Be Kind to Yourself | How to Manage Darker Days

This is part six of a series on how I manage my anxiety. Read the introductory post here.

As I’ve browsed articles, read the self-help books, received the solicited and unsolicited advice, I’ve noticed two main paradigm options when relating to yourself on bad days. 

The first is one of indulgence. Feeling down? Do whatever you want to do, whatever feels like it will help, whatever you’re craving, whatever you’re up for. All the sugar, all the binging, and all of the avoidance. Why not? You’re not feeling well—you deserve it. 

I’ve tried this method, but I’ve experienced the lies it’s founded on. Truth be told, when I’m anxious, I crave the exact things that make me feel worse. I’ve eaten all the deep-fried and salty-sugary things I wanted and was left with intensified anxiety and an aching body. I’ve binged seasons straight, but was only left with a hangover of emotional turmoil and, again, intensified anxiety. I’ve avoided the conversations, the people, the interactions, but it only intensifies because people have to be faced eventually. This option sure didn’t work. 

The other option is one of discipline; but like…extreme. Feeling down? Be super productive instead! Want to stay in bed and rest? Go run a 5k, that’ll wake you up! The whole focus reminds me of this hilarious and frustratingly accurate comic:

I’ve tried this option, too. I’ve tried the pushing-through-until-maybe-my-not-feeling-good-will-magically-disappear. I’ve tried the longer lists, the more focus, the reading this book and that book and implementing and trying. All I got was burnout and more anxiety for my troubles. 

So what then? If both options result in worse circumstances, what’s a body to do?

As in so many other things, the answer is in balance. 

Seek to do well and to do good; and at the very same time: be kind to yourself.

But what does this like….look like?

For me, it looks like having a plan—a weekly plan— and refusing to give into the hyper-self-critical spiral of thoughts if (ha, when) my plans don’t all come to pass in the way I arranged. 

It looks like going to sleep when I feel tired or have a bad headache instead of “pushing through” on studying for another hour. 

It looks like believing my husband when he says he likes the meal I made even though I don’t think it’s perfect (it’s never perfect!).

It looks like focusing and writing this post even though I’m not super feeling it, but also giving myself the time to breathe and think through it instead of meet some crazy quota like “write 5 posts today!”. 

It looks like asking my friends to pray for me about my heart needs and making time to pray for their heart needs, too. 

It looks like realizing that I’m a deep-dive worker and that I can’t do a bunch of things every day, only a few things, and that’s okay, and making provision for myself. 

It looks like not beating myself up when my body revolted yesterday morning and I spent every moment before 11:45 AM in bed so I didn’t get everything done on my to do list. That’s okay. My body needed rest. 

It looks like remembering my value was already established on the cross of Christ, so to-do lists and quotas and amazing meals and compliments and accomplishments do absolutely nothing to contribute to my value nor my salvation not my worth. I am not dependent on them. 

It looks like being proud of what I have accomplished and having goals of the future and still being content in the journey along the way, whithersoever the winding path takes me. 

What does this look like for you? Truth be told, I don’t know. But I do know it is a place of balance. A place that results in you fulfilling God’s calling on your life—not the world’s pressure on your life. A place that allows for mistakes and reroutes and rest and reflection and so much peace. 

On darker days, give yourself room to experience and to lean hard on the Everlasting Arms and to rest and to get back up in good time. Be kind to yourself, because Jesus is kind to you.