Monday was an “ugh” day for me.

You know — those days when you wake up with the weight of the world on your shoulders? When your energy is at its lowest ebb all day long, and you just feel like “ugh, I can’t do this BS today.” Those days when people make you sick and you hate your job/school/life and you just need a break from the daily grind that’s grinding you down. Everything’s going wrong. Ugh. You know what I mean? I know you do.

For some ladies, it comes with the monthly cycle. Other times, it’s the circumstances of your life that you may not be at liberty to change. Sometimes, things just get under your skin a bit deeper than usual. I think the most important thing is recognizing that ugh days are universal. Everyone has them, regardless of how wealthy or skinny or beautiful or clever or otherwise enviable they might be. But how do you combat those ugh days? Here’s the five steps that usually work for me.

1. I’m a big believer in feeling my feelings — I know that sounds totally corny and Stewart Smalley-ish, but it’s true. I don’t think bottling things up is healthy in the long run. So if I’m sad and I need to let the feeling wash over me completely, I let myself have a good cry until the cloud passes. But you can’t weep and wallow in self pity forever; you have to pick yourself up, dry your eyes, and get through your day as best as you can. Pity parties are no fun, and crying your eyes out only helps for so long.

2. Do something nice for yourself. I’m not talking about treating yourself to all-you-can-eat chocolate fest, or having a Ben and Jerry’s binge. Indulge in the kind of small personal luxury that you typically deny yourself. Like, go get a manicure or pedicure. I make the suggestion because when I get depressed, visions of Pecan Sandies and bowls of macaroni and cheese start dancing in my head. If I can’t use my hands for a while, I’ll stop thinking about using them to stuff my face. If you can’t afford a professional nail polishing, put on some soothing music, indulge in a long, hot bath, then give yourself one. Your feet, hands, and soul will thank you later. If you’re not into your nails, treat yourself to a facial, dress up a bit more than usual for work, celebrate by making yourself feel beautiful. And if you really, really want to treat yourself to something edible, try to steer clear of the typical ugh day snacks. Leave those potato chips and cream filled cakes at the store and give your body the nutrients it needs. You’ll feel better about yourself later if you indulge in a healthy treat, like apple slices with a little peanut butter, or sliced veggies and hummus. Just this week, I got a bag of carrot sticks and roasted garlic hummus for my desk at work. No more vending machine crap for me!

3. Walk it out. I am by no means one to turn to for fitness advice — yet. Someday I do hope to be fit enough to be able to talk about working out without feeling like a total hypocrite. But in my efforts to work out more often, I’ve discovered that what they say is true — being active does increase your endorphins, and if you are depressed and start working out, by the time you break a real sweat, your spirits will be somewhat lifted. I crank some MIA and get on my elliptical trainer, and by the time the first song is over, I’ve almost managed to quit thinking about whatever’s gotten me down. This is much more effective than drowning my sorrows in Jack Daniels, believe it or not. What if you’re at work when the ughs get you? Try a seated workout — this little Sparkpeople resistance band workout is a good one for those of you with an office door you can close. If you have less time, try the 15 minute desk workout, or consider a stroll around your building if the weather’s decent enough. Sometimes just getting up and getting away really helps for a moment.

4. There’s a Stevie Wonder song that says it all — “if you feel your life’s too hard, just go have a talk with God.” This, coming from the child that members of my family call “the little heathen.” I will confess, the judgmental nature of so-called “religious” people turned me off from a pretty early age. So although I grew up Episcopalian with a wonderful priest who I still have tremendous admiration for, I don’t currently think of myself as having a particular “religion,” per se. However, I personally do believe in a higher power, and when I feel especially overwhelmed, I do call for help.

The act of prayer is such a deeply personal thing, I feel kind of weird even writing about it. But I will say this — repeating something like the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm is reassuring to me only because I grew up saying them, but I personally think repeating prayers can just be mindless. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel any closer to my spiritual center. Sometimes a moment alone, hearing a prayer in an unconventional musical version can touch me more than just mumbling words with a congregation of people. Take for example, the late, great Garnet Silk’s “Splashing Dashing,” an interpretation of the 23rd Psalm. Listening to great gospel music also helps me get over sometimes — try this version of How I Got Over by Mahalia Jackson on for size, and tell me you aren’t moved.

