Bleak and dark times can exist for anyone. I have faced some challenges. I can feel low and it can persist for many months. Not complete darkness but some proper “I really can’t be bothered with anything or anyone” type lows.
I was in a tunnel and I could see no light. I lacked energy, didn’t really care what happened to me and at best I was just going through the motions. I was constantly distracted, couldn’t sleep, was withdrawn and low.
At its worst I had some episodes of dissociation – my brain was telling me enough was enough. I was overloaded and overwhelmed with life and all its challenges.
But then something changed. I turned my feelings around. I found some solutions and I started using them on a daily basis. I went from darkness to genuine light and living life again.
These are my favourite solutions. I hope that they will help you if you are experiencing the same life challenges.
Mat Desforges’ 10 steps to help you recover your mental health
1. Acknowledge, accept, talk and remember it will improve.
I acknowledged that I was feeling low. I also acknowledged that this is totally normal. That opened the door to talk. I talked as much as I felt able to. Sometimes to just one or two people but then to others. To strangers or close acquaintances. They all helped.
Importantly you must remember one thing at this critical stage – it will get better. Your feelings and moods will improve.
2. Be kind to yourself.
I focused on my “inputs” – what was going into me – and I took some time for myself. I rested and relaxed. I took some walks, got out into the fresh air and was more aware of what I ate and drank. I also took more time to connect and talk with others for my benefit and on my terms.
3. Take time.
I took time to understand why I was feeling like this.
Instead of focusing on the symptoms, I looked at the root cause. Why was I feeling low? What was wrong? Was it work? My relationships? My lack of hobbies? Injuries? Financial worries? I took the time to get beneath the skin of the causes. At times it was uncomfortable and I had to be honest with myself but it was enlightening. I did this alone but also with a counsellor who could unlock areas that previously I had just accepted.
4. Focus on actions.
I focused on actions and spent time doing something about the challenges I faced. It was uplifting just knowing that I was really doing something about my low moods. Some concrete actions which I found useful included some specific external help including counselling and some online exercises from Healthy Minds to understand stress and what I can do to resolve it.
5. Meditation and mindfulness.
This is an extension of step 4 in that it was a concrete action. But it was too important to be a step on its own. Meditation enabled me to focus on the moment and be more connected with myself. I used Headspace for a few minutes every day just allowed me to have a few minutes learning some simple techniques of breathing and focus.
This is a common thread throughout all the steps. I forced myself to challenge some deep-held beliefs and norms which I was just living with. Do I really need to do those things I keep doing? If I am honest, do I enjoy this “Xyz” activity or am I just in the rut of doing what I always do? That leads to the next step.
7. Do something new.
Continual learning and trying different things helped me out. It jolted my mind into being open to new activities, spending time with different people, going to different places or even just taking a different route to work. Anything, however simple – but just slightly different to your norm.
8. The power of a break.
From a 5-minute walk around the block to a few months sabbatical. Those breaks from normality and reality helped me no end. From the very short to the long. The power of a break should not be underestimated. It revitalises and can enlighten us.
9. Say “yes”, not no.
When I was low my default would be to say “no” to everything – if I was asked to do something I would politely decline. It meant that I would withdraw and hence be withdrawn. Saying “yes” is hard – it gets you out there and when you are feeling low it is the absolute opposite of what you feel like doing. Take small steps to start with and agree to do things you are familiar with, but then try to agree to do some different and new things.
10. Always remember step one and remind yourself of it time and time again.
The way you are feeling is normal and you will feel better. At the time that you are at your lowest, this will be impossible to imagine and you will not believe this. So write it down, repeat it to yourself and go back to step one. Because these feelings are normal, you are not alone and it will get better.
About the author
Mat Desforges is travelling with his family on what his children have called ‘The Trip – Global Family Adventures’. This pause from normal family life was partly inspired by the experiences he recounts in Down… But Not Out. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.
About the book
Down… But Not Out by Mat Desforges is published by Cherish Editions in July 2021.
Learn more about Cherish Editions, our partner self-publishing service for mental health, wellbeing and inspirational books.