’t have to, I get to. It’s even a more accurate and truthful statement. I genuinely don’t have to do any of the things I do. I choose to do them, because I enjoy doing them. It’s only after months and years of repeating to myself that I have to that I lose sight of the fact that I want to. When I give myself permission to not do the thing, that’s when I finally allow my natural desire to bubble to the surface.

Sometimes I even catch myself thinking that I don’t deserve to feel calm and content, because I didn’t do a certain thing. I feel my anxiety welling up and think, “Good. That’s what you get for fucking up today.” How sick is that? I am purposefully withholding happiness from myself as a punishment. It’s wild to realize the “self-love” I practice is so harsh and domineering. Often I’ll even beat myself up for beating myself up! It’s madness!

True self-love is gentle, kind, forgiving. It’s recognizing how far you’ve come. It’s acknowledging the things you’re still struggling with and being okay with that. Even though I still have things to work on, I am proud of myself for all the progress I’ve made. Before I wouldn’t have even had the mental clarity to recognize the ways I’m being too hard on myself. Instead of perpetuating that cycle with more self-criticism, I am excited to use all of the tools I’ve gathered over the years to show myself more loving kindness. When I notice a negative thought arise, instead of seeing it as a cue to become upset with myself, I can see it as a cue to be proud of myself for even noticing it at all. It’s a beautiful opportunity to practice softening, to practice opening my heart even wider. I am so grateful for the chance to keep growing in my journey toward peace, happiness, forgiveness, and love. I sincerely hope you will try to offer yourself that same grace on your own journey.

8 key signs that you are lacking in self-love - Life Coach Directory