The moments when I break away from the scripts I learned in Sunday school and actually speak directly about whatever I’m experiencing, when I actually ask for the specific kind of help I need, I’m simultaneously talking to God and to myself. It’s a way to talk myself through the tribulations I’m facing, an attempt to find the resilience I need to overcome what feels insurmountable. I understand that this might not work for everyone and I’m not here to get into a debate about beliefs — I’ve had enough friends who are Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Rasta, insert-your-particular-sect-of-Christianity-here, atheist, and agnostic to realize that what works for some doesn’t work for others, and everyone thinks they’ve got all the answers. That’s why I love the Desiderata — those final passages resonate with me. “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is, finding a quiet space where I can meditate, be at peace, and communicate with my spiritual center really helps to get me out of the mental ruts I sometimes find myself in.

5. If it’s more than a day or a week — if you’re having something more like an ugh month or an ugh year, it’s worth considering therapy. Depression is real. It’s not just a mood you fall into or a funk you find yourself in. If the thought’s ever crossed your mind — hey, I might be really depressed, then you really should educate yourself about the symptoms. I’ve had a few low moments in my life where I’ve sought the advice of a professional, and I don’t think there’s anything embarrassing about admitting that you’ve sought help. So I speak from experience when I tell you, few things in life are more depressing than a crappy therapist. I’ve had two, and it can be enough to turn you off therapy altogether. But the right therapist can really help you through a rough patch.

I found an amazing therapist when I was in college, and without her, I don’t know what I’d be doing today. She helped me realize that I needed to focus on my writing as a form of release, she helped me heal after my high school eating disorder, she helped me realize that so many people have the same problems that I have, or worse. She helped me realize that my ugh moments were just that — moments. And they pass. The best part about a therapist is, they aren’t your friend. You pay them for their time. And unlike your BFF, your sister, your grandma, or your boss, the best kinds of therapists aren’t supposed to be giving you personal advice so much as guiding you towards personal revelations. Just sitting in this woman’s office and talking my problems out – speaking aloud the thoughts I’d been suppressing — helped me to see my life through fresh eyes. When I felt strong enough to suss out my own issues, we respectfully parted ways. I am better for the experience.

So on Monday, when I was confronted with a big poison cloud of ugh, the first four things on this list came to the rescue. It also helped me to retreat from the schedule I’ve been on, to lay down my incessant and ever-swelling things-to-do list, and to just have a healthy, early dinner and get a good night’s sleep for a change. Finally, the clouds are parting and the sun is shining through. Ahh. Feels good. I feel like myself again.

Please understand that I’m completely speaking from my own experiences, and what works for me might not work for others. In fact, I really want to hear from you readers here — what works for you? What helps you get over your ugh days, bellas and fellas?

