Feeling Good About Yourself When You're Not Feeling Well

July 29, 2011

This spring I received an email asking me to write about this topic:

Something I struggle a lot with is feeling good about myself when I’m not “healthy”- when I’m sick or have an injury. A lot of my own recovery has involved learning to be grateful for everything my body does for me and all of its functions, but accepting its weaknesses and its/my need to heal has often been difficult for me.

This questions seems especially pertinent this week, when I have been overwhelmed with sadness by the sudden death of a 15 year-old boy that I baby sat when I was young, the deaths of those in Norway and Amy Winehouse, and most recently, the passing of my Great Grandmother. I am reminded that being “not healthy”, sick, or injured can also mean the heartbreak of the loss of those near you and around the globe.

Sick Kevin

image by Alicia Nijdam

Taking care of yourself when your world has been turned upside down can be the hardest thing you can imagine.

Routine and self-care in the face of insurmountable odds flies in the face of traditional models of creating comfort.  These are the days when you feel the strongest pull to your less-healthy old habits. Mine include: eating lots of not-so-good-for-me foods, climbing into bed and hiding from the world, and numbing yourself with television marathons and other incessant noise.

In other words, when you want to do anything other than feel your feelings.

How to Take Care of Yourself When You Feel Like Crawling Under a Rock and Hiding:

  1. Keep to your routine. It can feel like you’d rather call in sick and spend the week wallowing in secret, but it is GOOD for you to go about your day. Keep busy. Do things. See people.
  2. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Life can be hard. Life without adequate sleep is much, much harder.
  3. Eat the food that makes your body feel like it can climb mountains and run marathons. For me, that is not exactly the kind of food that emotional eating lends itself too, but I strive to eat the food that makes my body feel strong and capable.
  4. Engage your mind in something creative. Turn your sadness and pain into something beautiful that you can be proud of. Share the knowledge that your pain has brought you. Teach someone.  Turn something upsetting into something good. It’s good for you.
  5. Be extremely, unendingly sweet to yourself. Give yourself the time and space to recover, heal, and pull your odds and ends together. Take it slow. Pay close attention to your body and heart, and act accordingly. Near tears every second of the day? Yelling at the people closest to you, because you feel so crummy? Apologize, practice self-awareness, and be compassionate – you are not a monster, you are operating in a moment of out-of-the-ordinary conditions.

It is OK to be weak. It is OK not to have all of the answers. It is OK not to want to go out and be social.

More than anything, it is OK to experience your pain or hurt in whatever way comes naturally to you.

Just try and apologize to anyone that you’re mean to.  And remember, even if your natural inclination is towards anger and outbursts, being kind and sweet often makes you feel a whole lot better than being mean.