Columnist Betti shares her thoughts on what to do when the whole world - including yourself - is against you.
I am having a bad week.
Over the past seven days I have made at least three questionable life decisions, and one very bad one. My head is confused. I have returned to and settled myself in the city I grew up in, but am rapidly realising that it is not where I want to be. I work in a restaurant by night — my hands are chapped, and a table of strangers I was meant to be serving told my manager not to let me wait on them because “we hate her”. I have an empty bank account. I feel fat, and kind of ugly. I am not writing. I am not inspired.
We all have to deal with really, really piss days. Some are easier to manage than others. Some leave us floored, unable to breathe or speak or move. Some leave us crying under the sheets, wondering if and how things will ever get better. Some never show on our faces, but make our hearts a little colder, our souls a little more closed off.
A bad day can rarely be truly turned around. Each one is its own individual 24 hour hell that has to be worked and struggled through before being put to bed. There are, however, little things you can do to let a bit of light in. These tips always help me — hopefully they will help someone else to punch through and perforate those heavy dark clouds with tiny pinpricks of hope.
Have faith that things will get better. It might not be today, or tomorrow, but happier times will come.
- Smell some lavender. Hold it close, and let it soothe you.
- Stand a little taller. Put your shoulders back, hold your head high, keep a steady gaze. Meet people’s eyes. Try, if you can, to smile.
- Every time you feel the weight of those problems in your chest, take time to breathe deeply, then exhale, and imagine all of that weight flooding out of your lungs and away from your soul. Repeat, slowly, as often and as regularly as required.
- If that doesn’t work, imagine your problem as an entity, and then visualise whacking it in the face until it runs away. Repeat as often and as regularly as required.
- Delete Instagram and Facebook. Just for a day, an hour even. Treat this as an act of self-love — today, you do not need to be exposed to the highlight reels of others. Take a break and remember that 90% of life is unpolished, unfiltered, and imperfect.
- Step outside and find a tree. Examine its contours, the grooves and notches in its bark, the distinctive shape of its leaves. Look up into its lofty branches and place your hands on the trunk. Pay true attention to something external, beautiful, natural, and stable. Get out of your own head.
- Allow yourself permission to move at a pace that suits you. Feel like meandering and taking it slow? No problem. Do what feels good, right now. If anyone tells you to change what you’re doing, politely but firmly tell them to fuck off to hell in a golf cart. You are doing what you need to do to function. You are taking responsibility for yourself, and that matters.
- Stride with purpose and assertion while repeating the last two lines of W. E. Henley’s poem Invictus to yourself;
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Mad props if you say it out loud within hearing range of others. Let the bastards know you ain’t taking no prisoners.
- Go full sad, write a four-line poem describing how shit you feel, and get it all out on the page. Here’s a quick one I wrote on the bus to Bristol on a rainy Tuesday:
I jumped into the Severn bore
The rolling wave swept me away
Crashed my head on rocky shore
And washed my bones up in the bay.
I’m not really going to throw myself off a bridge, but I felt a lot better after writing that verse. Sometimes, a combination of melodrama and scribbling can be one heck of a tonic.
- Do something nice for another being, no matter how small. Smile at a stranger. Pet a cat. Send a thank you note. Feed a duck. Remind yourself that you are a decent human being with an infinite capacity for love, compassion, and kindness, and that the world would be a little less bright without you.
- Speak up. Tell someone about your bad day. Phone a friend, or see your dad. Write a blog post and connect. Share your bad day with others, and let them share theirs with you, too. After all, misery loves company, and bad days are universal. Make that work for you, and look forward with others to brighter days.
Photography: Betti Hunter, Post-processing: Rae Tilly
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