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Demetria says:
November 7, 2007, 7:25 pm
I love that you mentioned therapy as an option. Too many people see that as something shameful. I love your list! I'd tack on good ol' fashioned meditation along with your prayer suggestion. Some folks are not particularly religious, but will still benefit from some "quiet" time to just be at peace with the universe and reflect on how small their particular problem really is in the grand scheme of things. If you don't get that raise or do well on that test or that man doesn't come back to you, the sun will still rise tomorrow. You just have to figure out how to enjoy your sunshine.
LaFenix says:
November 7, 2007, 7:25 pm
Wow Bella, Thanks for this post! I have to admit that I'm kinda going through that "funk" right now and I hear ya on having to ride out the feelings. I would even suggest letting yourself have a "temper tantrum", esp if you are near a park or sound proof place, just go somewhere are scream,kick, cry, whatever.(I'm in nyc so finding empty space is close to impossible) Other than that, it helps me to write a list of things that make me happy. It's nice to see the little things that make me smile (like talking to my 4 yr. old niece or doodling for an hour). Of course the next step is to go out and actually do the things on the list.
sumatra77 says:
November 7, 2007, 8:43 pm
Great post as usual, and very timely! I have been having an "ugh" year. Probably an "ugh" 5 years or so. I love the Desiderata. I had it on my wall at my job before I was let go and also have it in a journal. It's such a wonderful poem. All your suggestions are what I do to keep my sanity. Sans the therapist which I would love to see but can't afford right now(jobless at the moment). I'm finding it very difficult to talk to people who know me and would like to talk to an objective person. In the meantime, music does wonders for me. As a matter of fact, when I feel blocked and can't really express how I feel, I look for sad music so I can cry and release it all. I run(it's somehow symbolic in that I can feel like I'm running away from my problems), and kickbox(I can imagine the faces of all my stressors as I drop kick them in my head, ha ha). I also write in my journal, cook a new recipe, or go to a bookstore. All this in conjuction with prayer works for me. Here's to overcoming the "ugh" and welcoming the "ah!"
Tamara says:
November 7, 2007, 9:54 pm
Great post. Very timely. Sometimes it helps me just to get away, be alone, even just for five or 10 minutes. If things are going badly in the middle of the day at work, for instance, I get in my car and drive five minutes to the bay. I park the car, sit, breathe and watch the water. Just being near nature helps, even if just for a few minutes.
nyc/caribbean ragazza says:
November 7, 2007, 11:22 pm
For me music and going on a long walk/hike to clear my head helps. I'm glad you talked about depression. It's such a taboo topic in our community. So many women are self medicating through food, booze, drug, sex, etc. without addressing the real problems. I haven't been in therapy but I have seen some friends benefit greatly from it.
Spiritual_Buttafly says:
November 7, 2007, 11:45 pm
WOW! Well stated!
Linsay says:
November 7, 2007, 11:47 pm
Bella, it's like you knew exactly the kind of week I've been having so far! With the fall semester coming to an end, my pile of assignments to do and my periods kicking in on Monday morning, I was feeling pretty 'ugh' myself. Like I told my sister, I'm 2 essays away from Cuckoo's nest, so what gets me going is the strength God gives me everyday. I have a lot of conservations with God, especially lately when I get grouchy and fed up of always working hard and not having any time to just unwind. Working out definitely helps to blow off some steam. Here's another trick you can add to your list, I developed it in elementary school: when you're at home and you don't want to disrupt other people around you, go in your bathroom or linen closet, take a pile of towels or sheets, make sure there are a lot of layers, shove your face in it, take a deep breath and scream at the top of your lungs into it for as long as you like! Trust me, it feels really good!
Kim Major Delaney says:
November 8, 2007, 12:34 am
Girl, this was the perfect post I needed to read today! :P I live in the Pacific Northwest and sometimes that S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) hits when the weather is gloomy and I have an Ugh day. Thanks for being inspiring yet again. :)
Marleaux says:
November 8, 2007, 1:33 am
FANTASTIC POST!! I’ve been feeling super stressed at work and have coincidentally been doing a few practices referred above. My day has been going as follows: My boss issues me various assignments, and then calls me every 5 minutes to give me another assignment, which would take my attention away from the prior assignment she issued. Then she’ll call me five minutes later to check on the prior assignment that I was no longer able to do because I ditched it for the most recent assignment. We’ve lost 2 people and doubled our portfolio with a new acquisition. It’s been soooo hard. So today, I went to the bathroom and sat there for about 20 minutes, and cried just a little. I just had to get a little frustration out of my system. I’m usually not a crier; actually consider public criers wimps, and would never ever cry at the office. Wouldn’t want to be labeled the “walking tear filled bomb, just waiting to explode…” But my little minute or two spent in the bathroom felt sooo good. I’m pretty sure tomorrow won’t be as stressful, but I know what to do, when I have another “ugh” day… I usually do the stairs at work. It’s a really good workout, especially when you’re in a 30-story building. Breaks the stress and the monotony of being at a desk all day. Plus I’ve already made my appointment to get a facial this weekend. I can’t wait.
Patrick Jnr. says:
November 8, 2007, 8:43 am
Patrice loved the post...For me, especially when I was working in the bank, I would just take a break from my station. I would go upstairs and have a cup of tea and just reflect, enjoying the brief mental holiday. I would also at times go and wash my face and say a quiet prayer to myself in the men's room, which was usually unoccupied. Those time-outs helped me, looking back now on what were my first years of employment I realise now how much simpler life was then!
Bebroma says:
November 8, 2007, 9:21 am
