Yesterday I felt very sad. I won’t get into a lot of the WHYS, but there were a lot of things that bubbled up to the surface. I was thinking of some upsetting situations and my hormones got the best of me. I let myself have a nice big cry, remembering what I always tell my clients- Crying can be helpful. Crying is a way we release stress hormones from our physical bodies. Crying is cathartic. So I just let loose with it. I leaned my head against the wall. I grabbed the hand towel from the bathroom and used it to catch my big ole tears. I let my body posture completely slump down like a rag doll. Radar, blind superdog, came into the room and began to growl at me. Really, blind dog? You growl at me when I’m sad? This is what Radar tends to do when he isn’t sure what is going on and something startles him. Although he knew it was me, I don’t cry like that very often. My hypothesis is that he thought something was wrong with me. He growled a bit and did these little yip barks. I told him “I’m okay, it’s okay” and he stopped with the barks and growls. All the while he held his little funny face really close to me, trying to assess each second with his big nose tilted towards me. Once he got over his startled growling, he just sat next to me and that was comforting.
I thought a lot about what to DO about being sad and realized I didn’t really need to do much of anything. My sadness felt appropriate, it wasn’t overwhelming, and I was trying to take care of myself. I had a yoga class to teach so in preparation for it, I did a long home session of restorative yoga, moving very slowly, deliberately and carefully, like a moving mediation. It helped. Driving to yoga, I still felt pretty sad and realized I was going to need to pick my energy up just a bit or my students would spend 75 minutes crying into their mats. I put on my favorite pick-me-up song, which I prefer to listen to at a loud volume while I hit the steering wheel to the beat. This helped too.
XTC- Making Plans for Nigel
Yoga class was fine and it was actually quite nice to move around and get my mind on other things. As I drove home, I listened to another song, this one is one of my go-to sad songs.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- People Ain’t No Good
Once I was back home, I ate some warm soup, talked with my husband, and we watched some TV. Oh and I ate some delicious dark chocolate. After a good night’s sleep, I really don’t feel sad anymore. However, if I hadn’t let the sadness bubble up and be present when it needed to be, I would perhaps feel less present and connected now. Although it isn’t fun to feel sad, it happens. I recently listened to this podcast, Opening to Our Lives with Jon Kabat-Zinn. He talks about how in Western culture we tend to EXPECT constant happiness, which is completely unreasonable. Sadness happens. This really resonated with me. It is what we do with it and how we treat ourselves that really matters.
- Be curious. Is it appropriate to feel sad? Do I have a reason to feel sad? Investigate what it is all about. Typically, emotions present themselves for a reason- they show us things! Sadness can show us what is important and what we value. When we feel we’ve lost something in line with that, whatever it might be, we feel sad. However, there are also times when we inexplicably feel sad and it is helpful to know we can pull ourselves out of that if we need to.
- Recognize appropriate sadness. If there’s a reason to feel sad, try to sit with it. Practice self-care even while feeling it, for example doing something soothing (drinking hot tea or taking a bath), or take part in an enjoyable activity (playing with my dogs or chatting about things with a loved one). Sometimes when I feel sadness for a relevant reason, I just let it go through me (like I did yesterday) and assume that once I get through the wave of sadness, I’ll move on to something else.
- Practice opposite action. If the sadness is making it hard to tend to necessary things (like teaching yoga, for example) OR if the sadness seems like it doesn’t fit the situation of what is going on, try using the skill of Opposite Action- Do the opposite of what you feel like doing. The idea is that the opposing action can inspire different thoughts and feelings, which can actually change your mood. This is what I did when I listened to the XTC song, which tends to make me energized and excited (instead of listening to the Nick Cave song, which makes me feel even more sadness). When we’re sad, we tend to want to isolate and be very quiet. Instead, try going outside, watching a funny movie, talking to a friend about light topics, and so on. Exercise can be very helpful for this also.
Emotions are like waves. They come and they go. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. Some of them are very large and some are very tiny. They will always be there. We can learn how to understand them and how to work with them.
You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. -Jon Kabat-Zinn
What do you do to take care of yourself when you’re feeling sad? What are some of your favorite songs to listen to, either as a pick-me up or to really feel your sadness?