Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The sweet smell of anticipation.

On some of my darkest days, my only goal has been to make it through to bedtime: not exactly the loftiest of ambitions. But maybe better than nothing.

When you're going through a rough patch, nothing seems terribly meaningful. Every step feels like plodding through treacle. Each minute can add to the weight bearing down on your soul.

Thankfully it's not the way I'm feeling right now, but this doesn't stop me recalling what it's like. At times like this, you can have little appetite for life. In fact, were someone to ask you what you were looking forward to, it wouldn't be surprising if you replied 'Nothing'.

Nothing. Imagine that. Imagine genuinely believing (since that's one of the cruel tricks that low mood can play on you) that there's nothing (nothing!) on the horizon. No goals. No treats. No things-yet-to-come.

I don't know about you, but to me this doesn't sound like a very pleasant place to be. It would feel like being locked in a cell with no prospect of release.

The trouble is, it's a vicious circle. When your mood is low you stop making plans: you stop setting goals. But then when you stop setting goals, it's not unreasonable to expect your mood to dive even lower.

What to do then?

Perhaps this three-step process can help:

1. Acknowledge that, even if you're feeling very low, in principle people do respond well to having things to look forward to.

2. Admit that (feeling the way you do right now) you'll never in a million years be able to make big plans.

3. Accept that even the tiniest piece of anticipation is almost certainly better than none at all.

How tiny is tiny? I think it can be very tiny. Look forward to eating something good at lunchtime. Tell yourself that you'll take a ten minute walk this evening. Promise yourself a soak in the bath later on.

On a good day these may seem insignificant ambitions, but on a bad day they can make all the difference.