Hey, y’all, it’s Lila! Welcome to Life With Lila, my newest segment on the blog in which I discuss non-bookish topics. I’m not sure how often I’m gonna be posting these segments, or even if I’m gonna do so regularly, but you’ll definitely be seeing a Life With Lila segment popping up here and there from now on.
Today I want to discuss what I do on days when my depression and anxiety really hit me hard. I call those days “gray days,” because on those days it feels like all of the color is gone from my life. Now, my depression and anxiety is a more “mild” strain, which largely is caused by my physical disabilities. In this way, it is a lot easier for me to overcome, because generally if I treat the physical, the mental improves. It also is easier because knowing that my depression/anxiety is coming from my physical condition and not from something that’s actually deserving of sadness/fear helps me to either calm down and/or ignore my anxiety. But that doesn’t mean that I’m 100% every day. Some days are definitely more struggle and it can be really difficult and painful to deal with.
Anyhow, I wanted to share some of the things that I do on “gray days” to help get myself out of a funk. I don’t call this “self care” because I feel like neurotypicals have this idea that the phrase “self care” really means “treat yo self!” And, as someone who struggles with mental illness, I can tell you that that’s often not true–“self care” often involves doing the things that you don’t want to do. So that’s why I don’t think of the following things as “self care,” but as more of little things you can do to brighten your mood and/or change your perspective. So, without an further ado, here are some things I do to help myself out on “gray days”…
Do Some Arts And Crafts
One of the first thing I do to cheer myself up on gray days is bring out some arts and crafts and get working on them! Whether it’s drawing, painting, or art journaling, I let my mind wander and my creativity flow. For me, the benefits of doing arts and crafts when I’m feeling down are twofold:
- First off, doing arts and crafts gets my hands moving, so I’m not just lying motionless in bed
- Second off, getting creative requires some amount of forethought and focus, which gets my mind off of my negative thoughts
The other great thing thing about arts and crafts is that you can do projects while in bed, so if you (like me) have any sort of disability that makes it difficult to get out of bed, you can still do this.
Learn A New Skill/Practice An Old Skill
One of the great things about the great things about the internet is that many elite universities, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and MIT, offer 100% free online courses! Want to learn discrete mathematics? Arabic? The significance of the supernatural in Victorian literature? There’s a free course you for you that can find online!
Similarly to arts and crafts, learning a new skill or practicing/brushing up on an old skill often helps to take my mind off of my negative thoughts. Also, online courses are another great options for when you’re differently abled and you literally can’t get out of bed. I’ve also found that learning new skills and succeeding at practice problems often gives me a quick feeling of triumph–kinda like when you win a sports competition. So there are a lot of reasons I think this is a great option of something to do when you’re feeling down.
Some resources for those interested in online leaning:
- Code Academy (learn different computer coding languages)
- Khan Academy (STEM courses)
- MIT OpenCourseWare
- Stanford Online Lagunita
- HarvardX (via EdX)
- Open Yale Courses
Listen To Music And Sing/Dance Along
I’m a singer, so music always brightens my day–but only certain kinds of music (usually the upbeat, happy kind). When I’m feeling blue, I find that it really helps to turn the music up and start singing and dancing. I should note that I’m not a good dancer or anything, but no one’s watching me in the privacy of my room/house. Singing helps me out and dancing helps me get up and get my heart pumping. I’ve found that even if I do this activity for a small amount of time, it usually goes a long way toward brightening my mood.
Go For A Walk (Weather And Health Permitting)
When I’m feeling good enough (physically) and the weather isn’t crazy, I like to go on a walk when I’m having a gray day. This helps in a few ways. First off, exercise has been shown to improve your mood a little bit and in my experience that is true,* largely due to the fact that my depression and anxiety stem from physical conditions which cause me to be bedridden quite a bit. Second off, getting outside and breathing fresh air helps me shake off the cabin fever that I get from being bedridden so often. Third and finally, going on a walk generally lets me unravel my thoughts and relax in solitude.
*Please note neurotypicals: exercise is not the “cure” for mental illness or even an effective “treatment” when not paired with therapy and/or medication. Do not take this as an opportunity to try and make the argument that it is.
Go Sit At A Coffee Shop/Cafe
Now I admit, this one may vary based on whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert. I myself am a major extrovert. Oftentimes when I’m having a gray day, I get really lonely. Going to sit in a coffee shop and just seeing and hearing other people and feeling the buzz of their energy around me goes a long way to helping me feel better. I usually just bring some work or a book or a journal and read/work/journal at the coffee shop. I’m lucky enough to have a coffee shop near me and I’ve befriended the workers and some of the regulars, so it also helps because when I go there I’m usually greeted by several friendly faces.
Listen If You’re Feeling Down
- “Ray of Light” by Madonna
- “Blessings” by Chance The Rapper
- “New Romantics” by Taylor Swift
- “Human Touch” by Betty Who
- “Pack Up” by ELIZA
- “Glorious” by Macklemore ft. Skylar Grey
- “Unforgettable” by French Montana
- “If I Dare” by Sara Bareilles
- “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae
- “Unbreakable Smile” by Tori Kelly
- “This Is Me” by Various (from the Soundtrack for The Greatest Showman)