How to cure (emotional) hangovers

hangover

When we feel intense emotions, it can be tempting to give them an expiry date and expect that once the rush of feeling is over that it’s, well, over. It makes things simpler to see them as isolated – we can cope with a stressful day at work, or a bad week, or a rough patch. The appeal is easy to see – we can contain those tricky emotions within a specified time period and after that they’re gone. The problem is that, as with most things, it’s never as simple as that.

It’s easy to find ourselves saying ‘I don’t know why I’m so tired/ grumpy/ sad today’ when, if we flip back a few pages, we’ll find difficult feelings and experiences that we have compartmentalised and then thoroughly ignored. Now, this is most definitely not something to blame ourselves for. House rule number one applies here: don’t beat yourself up. Putting our problems in boxes is very natural; pain often provokes coping strategies that involve distancing ourselves from it’s cause. No-one likes to be hurt, or stressed or angry. Whilst that instinct is self-preservative, it can also come back to bite us in the bum.

When we experience what I call an “emotional hangover”, everything can feel really out of whack. We wonder where the malaise came from and why it’s turned us into the walking dead. It can be frustrating, especially when we have tried to parcel up our emotions into an allotted time. But, trauma has a tendency to bleed out into our everyday lives if we don’t or can’t deal with it effectively. That’s not always within our control, so how can we process these difficulties when they don’t stay neatly holed up?

The cure is knowing that there is no cure, and being able to accept that. There’s no amount of tabasco sauce or lucozade or fry-ups that will magically bust you out of your hangover. Emotional trauma and negative feelings don’t naturally work their way out of your body the way that alcohol does short term. Mental distress, just like any type of illness or long term substance abuse will leave a trace behind. If you drink too much alcohol too often for too long, your liver won’t be thanking you. Keeping a lot of pent up rage and pain has a similar effect on your whole body and mind. Hurt needs an outlet and some time to be released in a healthy way.

So, here’s what you’ll need to deal with an emotional hangover:

  1. Patience and lots of it. There isn’t a quick fix or a magic pill, so being able to be patient with the process of healing is massively important. And quite tricky. Just remind yourself that it’s ok for it to take just as long as it needs.
  2. Time to spend with yourself. If you can predict it, schedule some time in advance to de-compress after a stressful situation. If that’s not possible, take a conscious 5 minute break to stretch, chew some gum, have a peaceful cup of tea, wash your face – it is not so important what you do, but that you do it with the intention of being with and soothing the difficult emotions.
  3. Compassion for yourself. Emotional hangovers are painful and complex things. It might take a few hours or even months to lift, so be gentle with yourself. We are often capable of great compassion for other people but find extending that same courtesy to ourselves difficult (or we don’t even realise that we can and should do it!).

In real terms, what do these things mean? It means actively noting when you have unforgiving thoughts about yourself (i.e. ‘I should be over this by now’, ‘other people have worse problems than me’) and challenging them! A counsellor or a close friend can help you with this. It means sleeping when your mind is running on empty. Get your 8 hours, or more if you need it. It means paying attention to what you’re spending time doing and seeing if it’s working for you (if you find being around a lot of people very tiring, don’t feel bad when you want a night in, or vice versa, if cabin fever is biting your ankles, get out and about). Think about and treat yourself as you would your best friend – you wouldn’t tell them to just get over it, so don’t mistreat yourself that way!

Take your time, be kind and be patient!

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Self-care for dummies

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Taking care of your emotional well-being is the most important thing you can do. But, it’s not easy and might take a bit of getting used to if you’ve been in the habit of neglecting yourself. It’s good to build habits that will let you move forward through difficult times. The best way to go about it, in my experience, is make it an everyday habit, rather than a big blow-out. While planning a spa experience does sound lovely, it’s not necessarily practical or affordable. Little things will give you a boost and keep you buoyant.

Here are a few things you might find helpful:

  • Wash that stress out of your hair: Have a long hot bath and lather up. Add bubbles and heat your towels. Light a candle – it’s nice to feel nice.
  • That’s a mouthful: Have a little snack of whatever you fancy – a row of chocolate or a handful of nuts.
  • Brideshead Revisited: Revisit a favourite book that helps you to feel safe.
  • Savour the flavour: Make an event out of tea time – infuse a special brew in a teapot, drink out of your granny’s china, have a nice little biscuit on the side… Make it a ritual.
  • Change as good as a rest: Try walking a different way to work or order something new from the takeaway.
  • Light up: Light a candle or some incense and focus on the flame or light.
  • Clean your act up: Take care of your garments or gadgets. Take a few moments to polish and freshen up your shoes or delete some apps to make things go smoother.
  • Tiger, tiger: Try Tiger Balm for your aches and pains. Lush have a great range of massage bars that’ll do the trick, too.
  • Get it off: Switch off all your devices, it’s incredibly liberating – find a new part of town, get some undisturbed shut-eye, read the dictionary, stand on your head, or maybe get it oooon with some sweet guy or gal…
  • Present you: Future You is going to love Past You – make sure you have a nice lunch and an enchanting ensemble ready for tomorrow, set your alarm a little earlier so you can ease into the day.

 

For more ideas, have a look at my lists, 50 Things To Do On Dog Days and 50 MORE Things To Do On Dog Days

Take care!

Summer Self-Lovin’

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Summer is a great time for recharging, reminiscing and renewing yourself – the days are longer, the weather is (sometimes) better. You might even have a little holiday planned. But, it’s been a dismal old time here in the UK, and maybe your mental health is a little worse for wear.

