Have you ever had a day (or two or 10 or even more) where you ask yourself, "What is wrong with me?!" Where you feel like you're in a funk and that nothing is really satisfying in life?
Not Depression, Though...
This isn't a blog post about depression, as a caveat, although the questions to ask yourself could also help alleviate some depressive symptoms! And please note that we taken depression and its impact very seriously. We know the havoc it can wreak and that so many people deal with it. This isn't a blog post about depression.
This is a blog post about those days or times where you feel way off from your normal self. Maybe you're slightly more irritable, or maybe you're just less satisfied overall, or maybe you find yourself wishing it was 8 pm so you could have that beer, or maybe you start to question all of your life choices that ever got you to this place you're in (not least of which includes work, relationship, kids, and location).
Ultimately, you just feel off.
What I want you to do when/if you get in that place is to ask yourself these five questions. They're simple, really, but that doesn't mean they don't have a ridiculously impact on our mental health and overall well-being.
Okay, here goes. (That's me mentally prepping.)
The Five Questions
- What have I eaten or have I eaten lately?
You know that old saying, "you are what you eat." Well, truth be told, the more we learn about the microbiome (i.e. our gut), the more we realize that there is way too much truth to this statement. We're not asking you to go on a diet (there's a whole different post coming about that word and its implications); we're simply asking you to notice what you eat and how you feel afterwards.
Here's a random example. I was at an outdoor market and had some delicious fudge. From someone who doesn't eat a lot of straight sugar (basically - the first ingredient was sugar, followed closely by marshmallow), I was exhausted right after eating it.
- How much sleep have I been getting?
This is another obvious one, but it's worth putting it out there. I'm stopping myself from going on a tirade about how lack of sleep is, literally, critical to your physical and mental health. I mean that with SO MUCH SERIOUSNESS.
This post is getting long enough and I don't want to add three paragraphs just for one question. In the spirit of keeping things brief, just ask yourself how much sleep you've gotten, as well as how much is an optimal amount for you. Then pay attention to how you function with that optimal level versus when it's lacking.
- Have I spent any time outdoors lately?
Oh, I hear you already with the excuses - "it's too cold" or, "it's too hot" or, "it's too sunny" or, "it's too rainy" or something else entirely.
Tell yourself enough!!
Tomorrow (or right after you read this, if it's not nighttime) - go outside and walk. Leave your phone inside (you don't need it for those five minutes). Look at the world around you and stare in awe at how magnificent it really is. If you can get somewhere green, that's even better. Tell me you don't feel more peaceful afterwards. And humble (the world is big and we're just part of the puzzle).
- Have I connected (really connected) with friends lately?
I'm not talking about via social media. I'm talking about sitting down with a good friend and having a deep conversation where you lose yourself in the experience and completely forget the world exists around you. Where you laugh and connect, or where you cry and grieve, or where you bemoan the state of the world and question how it even got this way. Real conversations.
Have I given back lately?
Altruism is underrated. If you can, give back in some way today. I don't mean financially (unless you have that to give and you want to - that's entirely up to you). What I mean is giving your time or help to others.
You could stop and help somebody carry their groceries, or you could pick up some trash on the side of the road, or you could hold up a sign at a busy intersection that says "you're beautiful and I love you for being you," or you could even offer a hug to a stranger (super rare, but it's a possibility). The purpose of this one is to get out of your head and into an empathic state.
I'll tell you a secret about being a counselor. One of the best things is that no matter what kind of day I'm having when I come into the office, the moment I sit down and see a client (or clients), my world shrinks away into nothingness and I'm knee-deep in someone else's experience. My point in saying this is that when we give back, the experience is the same. For that moment in time, we're not thinking about ourselves; we're thinking about others. And that can be enough to shift us out of our problems and thoughts and into the world in front of us.
That's all, folks. Thanks for getting through the rambles above. Even though I sometimes write with what could be perceived as a "flip" tone, my message is for real. These questions can (and often do) impact our mental health. They're good to keep in mind when things are starting to feel a little funky in life.
"That'll do, pig." (<-Please, somebody tell me they know what this is from.)