Sometimes, things kind of suck. Or at least they feel that way.
Sometimes, shit happens.
Sometimes, you just feel a bit…negative. You might not even know why.
If you’ve read any other post on this blog, these statements might surprise you coming from me. Usually I’m full of sunshine and daffodils and have Disney songs stuck in my head when I write posts here. And that’s because, usually, that’s how I feel in real life.
But not always. I bet the same is true for you.
And it’s okay.
How To Put Negative Feelings In Their Place
Among the many important realizations I’ve made over the past 15 months since I turned 30 is that it’s okay to embrace negative feelings. In fact, it’s preferable. It’s a positive. It is for me anyway.
That doesn’t mean I ever let negativity consume me. Not at all.
But I’ve learned that being honest and candid – with others and especially with myself – is always the way to go.
And that means that if something has me feeling down or a bit negative, I embrace the feeling and seek to understand it rather than avoid it.
I might be able to hide from negative feelings for a short time, but they are not just going to go away. If I hide, they will build up and fester and attach themselves to other negative feelings I’ve avoided. Then all these negative feelings will coalesce into a virus that infects and diseases me and makes me not the me I want to be. Don’t you see? A catastrophe.
There is nothing worse than suffering from the disease of negativity or pessimism. It’s my life’s goal to not have one person ever say, “Boy, that Jerod sure is a downer. What a negative outlook on life he has.”
And ironically, I’ve found that the best antibody against such a disease is to acknowledge and channel negative or pessimistic thoughts as soon as they reveal themselves.
Avoiding may seem like the preferable course of action in the moment, but I’ve found it to be the much more deleterious one in the long run.
What’s Got Me Down Today?
Why am I thinking about this today? I don’t really know for sure.
- Maybe I haven’t gotten enough sleep over the last week, so I’m just a bit tired.
- Maybe my blood sugar is low because I haven’t eaten enough today.
- Maybe it’s because the sky was dark and cloudy when I drove into work.
- Maybe I had an unexpectedly skunky glass of wine last night from a bottle I thought was going to be good and it created some negative mental momentum. (Haha, this one actually might be true!)
- Maybe something in my personal life isn’t quite where I want it to be.
- Maybe something in my professional life isn’t quite where I want it to be.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
I can’t tell you the exact reason. Maybe it’s none of those reasons, maybe it’s all of them. But for whatever reason, my usual shield of positivity and optimism has a few cracks in it today. And it’s leading me to process situations a bit differently than I normally do.
This manifests itself in numerous ways:
- A difficult work issue causes more frustration than usual.
- Energy and motivation to work out is a bit lower than usual.
- Something someone says that normally wouldn’t matter sounds off the internal negativity meter.
And on and on.
But – and excuse me for being flippant – so what?
How I Turn My Frowns Upside-Down
We’re human beings. We’re not robots.
Brains can be weird, complicated, and unpredictable things. Our bodies can be too. And it means that we can feel differently from one day to the next, in varying degrees, often without warning.
Again…so what? Such is life. Such is reality. Am I supposed to beat myself up over it or think there’s something wrong with me?
What matters is how we handle it.
Here is what I’ve learned to do, and frankly it never fails:
- I simply acknowledge that, well, I’m not quite feeling like myself today.
- I admit to myself: that’s okay.
- I remind myself that a lapse in positivity or optimism doesn’t change the fact that I’m a generally positive, optimistic person. It just means that I need to not procrastinate dealing with the negative feeling so I can get back to being me as quickly as possible.
- I try to pinpoint what the reason might be, if I can (lack of sleep, not working out, a specific problem or issue, random human variance, etc.)
- I take immediate action or make a mental plan to take future action if it’s something that I can’t do right away.
- I seek out a known, reliable source of positivity and optimism (an interaction with a friend, a song, exercise, etc.)
- I get really excited when my normal self returns and make a mental note of how much I appreciate that guy being around.
That’s it. And then all is well.
Like it is again now.
For whatever reason, this morning and early afternoon just felt…dumpy. I was like a little Jerod-Eeyore (minus the pink bow around my tail, of course). I just felt a bit off. Not myself. Discombobulated.
But now I’m back.
As soon as I admitted that I just didn’t feel like myself today, I took action and corrected it.
I went and got some food; I drove home and walked my dog; I had a positive interaction with a friend; I ate some Skittles (not usually part of the strategy, but it worked today).
And I found great joy in something unexpected and simple.
Remember this post – “Why Today Was A Day I’ll Never Forget” – from last week? Well after a tough few days filled with breathing and feeding tubes, and having to sleep at the hospital, Katie got to hold little Addisyn today. The picture popped up on my cell phone right as I was contemplating writing this post.
As you might imagine, any and all lingering negative feelings evaporated in an instant.
Granted, we won’t always be so fortunate as to have a moment that beautiful shared at the exact moment we need something to snap us out of a funk. But that’s the thing: I didn’t need it.
I’d already met my momentary mental melancholy head on. So I was ready to share the joy of that moment, not be rescued by it. That made it all the more rewarding.
Strengthening The Shield
So no, today didn’t start out great. But now the cracks that were there in my shield are gone. Shoot, I think it’s even a little stronger than before, which is a trend I’ve noticed ever since I started going through the step-by-step mental process I described above during the rare moments when I just don’t feel like me.
An old boss once told me that our attitudes are like muscles. They get stronger the more we work them out (with requisite recovery time, of course!). He was so right.
That’s why negative feelings don’t scare me. Fleeting moments of pessimism don’t scare me. And I never run from or avoid them anymore. They are opportunities to strengthen my attitude and make me more positive and more optimistic moving forward.
And frankly, I’m all about anything that brings more of either into my life. I bet you are too.
The question is: what works for you?
We’re all different. We all have our own ways of dealing with negative feelings, and it seems to me that some people are naturally predisposed to doing so with more ease and consistent success than others. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, it’s okay.
But it also seems to me like we all should have a strategy.
We all should know what’s worked for us in the past when it comes to vanquishing a down-in-the-dumps feeling so that we can at least try that same strategy again the next time. Hopefully it works. But even if it doesn’t, hopefully we at least learn something more about ourselves in the process and can fine tune our strategy to better the next time.
Because there is such great power in knowing ourselves and in developing trust in ourselves. We do that by overcoming these periodic mental challenges, like what I faced today. Maybe you’re facing one today too. Maybe you will soon.
Whenever you do, take it head on. Acknowledge it. Embrace it. Beat it. Then your shield will be that much stronger moving forward. And then you can smile a big ol’ cheesy smile, be proud of yourself, and feel great.
Like I am now.