If so, here are a few summer self-care suggestions:

  • What’s your flavour?: Try a new flavour of something – ice-cream, hummus or, if there’s still a chill in the air, maybe a rose and cardamom hot chocolate might be up your street… Variety is the spice and all that.
  • Check it out: Health checks – important business – if you’re worried about anything, whether it’s lumps and bumps or suspected gluten intolerance, don’t wait for it to wreak havoc! Get checked out and get treated.
  • Road trip!: Travel if you can, dream if you can’t. Making mood boards from holiday magazines might help a little…
  • Shrink to size: Get therapy. Identify what needs repair (if you don’t already know) and work on what you’re struggling with, NOT what someone else wants you to fix. An outsider’s take on situation offers perspective, too.
  • Funny side: Find something to make yourself laugh – it might be something you overhear, or a hideous selfie from a friend or someone else’s infectious laugh.
  • Magical Me: Channel your inner Gilderoy Lockhart and speak only good things about yourself. Although, try to make sure that they’re actually true… Write down every genuine compliment you get – treasure them.
  • Supreme clean: Establish good habits before winter comes and snatches you up into hibernation faster than you can say ‘White Walker’. A habit supposedly takes 30 days to take hold, so start now! I’m trying to kick my sugar dependency (trying being the operative word).
  • Take no prisoners: Self-love and self-care are, of course, totally personal. Stepping back from toxic relationships, or ones that are unsustainable in order to focus on yourself is better for everyone.
  • Go forth and multiply: If you have a craft, hone it. Write a novel, whip up a zine, work on a painting, whistle a tune… If you don’t think you have a craft yet, experiment with new ones to find your niche. Make/ write/ draw/ sing stuff. Do it now. You can, I promise.

 

Hope your summer lovin’ has you a blast.

Pick-Me-Ups for Pin Ups and other magical beings

 

Pick-me-ups we could all use now and again:

 

  • Piece of quiet: Half an hour of carefully cultivated silence might do the trick.

 

  • Roller-set: Waking up to a done ‘do is some people’s idea of heaven. Definitely mine.

 

  • Prep-set-go: Get organised for the week. Make lunches, pack bags, iron clothes… Future you is going to love you!

 

  • Me-day: Give yourself a bank-holiday. Book a day off, get rid of the dog, kiss your significant other goodbye and plan a day of unadulterated ME time. Get lost in an antique emporium, eat ice-cream by the tub-load, book into a craft workshop, go to a sex shop, whatever it is, it’s yours!

 

  • Selfie-love: Taking that one perfect, crafted self-portrait gives you a buzz. Take a hit.

 

  • You scrub up well: It might be something as small as lip-liner, it might be a bobby-dazzler of a fur coat – dress up to the nines and shine!

 

  • Take me down to the paradise city: Day trip to a nearby city you don’t see nearly enough of… have a love affair there. With the city. Obviously.

 

  • Vital signs: Take a few minutes to scan your body and put anything right that you can right away. Take your vitamins, drink a glass of water, put a wheat bag on that niggly shoulder, put on some lip balm and hand cream. Note down anything that might need more attention when you have more time.

 

Disclaimer: There are other ‘Pick-Me-Up’ lists  on the market.

Power of one: Snakes and Ladders

Imagine you’re playing Snakes and Ladders. Think of that big, fat snake that trips you up and sends you tumbling back down to square one. It’s a good way to think of those big mishaps that sometimes happen. You don’t get knocked right off the board, you don’t lose outright – you start again and build from the bottom up. Maybe you need to think of that snake doing you a favour by showing you how unsteady your stance was, or how your foundations weren’t as solid as you thought.

 

So, roll snake eyes and get your fangs into this advice:

 

  • Ladders: Gather your materials – it could be books, blogs, burritos, badminton rackets, bananagrams or bunting – whatever will get you going again.

 

  • Circle of love: Next, gather your people, your puppies, your pals. Reach out – when you’re in the quick-sand, you’re going to need a hand.

 

  • Timing is everything: When you get a cut, it might scab over quickly, but the real healing takes time. If you try to pick the scab off too early, you’re only going to make it scar so be patient, with your soul and mind as well as your body.

 

  • Professional approach: Everyone needs a sounding board now and again. Make sure it is someone neutral like a counsellor or doctor who will allow you to make your own choices without a vested interest.

 

  • Retrace your steps: Pick up where you left off before whatever happened, happened. You were you then and you are allowed to be you again. No fear, dear.

 

  • Experience is ammunition: Life happens to everyone. Don’t feel bad about it, but if it made you feel bad, don’t do it again.

 

  • Batten down the hatches: There’s a storm out there, don’t let it in your teacup. Let the outside world look after itself for a change. Cover your portholes and have an internal dialogue. Check in with yourself! How you doin’?

 

  • It’s your party: Let me reiterate – this is about you. You wouldn’t tell someone else that they were a worthless, disgusting, ugly waste of space, would you? Big up your sweet self and stop being a nasty pasty about little old you.

 

  • What am I missing?: Whatever your snake is/ was, remember it was doing you a favour. So, if you were putting yourself in a bad situation, think about why you were doing it? What did you think you needed out of it? You can fulfil any bits and pieces you were longing for…

 

May your ladders always lead you higher, and may your eyes be opened to the snakes in the undergrowth! The only way is up!

 

Need a leg-up?