The other night I was doing a live webinar on fat loss strategies and someone asked a great question. She said, “I know when you were really overweight you struggled with depression. Do you ever feel down now? Do you ever feel like you’re still fighting that? If so, how do you handle it?”
It’s true. I was in a deep, deep depression for a long time. I was obese. I felt isolated. I was exhausted by the cycle of try, fail, surrender, repeat.
Life was pretty dark. I will not deny that for one minute. Did my attitude & perspective improve as I lost weight? Yes, of course. There wasn’t as much isolation or self-loathing. Did it go away completely? No.
I absolutely still have down days. There are days where I feel like the journey has been so long and I’m just tired. Here’s the difference though: I used to surrender to those feelings. I was a slave to whatever emotion popped up. It took me down. Now, I control my thoughts and emotions. Are there negative emotions? Yes. Here are the 4 ways to be the bad days. These are strategies I use to respond to negative emotions to ensure that they don’t take me down.
4 Ways to Beat the Bad Days
- Check your focus
Negative emotion is a trigger for me. When I start to feel frustrated, sad, hopeless or mentally exhausted, I train myself to pause. You see, I used to just dive head first into the emotion. It was like a vicious cycle that sucked me in. I’d feel bad, think about all the reasons I feel bad, get upset that I feel so bad and then feel worse. Whoa. No wonder life was so tough. Now I take a different approach. When I notice those negative emotions & I start to feel lousy, I ask myself one powerful question: What am I focused on?
Pretty much 100% of the time I am feeling lousy because I am focused on things that make me feel lousy. Here’s the great thing: I can change my focus. See, if I focus on how long I’ve been on this journey or what I’ve had to sacrifice to get here, it’s easy to feel frustrated or exhausted. If I focus on how slow progress feels, I’m likely to feel hopeless. But I don’t have to think about those things.
I can choose to shift my focus. I can choose to focus on the many, many things in my life I have to be grateful for. I can choose to focus on how proud I am that I’ve made the progress I have. I can choose to focus on what a blessing it is to be healthy & well enough to improve my condition. I can choose to focus on my excitement about what is ahead, the things I have yet to create.
- Practice gratitude
This is one you’ll hear all over the place and that’s for one simple reason: it’s true. It works. When you get into a funk, pause for a moment and write down 3 things for which you are grateful. But here’s the catch: don’t just go through the motions. Think about these things. Visualize them. Feel the joy them bring into your life. Don’t just think, “Yes, I am grateful for this”. Feel it deeply. What it brings to your life, how it makes you feel, how fortunate you are to have this thing, person, relationship or ability.
- Accomplish something
I want to emphasize a very important distinction. When I was at my heaviest, I’d often wake up feeling really down. I was disgusted by my body. I was frustrated by my lack of progress and lack of self-discipline. I would get sucked into that vortex of feeling and mope around all day. I was “too sad” to do anything or to be productive. That essentially kept me trapped right there in that feeling.
Now, I know that I will feel better with each small thing I accomplish. For example, if I wake up feeling not-so-great about my body, I want to achieve a small win. I know I need those wins to start to make me feel proud of myself, encouraged and confident. It might be as small as a glass of water or 2 minutes of meditation. It might simply be making my bed or folding the basket of laundry that has been sitting in the hall for a week. You don’t need to eliminate all your bad feelings, but choose to accomplish something small. Then do it again.
One of the wonderful things tracking my food & habits has shown me is that 90% (or more) of my mental funks hit me when I’m tired. These days, I stay really mindful of how rested I am. If I get that late-in-the-day snacky urge or I start to go down negative mental rabbit holes, I’m quick to ask, “Am I tired?” And, like being aware that the whiny toddler just needs a nap, I put myself to bed. Nothing good comes from being sleep deprived. So many times the answer, for me, is to get a good night of sleep.
It’s such a fair question asked on the webinar. Yes, I still have bad days. I have mental funks. But my response is strategic. My emotions do not control me. As I’ve shared often on the podcast, one of my affirmations is just that: I am in control of my thoughts and emotions. Is it instinctive? Not yet. It takes energy. But, easy is earned. Habit comes from practice. I am grateful for these funks and moods because the serve up the exact opportunity I need to practice so that it does become instinctive and effortless.