I don’t know about you but this started early on for me with phrases like “There are kids starving in Africa” when I refused to eat my tea.
I’m not dissing my folks there, they were just saying and doing what everyone else did. Live Aid brought all that home in the late ’80s and our sympathy for those starving in third world countries magnified, making it the guilt trip of every kid not eating their Birds Eye fish finger and spaghetti hoops dinner.
I’ve heard people say things about others who are wealthy or celebrities in the public eye; “What on earth have they got to be sad about?!” but the truth is, if you feel sad, you feel sad. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got in the bank, how big your house is or the cars you drive, if you feel shit, you feel shit.
I’ve Been Guilty of This
I have to hold my hands up and say that I’ve been guilty of this in the past. Before my wibbly wobbly head took a good smash against the bedroom wall and my mental health went into the toilet, I was one of these unhelpful dickheads who would say things like:
“At least you can run! So many people can’t even walk!” – to the person who was gutted about a shit time on a marathon.
“At least you’ve still got a job!” – to the friend who didn’t get the promotion.
“Stop being so negative and switch it to a positive.” – to the mate gutted their house sale had fallen through.
I have to really focus on this and beat myself out of the habit of it. There’s a difference between supporting with validation and hope compared to offering a form of toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity has been described as;
The excessive and ineffective over generalisation of a happy and optimistic state in any situation. It is the denial, minimisation and invalidation of genuine human emotional experience. When a person exhibits toxic positivity they deny any and all negative experiences that make us human.
Next time you’re supporting a friend, colleague or loved one, make sure you validate how they are feeling and offer support rather than using a form of toxic positivity to paper over their feelings and not allow them to be heard and honoured.
How To Sit In Your Shit
I learned the hard way what painting a mask on does to your mental health (I spoke about my mental health journey here). Not honouring your feelings does nothing good for you in the long run. Life is both happy and sad, difficult and easy and a continuous journey of contrasts. We all grow up believing that a fairytale existence is possible but the truth is it isn’t. We will all have successes and failures. We will all have highs and lows. That is life! The sooner we accept that not everything will be sunshine and rainbows, the better.
In my opinion, the sooner we start normalising the dark and stormy days, the more we will open up about how we really feel and then be in a position to shift the shit quicker.
For when life is tough, when life is stressful, when things do go wrong and you find yourself in a place of suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, worry, sadness, overwhelm, shame, grief or loss, you must honour how you feel. You must not think that you have to remain positive and upbeat when inside you’re crumbling and crying and longing to shout and scream.
This sounds absolutely ridiculous but when I’m feeling in a shit state I set a crying timer. If I can feel the emotion bubbling up I have a sad songs playlist and I set a crying timer for five minutes and allow myself a session of big, ugly crying. I play Eva Cassidy, I Know You By Heart, which always turns the tear taps on, and then blub away.
For extra dramatics, I do this in front of a mirror. I’ve never managed more than five minutes doing this, and usually feel ridiculous about 60 seconds in. In fact, this often results in me laughing at myself. I feel better for the tears and usually follow it up with a short session journaling. My favourite ever journal prompt which I always come back to and prescribe for others is:
“How am I feeling right now and why is that?”
Once you’ve had a big ugly cry, honoured your feelings and wrote them down it does feel better. You could also throw in another couple of prompts after that:
“What is within my control in this situation?”
“What is a waste of my energy?”
“What are my next steps?”
I realise if you’re reading this you might think I’ve absolutely lost my marbles asking you to set a crying timer and to full-on snot-cry at Eva Cassidy so here are some other weird, wacky and wonderful ways to ‘sit in your shit’ and feel your feelings:
- Call a trusted non-judgmental and supportive friend and put it into words how you’re feeling
- Go to the gym and punch it out on a punchbag or boxing pads. If you can’t get to the gym, punch your pillows
- Scream into your pillow as loud as you can
- Stand in the middle of a room and have a full-on toddler inspired tantrum. Stamp your feet, throw yourself on the floor, bash your fists into the ground (this is so much fun!)
- Take yourself off into the middle of a field and cry “This is bullshit!!!!!” at the top of your voice (Apologies if you live near me and have heard my son and I doing this on many occasions)
- Play a sad songs playlist, let our your emotions and then get yourself to bed for an early night to sleep it off
- Have a sit-down shower and cry it out in there while the water washes over your head and face and washes the tears away
- Write on a piece of paper all the things that are upsetting and worrying you and then burn it!
- If it’s close to Bonfire or New Year, write your worries, negativity and upset on luggage tags and tie them to fireworks. When a responsible person lights said fireworks (and everyone is at a safe distance) marvel as your worries explode in the sky into a million beautiful illuminated lights
Obviously, if you have been feeling this sense of shit and overwhelm for longer periods of time, you may want to call on some professional help in the form of a counsellor, coach or doctor. I am none of these things and the above list is a bit of fun to take you out of a funk.
As ever, this blog has inspired this week’s #WankyQuoteWednesday
PS – If you’re looking to be supported to your goals with a form of self-discipline that is compassionate and caring, you might want to join my month-long masterclass series in my FREE Facebook community here.
Gemma Ray is a BBC Radio presenter, best selling author, communications coach and always the most filthy person in a WhatsApp group chat. Gemma tells it like it is and opens up about the stuff most people would never even dare admit to themselves, let alone put out in public.
Join Gemma on a refreshingly honest, powerful and inspirational journey of self love, self belief and self trust through her books, blog, free Facebook accountability group and courses where she helps members take action on their goals.
Listen live every Sunday from 2-6pm GMT on BBC Radio Lancashire or catch up via the BBC Sounds app.