I had a rough few days last week.
I didn't eat as well as I usually do.
I worked longer hours than usual.
I got less than 6 hours of sleep for five nights in a row. (I'm a seven-hours-a-night minimum woman. My body and mental health don't do well on less sleep after two days.)
I missed posting on my blog.
I didn't pick up the ukulele once. (It’s my new hobby!)
I was struggling to stay focused at work.
And I wanted to help a friend who has cancer.
Then came the negative self-talk. "Your not good at this. You're too slow. You should be farther along than you are."
It was hard.
But I remembered it is mental health awareness month. (Honestly, every month should be mental health awareness.)
I have dealt with depression up until four years after Art died. I discovered a way to deal with the feelings that caused my depression and I haven't been on antidepressants or depressed since. (That's for another post.) I have low days, but they don't linger.
Last week reminded me of the deep lows I used to go into and the panic those deep lows caused. (How long will this last? Will I be able to get out of this again? I can't stop feeling sad. This pain feels like it's too much.)
This time, I heard, actually heard the voice that said, "Kim, you need to take action."
My mentor reminds me occasionally, "You can't think your way out of a feeling problem. You have to act your way out of it."
That means I needed to take contrary action to the way I felt, which meant I needed to do something for someone else.
And so I did.
I took small actions to help this friend, and every action had a dual purpose. It would make her feel loved (I hoped), get me out of my head, and save me from destructive ruminations.
Here is the way I broke my actions down.
Make a small gesture towards here. (aka committed an act of love. Small was the critical word. No heroics necessary.)
Move my body. I knew long before there was scientific proof of the benefits to my mental health from taking a simple walk.
Use my name. Studies have shown how simply referring to yourself with your name helps you see a situation from a different perspective.
Here is how it played out.
On Wednesday, I sent my friend a text telling her what I liked about her. "One of my favorite things about you is your directness. I love that you will be totally honest when I text you and ask if you want to walk "with me" tomorrow morning." Adding humor is always good!
Later on the same day, I texted her again.
"I'm gonna be walking at 8:30 am your time. Wanna get your skinny but lazy ass out of bed and walk "with me" 3,000 miles away?" She said yes.
Lastly, after I texted, I started talking to myself. "Kim, what you did was nice. You are what she needs. You don't need to fix anything to help her." Ironically, it is the same thing I tell my clients all the time!
The following day, I started my walk at 5:30 am, talking with her on the phone.
Did my mood change? Yes.
Did I suddenly feel like rainbows were shooting from my eyes? Goodness, no!
But my week got better because I got better. I managed for the rest of the week and finished strong at work on Friday.
It's hard to help someone when you feel like mental doodoo. But it's essential to do just that. Acting contrary to those ruminations and showing up for someone else CAN make a difference in how you see the world.
It is one of the critical ways I stay sane.
Because taking the focus off of my problem helps me deal with my problem!