Self-help methods to cope with dark times

Talking to yourself can be a great tool to sweep away negativity clouding your judgement. Photo / Thinkstock
Talking to yourself can be a great tool to sweep away negativity clouding your judgement. Photo / Thinkstock

When you're down and troubled - and your therapist isn't around - what the hell are you supposed to do?

Applying coping and self-soothing techniques can return your equilibrium. This is why learning and using these techniques is imperative to leading a balanced lifestyle.

Things don't go the way we want them to some of the time, but even if it's most of the time, we can still care for ourselves in healthy and unselfish ways.

Those who care for others can suffer from caregiver burnout, and the same thing may happen when it comes to caring for ourselves. We become tired of our routines, and sometimes our own emotions can keep us from doing what we know will make us healthy and happier.

For example, you're feeling a little down, and it might be too hot or too cold to exercise outside, and driving to the gym just takes too much energy to even think about. These rationalisations are normal when you're not in a great mood. It's easy to make excuses when you want to find them.

The trick is to psych yourself out of self-sabotaging. When you know that doing certain actions will make you feel better in the long or short term, but you find a way to keep yourself from doing them, part of you may be saying that you don't deserve to feel better. That critical inner voice needs to be muzzled - and you can do that by saying to yourself: "I do deserve to feel better."

Telling yourself to take positive steps, especially when you are hearing the opposite in your head, is a time-tested self-motivation method. Once you know you can overcome negative internal messages, you can begin to heal.

Sometimes it can be helpful to talk with someone about your troubles, and it doesn't have to be a therapist (but it probably shouldn't be a bartender). Verbalising your quandary gives you another perspective, and not only from the other person.

Hearing yourself say the words out loud can also bring you new perspective. You can even talk to yourself if no one else is available. And no, it doesn't mean you are crazy if you do.

Positive self-talk has worked for ages to help people psych themselves up for whatever it is they're facing. Some people do it on the golf course; others, in the courtroom. Where you are makes no difference. Self-talk works, so give it a shot.

If you find yourself behaving in unusual ways that make you feel uncomfortable, or if you are unable to do things that help to make you feel good, then you may be stuck in a negative thinking pattern. Even if it started from something you feel you have no control over, you do have the power to put yourself in the right frame of mind.

It takes work, but the results are well worth it, so give it a chance and help yourself feel better.

* Dr Barton Goldsmith is a psychotherapist and author in Westlake Village, California.

- SNS

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