When we struggle with our mental health, our sense of identity and self-esteem comes into question. Losing control over our own emotions makes us feel weak, as if we did something wrong to lose it in the first place.
The truth about life is that we can’t control everything. However, going through hard times doesn’t immediately change the person we are. We still have control over the way we treat ourselves.
Here are some tips to help you remain calm, even when life feels out of control.
Everything that was true about you before is still true now.
Maybe you used to feel on top of the world, super productive, and able to support anyone who needed your help. Now, you feel on the verge of tears out of exhaustion after a single lunch outing with your friends.
Just because you’re drained and not able to tap into the high-energy, supportive friend you know yourself to be doesn’t mean that you’re not still that friend. You are still that friend, just a tired version of them. You didn’t change, your circumstances did, and you’re learning to navigate them.
Feel like you can’t trust yourself? Lean on someone else for now.
Feeling like you’re making the wrong moves at every turn can be isolating. You miss a deadline at work, so you work late. Working late made you miss date night, so you buy your partner a small gift on the way home. You left the small gift on the top of your car in the parking lot, and now you come home empty-handed.
Pause and acknowledge how much effort you’re putting in vs. how re-energized you feel after putting in the effort. If you’re scrambling to keep it all together, it’s probably because it’s too much for one person to do right now.
Get comfortable learning how to ask for help. Asking for help can look like…
- Communicating with your manager or coworker that you don’t have time to fulfill a task and require support. (It does not look like admitting you “failed” or stubbornly working away until you’re burnt out.)
- Coming up with creative solutions to build intimacy with your partner in a way that works for your mental health right now. (You don’t have the energy to get nice and dolled up for a date, but you’d love to cozy up on the couch and read side-by-side.)
- Acknowledging that you have a limit, and being honest when you’ve hit it. (If you feel frazzled and stuck in a cycle of “Once [this thing] happens, I’ll be okay,” it’s time to try therapy. There, you can develop coping skills that help you in the present, instead of blindly believing it’ll all work out in the future.)
Tell yourself your story from an alternate angle.
When multiple bad things happen to us in a row, it’s easy to sum it up as, “Everyone’s just out to get me this week,” or “My depression wins again.”
You always have the power to change your story. A depressive episode can make you feel stuck at the mercy of your condition, or it can direct your attention to something that’s been bothering you for some time.
Instead of seeing it as a setback, view it as an opportunity to pause and re-discover yourself. When you start seeing off-days as opportunities to refresh yourself instead of inconvenient road-blockers, you put yourself first and your contributions to society second.
At the end of the day, you’re a person who needs support. If you feel too out of control to give it to yourself, work with a counselor trained to help you. Accept that maybe right now, you’re a little broken. Believe that recovery is possible and invest in the tools that are designed to heal you.
Brush off the excuses that something won’t work, and try it anyway.