If I'm at home with my youngest, I go for a power walk with her in a stroller, it's a change of scenery and the exercise also helps. Or I'll watch or read something that I know will make me laugh really hard, even if it's just for 5 minutes. I also might call a friend, and without saying why I feel ugh necessarily, just ask them to remind me why my life is not in the toilet even if it feels like it, or why I need to put the lid back on the Hatorade I'm drinking and set it back in the fridge. Also, I like what bella said about therapy. If you need it, you should get it. You might think it isn't helping, and then a while later, you think, I don't know how it helped, but it did!
Bebroma says:
November 8, 2007, 9:26 am
@sumatra77 -- I don't know how tight your finances are, but sometimes when they're really tight, there are options available to you that wouldn't be if you were in a better place financially. Don't assume therapy is a closed door for you right now, you might be surprised what is available for you. I know, I've been there (no job, broke, and major ugh going on), and to my surprise there were resources available. Ask your doctor's office to look into it for you, and even if you can't go in for an appointment, call and keep calling until you get an answer one way or another. I hope things get better.
Nishawn says:
November 8, 2007, 11:22 am
Great Post! I would just like to mention that sometimes you can pick up other people's "ugh". People should take inventory of thier social circles from time to time and realize that sometimes you outgrow your friends even if you love them. Sometimes you have to wish toxic people well from a distance.
Niki says:
November 8, 2007, 11:38 am
I was having a "ugh" day too yesterday-it must be contagious! I find that you have to have a sense of humor about those moments. Today, I can laugh about the fact that I changed clothes about 5 times before I went to work because I suddenly felt "fat and ugly and nothing looks good on me" LOL When I got home later, I had a mug of hot herbal tea, listened to some soothing music, wrote in my journal for awhile to get the thoughts "out" and hit the sheets early. I work up feeling a lot better today. I had to deal with serious depression about 8 years ago and I sought the help of therapists and also was on Paxil for a year. When you realize that what your experiencing is more than a case of the "blahs" and you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your life is becoming consumed by these thoughts, don't be afraid to seek help.
Denise says:
November 8, 2007, 3:04 pm
Thanks for being so candid, AFROBELLA. You really are able to articulate what we all have experienced at one point and time.
MoniMoni says:
November 8, 2007, 4:35 pm
What helps me get over "ugh" days? I reach for the funniest movies in my DVD collection and have some caramel cone explosion ice cream. And I do not feel guilty about it one bit. Snuggle up to my sweetie and hope to work the ice cream off later that night. I'm serious. :)
afrobella says:
November 8, 2007, 4:48 pm
Ooooh, MoniMoni, that caramel cone ice cream sounds AMAZING. Who makes it, Ben & Jerry's?
Dawn says:
November 8, 2007, 5:56 pm
Loved your uplifting list! I need to refer to it in my new feel good blog and send more readers your way. Everybody needs to read it. I especially liked the part about feeling your feelings. Too often (especially as women) we're told that our feelings are "wrong" or guys try to minimize our feelings because we're "on the rag" again. (I hate that phrase!) As women, we are ultrasensitive beings, responsive to the pulse of the entire world. You can't block out your nervous system when it is tapping into something bigger than you. And sometimes (especially around our period, when our hormones stir up strong psychic vibes) we are more reponsive to the world's hurts than other times. And man, it's intense. But it's our job as spiritual wise womyn to walk the walk of a sensitive person WITHOUT labeling our feelings as an illness or a problem. I'd much rather feel, anyway. It allows me to experience so much more of life's joys - so what if I gotta have the occasional down day? The payoffs are so marvelous. It's all worth it. Dawn
Sumatra77 says:
November 8, 2007, 8:14 pm
It's been great reading everyone's posts. This morning, I got up and started listening to some Tony Robbins(which my brother had sent me when he was going thru his own "ugh" moment, but I'd never listened to.) I turned everything off and just decided to give it a chance and listened for an hour. It helped put some things in perspective, and I'm in a much lighter mood. I've been cleaning for the past hour and another destressor is removing CLUTTER! My mind and spirit feel greatly unburdened already!
Bebroma says:
November 8, 2007, 9:55 pm
Bella, the caramel cone ice cream I know is made by Haagen Dazs or however you spell it. It is wonderful. The sticky toffee pudding ice cream they make is my fave, though -- brown sugar toffee, brown sugar cake, creamy ice cream, yum yum yum.
Danielle says:
November 9, 2007, 12:59 pm
Great post Bella! I've had that kind of week myself. My period induced my funk, but I also see it as my soul's need to take a step back and reflect. It's quiet time for me. This weekend, I'm doing nice things for me. It's the little things. I'm going for a walk in the sunshine, taking a long hot bath, washing and giving my hair a deep deep conditioner and sitting in my luxurious robe and enjoying my weekend. Thanks for being you!
MoniMoni says:
November 9, 2007, 11:25 pm
Afrobella, Bebroma is correct, it is by Hagen Daz. Honey it is worth purchasing! Don't let me sprinkle the butterfinger sprinkles in it. YUM!
Ursula says:
November 10, 2007, 10:02 am
I love the raw honesty of this post. Sharing your experience along with suggestions for dealing with the situation is most inspiring. So thanks for keeping it real.
kimabe says:
November 14, 2007, 11:42 am
Each morning when i get up, the first thing that i do is wiggle my toes and thank god and the universe that i am HERE. It helps to remind me that not everyone that lays their down at night is gonna wake up the next morning. So I take that in first. Then I write my morning pages in my journal. It's random thoughts, rants, dreams, blah blah blah stuff, but it helps to clear my head of fears, doubts , anger...and by the time i get to that third page, I'm open an dready On a bad blah day...I write a little more...and back it up with some encouragement... and...i make myself workout for about 30 minutes. I try to take the blahs out early in the day so that I can salvage the rest of the day and evening with good vibes...but when it's a little tough...i treat myself to dinner and a movie and enjoy my best friend...ME :) kimabe, brooklyn


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