Can we talk about bad days for a minute?
I’ve had my share of bad days. I struggled with anxiety-induced illnesses from middle school through college. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during my sophomore year in college, and he ultimately died about a decade later when I was pregnant with my first child. I watched my vibrant mother-in-law die from non-smoker’s lung cancer. Oh, and we just lived through a whole year of a global pandemic.
There have been plenty of bad days in my (very privileged) life. And I’ve never once thought about murdering anyone to solve my problems.
What happened a couple miles up the street from us this week wasn’t a “bad day.” It was a hate crime fueled by anti-Asian racism and misogyny. That’s inexcusable, bad day or not. The fact that a sheriff would suggest that a “bad day” is an excuse for a white man murdering eight people is troubling, to say the least.
This is an opportunity to talk about racism and white supremacy, as well as the history of mistreatment of AAPI in this country. It’s an opportunity to educate ourselves and continue the work of anti-racism. And maybe this is a good opportunity to talk about some constructive things to do when we’re having bad days.
Truthfully, privilege has insulated me from most of life’s difficulties. I can’t pretend to understand what it’s like to live in fear of persecution or hate crimes. But I’ve found a number of things helpful on my bad days:
- I give my brain a break by rewatching a “comfort movie.” Knowing how something is going to end, and preferably end nicely, reduces anxiety for me. My go-to is the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice.
- I take a bath and have a good cry. There’s something cathartic about a good cry, and there’s something nice about not worrying about soaking yourself while you do it. So a cry in the bathtub (or shower) works for me.
- I find a state of flow by playing a piano piece a little more difficult than my level or painting intricate details. I learned about this concept from the book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Cheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (affiliate link).
- I reread old notes from my dad or look at old pictures to remember his essence. This is especially for sad days when I’m missing him.
- I give myself a night off from cooking (or Nick suggests takeout when he can tell I’m struggling, God bless him). Alleviating/outsourcing one of my daily tasks is a relief when my emotional margins are slim.
- I find an activity that honors the person I’m missing. This could be eating ice cream! It might be going on a long walk. It could be roaming through an art museum.
- I go for a walk and try to notice new things. Being outside, moving my body, and getting my mind in a more meditative state (by forcing myself to engage visually) can help turn a bad day around.
- I talk to a therapist or a friend about why I’m having a hard day. I can’t recommend therapy strongly enough. I know it’s a big financial commitment, but I know I’m a more self-aware and at ease person because of it. Many therapists offer a sliding scale based on income.
- I do breathing exercises. This is especially helpful when hard feelings are manifesting in my body. I pick a sequence, like breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, breathe out for 6 seconds. The methodical nature of the practice (in addition to the actual breathing) is calming. I learned this in therapy!
- I eat some good chocolate, like Xocolatl or French Broad Chocolate. I made a habit of stopping at French Broad in Asheville when I used to visit my dad, so I could have something to look forward to during very emotionally difficult trips.
- I practice yoga. Some days the slower pace of restorative or yin yoga is what I need to slow down and breathe. Other days, a challenging power yoga class helps me get out of my head.
- I do something that feels indulgent. I’m typically a hoarder of “special” things, hoping to wait for just the right time to use them. So actually using/eating/drinking a special thing on a bad day can be a real treat. Maybe it’s putting on a spritz of special perfume after a shower, using a face mask, or getting something like chocolate truffles or macarons that I normally wouldn’t splurge on.
These are just a few things that bring comfort to my weary soul. I know we all have bad days, and I hope that we can find ways to care for our mental health and for each other in this unprecedented time of hardship for so many.