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Is It Okay Not to Feel Okay?

Many of us have become increasingly tired and sluggish lately but can’t seem to figure out why. Our routines haven’t changed. We still have to work and take care of daily responsibilities. So, we may find ourselves stumped as to why we’ve started to feel more down. Well, in case you need a reminder, the weather has been in the single digits, the days are cloudy and short, we’re still stuck in quarantine, we’re consuming an unrelenting news cycle, we’re separated from friends and loved ones, and we’re under the constant stress of getting sick or getting someone else sick. This list is just the very tip of the iceberg of what people in this world are struggling with every day. Simply functioning takes much more effort and energy than it did over a year ago. While it’s not ideal that many of us are feeling this way, it is incredibly understandable and expected. 

Somewhere along the way, society decided that positive emotions are more valid than negative emotions. While positive emotions may be more pleasant to experience, negative emotions are just as valid. Negative emotions are necessary in order to be able to fully feel our positive emotions. However, because we’ve labeled negative emotions as bad, we do everything in our power to try and get rid of the bad feelings when we have them. While I’m not suggesting wallowing in negative emotions, sometimes working so hard to eliminate a feeling can leave you more depleted than before you made the effort. Emotions are fleeting. They come and go, sometimes staying a bit longer and sometimes passing so quickly we barely recognize they’re there. It’s not possible to feel positively 100% of the time. So, is it okay to not feel okay? Yes, it is. 

If we know we can’t feel positively every minute of every day, what do we do when we feel the negative feelings start to arise? I believe the first step is normalizing the presence of negative feelings. We’re living in an incredibly chaotic time period that will inevitably trigger negative feelings. Expecting yourself or others to never feel negatively sets unrealistic expectations, inevitably setting us all up for failure. It is completely normal and valid to feel crappy. Normalizing this within ourselves and helping loved ones to understand this as well, will help to release the pressure we put on ourselves to put on a happy face at all time. Embracing our negative emotions while acknowledging they won’t last forever can be incredibly liberating. 

While experiencing negative emotions is normal, they can be very uncomfortable. There are some different things we can try when we’re feeling down to help us feel comforted and hopeful, without adding additional negativity. Music can be incredibly helpful for any emotion. Finding a song, you relate to and listening to the lyrics can help us move through the emotions. Practice gratitude for our minds and bodies helping carry us through this pandemic and ever-changing world. Replace shame with gratitude. Part of showing self-compassion is being kind to ourselves. Being aware of that voice inside our heads can keep us from unintentionally bullying ourselves. Setting up things to look forward to throughout the day and week can be very helpful. Whether it’s taking a 15-minute break for a walk, ordering in a yummy meal, or scheduling a call with a friend, we can always find something to look forward to. Once you’ve listened to a song you resonate with, switch to a pump-up playlist. Dance around your living room and sing along to a song you love. Our bodies have the ability to trick our minds to believe we’re feeling a certain way. Reach out to friends and loved ones. Remember they’re likely struggling at times to. Lean on each other for support knowing we’ll all get through this.

Life can be hard at times. We’re living in a constantly changing world that looks very different than it did a year ago. Take things day by day and remember, it’s okay not to be okay. 

If you’ve found yourself struggling to function through day-to-day life, it may be useful to try talking to one of our Chicago counselors. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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