Sadness and managing your meerkat

pauline-bernfeld-1224815-unsplashI’ve been handling a lot of Sadness in 2018, sometimes life seems to deal you some tough cards. It’s a positive that I’ve noticed, but what can you do and where does it come from? Read on for some helpful thoughts.

Causes of sad feelings

Sometimes things change. People and things you hold dear move out of your life. It seems like something that’s worse in Winter, but perhaps it’s a time when you think about this more as the evenings are long and you get out less/have more dwell time.

Loss of loved ones, Loss of a job or friends from your network. Loss of comfort of familiarity of a place you’ve worked. Lots can change, more so as you reach middle age and you’re less protected and realise your not made of steel. Maybe the realisation that you won’t last forever lands. Neither will your older relatives.

Also, recently the news has been pretty turbulent and negative. We’ve heard daily accounts about BREXIT, Climate change and lots of international uncertainty. (That’s a whole other topic, so enough on that already.)

There’s been a real cloud of unresolved problems ready to beam into your head every time you turn on the radio.

What can you do to handle sadness?

From research into meditation and mental health, the key to all of thisat the start is to notice it, that’s step one. But then what?

It’s critical to do a couple of things if you feel like your sadness and negativity it’s building up:

  1. Notice it. Don’t give yourself a hard time, be a sympathetic friend to your emotions. Just notice, don’t judge. That’s all.
  2. Process it – take the time to grieve or digest what’s happened if you’ve suffered a loss.
  3. Work through it – do the things that help you move through it. Visit your loved ones house or go that funeral, or look at those photos or read that book again. Go over the rough ground.
  4. Recover and restart. You’ll know when you are ready, get back to activities that nourish you, maybe choose some new ones.

Steps 2, 3 take time and I can’t say how long you will need. It can be six to twelve months. Do what’s necessary to process it. For me, I had conversations with those that have departed and took time to be by myself. Be careful not to digest too much negative digital media. As we’ve seen on the news there’s some harmful stuff out there. When you are ready its time to move to step four and start to rebuild.

Recovery is a verb

When you are ready, start to do again. The best advice is simple – do a little of what you enjoy or what you know will build you again.

Start an upward spiral of activities that help you move forward again. This can seem daunting, so think ‘Minimal Viable Product’ or MVP.

What’s the smallest slice of something you could do? (the minimal that would still be effective.) Start small, so you don’t get over-faced by what you’re doing.

Begin with a small step – it’s really about being your own sympathetic friend from step 1, but, you have to get off the sofa now. It’s about doing now. That’s how we move forward – with activities.

Small doings add up

As an older working parent it’s been my experience that to preserve your own sanity and sense of self and prevent your waistline from expanding to the size Jupiter’s outer rings, you need to ‘slice’ your exercise and hobbies to fit them in.

You may need to slice them very thinly indeed, but with some adaptation you can stay fit, flexible and do creative things. Be minimal.

Here are a few examples of how you can help yourself during sadness recovery:

1 – The Gym is dead

Nobody has time for 2 hours every week of indulgent exercise, so you need to go ‘MVP’ on exercise, slice it thin and bring it closer to home. This also works if you don’t like gyms, they are not for everyone. So – don’t think ‘gym’ but do think elements of exercise; resistance work, stretching and physical challenges. Do some ‘Planks‘ at home, Use a wall to do an L-shaped hand-stand. Find those little moments where you can walk briskly to the shops or do some arm-hangs in the park while your little one sits on a swing. Whatever your level is, do those things, just a little, to get active and back out there again.

2 – Learn in small chunks

Again, don’t over-reach to start with. If you find yourself admiring a Masters degree website, stop right there. Go MVP and watch a video, listen to a Podcast, read a short book. Keep it short and bite-sized while you are in recovery. I took on a coaching diploma during one spell of redundancy and then bailed out to do a short certificate with the Open University. I was much happier with a smaller task. Go small, so you don’t get overwhelmed as the danger is you will stop and then start to spiral down. Find small ways to spiral up, as you will find your energy levels are low while you are in post-sadness recovery.

3 – Don’t ‘over-compare your mental Meer-kat’

Be really wary of how much news, social media and toxic banter you enter into while you’re getting back on your feet. The media you consume seems like a distraction, but it’s often feeding your subconscious mind some very negative juice.

Everything you consume gets compared with yourself subconsciously, so just like the advert, be careful of digital material that fuels false comparisons. I recently dropped contact with a range of People, Companies and Groups I follow online as none of it was doing me any good. Social media is a very filtered, polished collection of ‘best days’ from people’s lives. It’s not good to compare yourself to these fake projections.

Unfollow, Unfollow, un-plug and un-install from sources of negative comparisons online.

” Simples!! “

Protect your inner Meerkat from this content. I’d also recommend having a couple of days a week where you don’t listen or watch any national news, due to the depressing content that naturally makes headlines. Give it a try, go news free!

4 – Watch your consumption levels

Too much of anything consumed is bad for your body. The things that can really warp your mood includes caffeine, sugar, alcohol, carbohydrate and YouTube/screen-time before you sleep. Keep tabs on how much your using these things and make sure they aren’t using you chemically or financially. You are what you eat, and what you consume and watch. This brings me back to point 3 to some extent. Watch happy things. Feed your mind with good content.

Review your supporters club

This is really important skill gets a section on its own, due to the impact other people can have on your psyche.

The people you hang out with also contribute to your state of mind and can help or hinder your recovery.

Just like the points above in terms of what you do, what you consume, check who you spend your time with. Your personality and your state of mind is also a product of who you associate with, at the cafe or in the office.

We are all programmed to copy (or Ape) the people/groups we hang out with, so choose the right friends or crowds.

Wrap-up your sadness

Being sad happens, but it also ends. Be your own best friend during this time, but notice any negative influencers and be selective on what you consume in terms of food and media. Don’t spend time comparing your Meerkat with false projections on social media.

Starting back is hard, but recovery is a verb (it’s a doing thing) so start with small slices of what you want to do. Go MVP. Small is good.

If your time is pressured, spend your free-time wisely with the right people and make good choices on who and what you consume.

Recovery takes time, but you often find you end up in a much better place. Make good choices on your road to your new future. Re-select what you do. There is opportunity here.

You will get there. It will be better.

Hero image credit – thanks to :
Pauline Bernfeld on Unsplash