My sanity checklist

I have more good days than bad days in any given year, but there are times when the bottom seems to give out and I feel all alone, bummed out at the bottom of a little black hole. When I was young, I took these moods very seriously. Like if I couldn’t find anyone to hang out with, I felt like I had no friends. And the thought that I had no friends made me feel terrible about myself, it made me anxious and sad and frightened. Thus not being able to find someone to go to the movies with was like the universe confirming that I was worthless.

Photo by puuikibeach

Eventually, I had to come up with some ways to pull myself together so that having a bad day didn’t feel like the end of the world. Now I have a pretty standard checklist that I go through whenever things get bleak, and I don’t think I’ve had more than one terrible day at a time since college (minus breakups and deaths in the family). If you have a checklist of your own, tell me about it in the comments. (I’m always up for learning something new!)

  • Am I tired? This isn’t as silly as it seems: it took me about twenty years to realize that when I’ve only had about four hours sleep, dropping my keys on the ground might make me cry. I am a giant cranky baby when I’m tired, but knowing I just need to put myself down for a nap is better than telling myself I suck.

Photo by breahn
  • Have I had too much coffee? This also seems like a silly reason to hate my life, my parents, and all of my friends, but trust me, there’s a correlation. The nice morning buzz I get from my morning joe becomes a roaring torrent of hate-lava by my third or fourth cup. To compound the problem, drinking too much coffee is usually a byproduct of not getting enough sleep. By the second or third day of a very bad week, I am simultaneously craving human sacrifice and my teddy bear.

  • When was the last time I hung out with friends? This is a little more complicated. I’ve developed a pretty voracious appetite for me-time over the past thirty years, but sometimes, I get lonely. It helps me to remember that even though no one wants to see The Great Gatsby with me tonight, I just hung out with some people yesterday and we’re having a dinner party tomorrow. It’s really about looking at the bigger picture and realizing that a bad night is not a universal conspiracy.

  • When was the last time I was actually alone? Sometimes, though, I’ve spent too much time with friends and I need some quiet time to rebuild myself. I imagine it like the little energy bar for a character in a video game: hanging out with friends is a lot of fun, but it might be more emotionally and psychologically draining than we realize. Creative types especially might find themselves in need of some space and quiet to assimilate everything happening around them.

  • Do I need to go for a walk? Working all day on a computer in my office and then winding down by reading, crocheting, or watching TV, I don’t get a lot of exercise or fresh air unless I’m very intentional about it. But I’m a really energetic person by nature and if I don’t take myself outside at least once a day, I get cabin fever. And then rabies. And then I start to bite.

It seems like asking myself if I’ve had enough to eat should also be on this list, but that’s almost never a problem as I almost never stop eating.

Recognizing that bad habits lead to bad moods literally changed my life. Realizing that I can be both the cause of and the solution to my bad moods has made a huge difference in my emotional well-being and given me a stronger sense of autonomy.

What’s on your checklist?

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