Down Day

I used to get really scared when I was having a Down Day. You know the feeling, the one that many of us call the “Sunday Scaries?” It’s that “I feel sad and I don’t know why” on a random Tuesday feeling. When this happens to me, I typically run through my checklist of usual worry suspects – kid stress, work concerns, sleep deprivation, familial arguments, friendship issues – to identify a culprit. On a Down Day, the checklist typically comes up empty and what’s left is a case of the Unknown Series.

The Down Day feeling is a gnawing heaviness; a general malaise perhaps, to put it fancifully. My husband asks, after observing my quiet and distant behavior, “Are you okay?” and I answer, “Yes, I’m just having a Down Day.”

On a Down Day, a tear sits at the ready, waiting to emerge at the tiniest bit of distress or even a kind word. Not a heavy duty, cleansing cry. Just a few damp escapees down my cheek that expose hidden sadness to those who may cross my path. Tears, those traitors.

Most of my life was spent white-knuckling my way through a Down Day. Ever fearful that if I stopped moving, stopped numbing, another D, depression, would overtake me, beat me down and exile me. I had to move faster than the depression, like a storm you see in your rearview mirror that is quickly catching up to you.

GO GO GO. DO DO DO. Anything except FEEL FEEL FEEL. The feeling was scary and brought with it too many unknowns. I had convinced myself that my feelings were too much and way more than I, or anyone, could handle.

“The cure for pain is in the pain.
In Silence, there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.” – Rumi

One gets to the point, however, where white-knuckling, busy-ness or any other false coping mechanism no longer work as “feeling avoidance strategies”. That storm in your rearview mirror catches up to you because, as Rumi says, the “cure for pain is in the pain.” We must sit in and then go through pain in order to get to the other side of it. Going around it? Not an option.

I have experienced adverse life experiences that span in time from early childhood through adulthood. No wonder on a random Tuesday the effect of this accumulated trauma may periodically show itself, often times without warning.

What I have learned in sitting with the pain, whether that is in a therapist’s office, in meditation, or in a mindfulness practice, is that when the deep pain and hurt reach out to you on a Down Day, they need to be attended to with compassion and love.

Our tendency is toward avoidance or covering up of the pain. Put on a mask of happiness and go on with our lives. However-

What we resist, persists” – Carl Jung

Avoidance and numbing strategies create resistance to what is presenting itself, which then results in increased anxiety and depression. If we want to minimize Down Days, we need to do the opposite of resist: accept and allow.

So, what does it look like to “Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves” per Rumi? How do we stop doing and start feeling? Stop numbing and start healing?

For me, it’s an acceptance of, and sinking into, the flow of life’s ups and downs, acknowledging my feelings through stillness and meditation, along with a combination of self-compassion and self-care.

Self-compassion as defined by Kristin Neff, PhD., “requires we stop to recognize our own suffering. We can’t be moved by our own pain if we don’t even acknowledge that it exists in the first place.” So, on a Down Day, I try to increase awareness, decrease avoidance and offer up some love.

For example, in meditation, I send love to the hurt parts of my emotional and physical self. I literally put a hand over my heart to comfort myself and then connect with the love and light I send to those hurting places. Sometimes tears flow as a part of this practice, but when acting within the realm of self-compassion, I no longer think of them as traitors. Instead, they are the truth – the truth and authenticity of my story. I feel you. I see you. And I honor the pain and suffering that I share with you.

Self-care can come in any positive action that feels comforting. For me, self-care is crawling into my bed with a good book or to watch a silly reality show, being with my family, snuggling with my dogs or even a mani/pedi. For others it may be a bath, watching a movie, or a phone call with a friend.

Self-care is also prioritizing my own mental health care even when my bank account, fear or life’s unexpected circumstances say I should cancel. I have stuck to this self-imposed guideline for the better part of three years and it’s the best gift I’ve ever given myself.* Healing was not possible for me without intensive therapy.

Instead of being scared of a Down Day, I now know these times are the indicator that my innermost self-needs a little love and attention. Sometimes there is a clear cause of the darkness; other days not-so-much as a clue. If you get a case of the Down Days, I hope that the combination of avoiding resistance through mindfulness and meditation practice, self-compassion and self-care will help you feel less scared too.


*I highly recommend therapy for anyone battling anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Keep looking until you find someone you can afford, who takes your insurance, etc., and make it a top priority for yourself. It took me multiple attempts over the years to find the “right” therapist, but when I did, it positively changed all aspects of my life.

MARCH 6, 2018

19 thoughts on “Down Day

  1. Pingback: Down Day — The Bipolar Writer – International Badass Activists

  2. I am so familiar with these types of doom and gloom feeling days and it is all to easy to get wrapped up in it or over analyze (at least for me). I do appreciate as you put it sitting through the pain in a healthy positive way and am not surprised that I have a similar coping strategy as it works for me as well. I have cried during a mindful yoga practice and came back stronger and with a more positive attitude towards self care and compassion for it. Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Genevieve, thank you for sharing that! One of the hardest things to do is get out of heads and into positive action. So good to hear that we share some of the same strategies. We’ve got this (even on days we may feel or think that we don’t 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • @Frankie! I’m still figuring out WOrdpress but you can see I posted a response to the wrong person! Hoping to fix that! I’m so glad the article resonated with you and yes, recognition of what is happening on a Down Day, can help us employ healthy options instead of white knuckling through! I’ll take a 50% win any day 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry to hear that @theriginalmuse. I don’t mean in any way to minimize Down Day(S). This article is I oriented more to the random Down Day that pops up periodically. A succession of Down Days can often require a different, more aggressive approach. I hope you find the combination that works for you very soon. Know you are not alone and there is a community of support out here for you. Would love for you to follow me @spiritusliving or Sending love and light your way ❤️💫


  3. I used to try to give in to the “do this and it will make you feel better”…one it never worked, and it also seemed to make the depression drag out longer as I wasn’t letting myself feel my feelings. I try to move through depression now instead of trying to hide it. It seems like I come out the other side of it sooner if I just let it happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi S.E! YES! You are so right. If we never stop to acknowledge it and put some love around it, it continues to build and worsen. Compassion and self care go a long way in soothing the sadness. Sounds like you have learned the lesson in a similar way as me 😉 Here’s a virtual pat on the back! 👋👋

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jane, thank you for your post! I had my Down Day yesterday, when my husband asked me how my day was, I lost it.

    This particular line caught my attention – “On a Down Day, a tear sits at the ready, waiting to emerge at the tiniest bit of distress or even a kind word.” Yup, I experience this as well.

    I didn’t like the days when I feel sad and so emotional, but thank you for this, it made me look at my Down Day a little different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, @Mrs CFP! It has always amazed me that kindness on a Down Day can make me tear up! I think it shows how sensitive and vulnerable we are in those moments. I’d love for you to follow me on my site, @spiritusliving ! Here’s to listening to and taking care of ourselves! Jane

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ” I send love to the hurt parts of my emotional and physical self. I literally put a hand over my heart to comfort myself and then connect with the love and light I send to those hurting places. Sometimes tears flow as a part of this practice, but when acting within the realm of self-compassion, I no longer think of them as traitors” – I think this is beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, @swweeterthannothing. There is nothing better for me than when a line or article is positively received by the reader. I’d love for you to follow me over on my site @spiritusliving . I look forward to reading through your writing as well! Jane


  6. As someone who has frequent down days, I must say this post is exactly what I needed to see. I am slowly getting better at focusing on my down days rather than pretend they’re not happening and put on that forced smile so no one asks any questions. Thank you for this post!


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