Does it ever feel like you’re walking through treacle? Does it ever feel like a struggle just to put one foot in front of the other, just to complete the most basic of tasks, just to keep your spirits up enough to avoid being dragged below the surface by the dark, gloopy stuff?
This week has felt like that. Yes, this week has felt like walking through treacle, despite all the good stuff in my life. Despite being in love and engaged to be married to a wonderful man. Despite living where my heart has always wanted to live – by the sea. Despite having the opportunity to do the work I love, some if not all of the time. Despite having written and published my book, ending years of frustrating procrastination. Yes, despite all the wonderful things in my life, I have treacle-like days and weeks.
Why? I’m not sure I have an answer to that. Hormones probably play a part, although I don’t know how big of a part. I definitely feel like my monthly hormonal dip has got worse as I’ve aged, but maybe I’m just more aware of it now or maybe I feel it more because I’m not bingeing on sugar and carbs or manically exercising to try and change how I feel and make the glumness go away. But maybe this is just me. Maybe my moods go up and down more than some. Maybe it’s how I’ve always been or it’s to do with my childhood or it’s the legacy of my eating disorder and other addictive behaviours, or a combination of all of those. Maybe the why doesn’t matter. It is how it is. The question is how to live with it and how to avoid being dragged under or swallowed up.
Here are some answers to that question that I’ve discovered by trial and error over the years.
1) Don’t panic
I have a tendency to catastrophise, to imagine the worst. So when I find myself walking through treacle, I imagine it’s always going to be like this. I can’t see beyond the thick, black gloop. I fear I’m spiralling down and I’ll keep going until I hit the bottom. But that doesn’t happen, not anymore. The feelings pass. The treacle walk comes to an end. It might take a bit of time, but the feelings always shift. So it’s important to remind myself of that. It’s important not to panic. This is a phase. It will pass.
If the tears are there, let them out. Don’t fear them. Tears are healing. Let them flow. If you need to help them out, try doing something loving and nurturing for yourself, like sitting still in meditation, taking a bath or listening to some moving music. They might just need a nudge. Another way I nudge my tears out is by getting out in nature, especially when the weather is a bit wild. I find if I exert myself a little, jog or skip along the beach with the wind in my face and the waves crashing by my side, the tears start to come. Singing helps too. This morning I combined singing out loud with skipping along the beach in wild weather. It worked. I cried a few healing tears and I got my heart rate up, releasing some feel good hormones at the same time. Double boost.
If you can and it’ll help, find someone to cry with. This may involve prepping the person first. What do I mean by that? Well some people, especially some men, get a bit spooked when we cry with them or on them. They feel the need to fix things for us and if they don’t know how, they get all anxious. They tense up and start fumbling around for solutions. All we need to do, in my experience, is explain to them gently that we just need to cry. They don’t need to fix it for us or try to help us in anyway. They just need to listen and supply a supportive shoulder, maybe make the odd caring noise now and then. I’ve taught my partner how to do this and he now does it very well. His instinct is to say ‘don’t cry’ and to try and fix it but now he corrects himself and says, ‘let it out’ while he lets me sob into his shirt. We’ve come to an agreement. It’s working well.
3) Get out in nature
This can help with the tears, as above, but it also just helps to shift our perspective. When I’m out in nature, I open my eyes wide, I see things from a different angle and I can’t help but find a tiny bit of joy even on the most treacle-like days. Just moving my body also prompts a sense of gratitude, which I’ll come on to next. I can move. I can feel the muscles in my legs and bum working as I walk across the sand. I have working legs. I have working arms. I can swim and walk and cycle. I am so fortunate compared to many. I am breathing freely. I am well.
Gratitude platitude? Gratitude is so fashionable these days. Along with mindfulness, it’s on everyone’s lips, including mine. Do you groan when I mention gratitude? Not that old chestnut. I know. I know. Do I have to? Well no, you don’t. It’s your choice. But no matter how reluctant I am, and believe me I often am, thinking about what I’m grateful for or writing it down (it works much better if I write it down) works a bit of magic. It makes that treacle a little less thick. It’s not a miracle cure, but it is a help.
5) Do nothing or do little things
If like me, you’re a striver, someone who’s always pushing and trying and thinking and dreaming and trying some more, doing nothing might help on treacle days. Let yourself be. You’re a human being, not a human doing.
