5 steps to get through the blue days
Some days are just blue…the days when there’s no light in our eyes….there’s a knot somewhere inside..we can get on with what we need to do but our inner world feels jammed. It’s uncomfortable being there, and we just want it to go away. How can we get through the blue days? Can meditation help? We offer a 5-step guide to get through the blue days in a way that’s healthy and brings about a genuine shift, trusting in the timing of when it arrives.
We all know the blue days when they arrive…sometimes we know first thing in the morning, at others we notice it during the day….that flat feeling inside that takes the sheen off of everything. The sun can be shining, the trains can be running on time, people we care about are fine..but there’s something inside us that’s wound up. We might have an idea of why we’re feeling this way…we could be grieving, or we could be feeling the build up of many pressures, joblessness, bills, difficult relationships.…or we might not. Sometimes there’s not a reason we can think of.
These types of days arrive for a reason…usually when there’s a lot going on beneath the surface, in our emotional world. Our invitation is to make space for them with gentleness and compassion so that they can flow through and out of us, perhaps even lending insight into what is going on for us.
Our suggestions are suitable for most of us who experience occasional blue days that pass over a few days – if you are feeling low or stuck continuously over weeks, we advise you seek professional support for your mental wellbeing.
1. Accept that this is here now
Resistance and blame will make the blue days worse. The first step when you notice a blue day has arrived, is to accept that this is here now. Know that you are not the only one to ever experience this. Acknowledge that this is part of our complex human experience. And yes, it will shift…in its own time.
The more you try to push away the discomfort, ignore how you’re feeling and tell yourself to cheer up, the more disservice you’ll be doing to your wellbeing. It won’t work.
The blue days arrive when there’s a lot going on in our emotional world. And as emotions are held in the body, our bodies feel it. We may or may not completely understand what is going on, but as a first step…just accept that this is here now.
Don’t panic. Don’t resist. Don’t blame the world, other people, or yourself.
Imagine yourself as a large container that is able to hold all that is going on, however that feels, and accept without condition that today is that kind of a day. It’s ok. It happens.
2. Drop the narrative
During the blue days, it’s best to get out of your head: this means creating a distance from your thoughts.
You can’t really stop thinking, most of the time. But on blue days we tend to have thoughts that probably look at everything through a bleak filter: nothing is happening, there’s no point trying, I’m miserable.
We tend to chew on the same thoughts again and again that don’t move anything forward.
Our advice is to drop the narrative. Remember: thoughts are not facts. They are just thoughts. Notice them, and then put them in their proper place – in the sidelines.
We might try to reason our way out of it, but chances are no amount of reasoning will shift the discomfort of what we feel.
So what will shift it, and what do we do when we take our mind off our thoughts?
3. Observe feelings and sensations with compassion
Actually taking time to notice what’s going on in our body and in our emotional world might be the opposite of what you want to do on a blue day – most of us want to distract ourselves from the discomfort with any means possible. Distraction can definitely help, but it is usually most helpful when you do it mindfully, knowing exactly what you’re distracting yourself from.
We feel the blue days in our body. There might be a sense of emptiness or heaviness or stuckness somewhere. We might be carrying a lump in our throat the whole day or a hardness in our chest.
Notice the body, all its sensations. Notice what emotions there are…if it’s not obvious, then our body will give clues. Sadness can be felt in a heaviness, dropping and relaxation in the body. Anger and frustration can be felt in the heat in our chest. Our faces can also give clues as to what we’re feeling. It can be very helpful to unravel the general feeling of discomfort and find insights into what emotions are actually present.
Then take some time to give unconditional compassion towards all of it. Hold the sensations and feelings and allow them to be, just giving space and attention to them – like a parent would hold a child, allowing their sensations and feelings to flow.
Drop any judgement, any should or should not. Drop any prejudice. Even if you can’t identify a single sensation or emotion, just be with the awareness of discomfort, as just that – discomfort. And send some compassion towards it and towards yourself for feeling this way.
You might have a few minutes or an hour to do this. Take the time. What the discomfort needs is to be noticed and felt, without condition or pressure to change.
4. Give it what it needs from you
We don’t mean a cup of tea or retail therapy. With gentle curiosity, ask what this discomfort or the feeling or sensation needs from you to be soothed in this moment. Perhaps this part needs to feel safe. Imagine yourself holding the distress as a big bear would hold its cub until it feels safe to feel all its feelings. Or give yourself a hug and hold yourself tight.
Perhaps it needs some sympathy…tell it you understand and feel what it feels, and you’ll stay with it for as long as it needs. Just as you would with a good friend.
There might be a sense that there is something you need to do to feel at peace with yourself – assure it that you will do it in this moment, then do it at the right time.
This self-soothing practice is a beautiful way to care for and regulate our emotional world.
Imagine yourself holding the distress as a big bear would hold its cub until it feels safe to feel all its feelings.
5. Allow it to be while getting on with life
Sometimes the blue day can last for…a few days. And sometimes it’s just one part of the day. We don’t usually have hours to stay with the sensations and feelings and give ourselves comfort…use whatever time you do have to notice and be with them, dropping the narrative, and self-soothing …and then go on with what you need to do, acknowledging that there’s this part of you that’s feeling blue and it’s ok. It will shift.
Once you’ve acknowledged it, felt it, given it some of what it might need, you can let it be there while perhaps you choose to do something you enjoy – go for a swim, watch a movie, spend time with friends. This will no longer be a distraction because you know very well what’s going on for you. It is possible for us human beings to hold different emotions in us at the same time. Now you can keep going with the demands of daily life.
The blue day will shift when it has felt your compassionate attention for long enough… it might diminish at first and then eventually the clouds will part to reveal clear skies. You notice you’re lighter, there’s a spring in your step, the sparkle is back…you can smell the flowers again.
With the insights you’ve gained into the sensations and emotions going on for you, you might even move forward in ways that best serve you – it’s usually best to make big decisions about solving any problem or moving your life forward when the blue day has shifted.
Can meditation help?
If you do the 5 steps above, you are already practicing forms of meditation – so yes, it does help. Mindfulness meditation helps us notice the discomfort and hold it with kind attention, helps us recognise thoughts, feelings and sensations as ever changing and not identical to who we are. Compassion meditation helps us hold all of ourselves, and others, with loving kindness. A regular meditation practice won’t necessarily stop the blue days, but will help us navigate them with more tenderness, perspective and composure when they arrive.
You can find links to helpful guided meditations in our post here: I’d like to (re)start meditation – where do I go?
Work with a therapist
It might help to work with a psychotherapist, counsellor or a meditation guide to notice and sit with the sensations and feelings of blue days that keep reappearing, and understand their message. Blue days are common, and they will come and go. There’s no need to panic unless we’re stuck in an endless stream of them for weeks, then we should definitely seek professional help.
But therapy is not only for when things go wrong, just as personal trainers are not only for when our body falls apart. We can work with mental health professionals to understand ourselves and be our best version. It can be helpful to work with someone who helps us notice the repeated thoughts, sensations and feelings that keep coming up, the conditioned beliefs that might give rise to them, the loops of thoughts, emotions, sensations and back. It can help to unravel some of the stuckness and lend insight into what keeps showing up for us.
We can guarantee that our suggestions won’t the stop blue days from reappearing for most of us, just as we will never stop meeting challenges or having emotions. They will however help us navigate them with more understanding, awareness and insight.