On the other hand, doing nothing might drag you down even further. That’s why I prefer to do little things, three small actions to edge me forwards in some way. This could be as simple as tiny acts of self-care – for example, 5 minutes of Pilates or colouring my hair. Or it could be something to do with my business that edges me forwards without requiring too much energy. So today, for example, I packaged up a book and sent it to a literary agent who is organising a festival next year and who’d asked for a copy. That’s quite a big action in some ways, but it didn’t require too much of me and it was quite practical so not too taxing on the creative brain. What other small actions could I take today? I could do some research on other festivals or I could spend half an hour on my finances. Small acts of self-care that edge me forwards. I am also decluttering this month of August – one item a day is my goal – so I could find an item and put it in the recycling or by the door to go to the charity shop tomorrow. The important thing for me is to draw the line after I’ve done some actions, as I have a habit of overdoing it once I’ve started. So do nothing or do little.
6) Write, if writing is your thing
As I walked along the beach this morning, pondering the treacle that I felt like I was walking through, this blog came to mind and I knew I’d feel better if I wrote. I find blogging cathartic. Blogging authentically is especially cathartic because I’m pretty sure at least one of you will relate to something in this post so it’ll connect me to you on a deep level. It may even prompt you to write back or to be more real in your own writing or communication. It also gives me a sense of purpose and reminds me I have a gift that brings me pleasure and can make a difference to others.
7) Pray, if it works for you
Pray to whatever or whomever you want but I find that surrendering my stuff to something greater than myself helps to relieve the burden a little bit. I’m not in control of everything. I can do my best, take tiny actions, keep myself afloat, but I’m not in charge. Phew. That’s a relief.
8) Don’t isolate
When we’re walking through treacle, the tendency is to isolate. We don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. We just want to sit in our glumness. If that works for you, great. But ask yourself if it truly does. It definitely doesn’t work for me. It disconnects me from the world and from others. It makes the treacle deeper and thicker. So get out into the world and interact somehow, even if it’s just to a coffee shop or for a walk around the block, saying hello to dog walkers en route.
9) Forgive yourself
The worst thing we can do when we’re feeling glum is to beat ourselves up for feeling glum. The worst thing we can do when we’re wading through treacle is to push ourselves over so we’re covered in the stuff. Don’t beat yourself up for the dark days. They’ll pass.
10) Love yourself through it
And I mean really love yourself. Really, really love yourself. Wholeheartedly. Fully. Take amazing care of yourself. Take time off work, go to that yoga class, walk in the park, have a snooze, do whatever it takes. Ask yourself what you need today, answer honestly and then muster the courage to give yourself that, to meet your needs.
So they’re my 10 top tips, the things that work for me and help me through the treacle days or weeks. Of course, if the darkness doesn’t go away, you’ll need to take more extreme measures and get help. These tips are for those who, like me, have ups and downs, but don’t stay down.
If you’d like to comment on the above or connect, please do. I’d love to hear from you. Your comments really make a difference. Otherwise, keep walking, keep wading, keep edging forwards and looking upwards.
A short footnote. If you’d like a space to be more real, to share your treacle days, come and join my free Facebook group for women, Being Real, Becoming Whole.
If you’d like to hear me talk about falling in love and are in or near London, I’m speaking at 3 pm this Sunday August 6 at the Summer of Change festival at The Canvas Cafe in Shoreditch. Entry is very reasonable so check it out here. There are lots of great talks, workshops and social events starting today. My event is here.
If you’d like to read my book, it’s here, or you can download the first chapter for free on my website. If you’ve read my book and would be kind enough to leave me a review on Amazon, that would be amazing and would help my work going forwards. You do that by clicking on customer reviews and then clicking on ‘write a review’ next to the star rating.
Thank you x
This popped up on my feed at the optimum time when I was having a day when I simply couldn’t function. Thank you (and I’ll share the event on my site too), I can’t come along but it sounds fantastic.
Thank you Berenice for writing back. So lovely to hear that my blog helped you when you needed it. I hope your day improved and tomorrow is a good one x
This was a helpful blog post Katherine and resonates strongly with me right now, my current therapist tells me pretty much word for word to do the same things that you suggest!
Thank you, Roisin. Pleased you found it useful. Lovely to hear from you. I’m going to take my own advice and go and plunge myself into the sea – get those feel good hormones going! x