Dealing with the Dark Days

If you are anything like me, some days are tough. In fact, some weeks or even months can be tough. Things don’t work out like you hoped, planned or even strived for. You begin to feel down or, dare I say it, even a little depressed.

We all want to be successful, or at the very least appear successful. We live in a world where people are constantly proclaiming their own success stories and the media paints pictures of superhero entrepreneurs, leaders, artists, athletes and musicians. We come to believe that these are the people who always have it together, are highly motivated and consistently prosperous. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that they have something special… they might be able to do it, but I am not one of them, I am just an everyday ordinary.

Ironic as it sounds, I sometimes find that working as a coach in a vibrant coaching community can actually exacerbate this problem. Being surrounded by highly optimistic, inspiring, confident coaches, experts, professionals and empowered entrepreneurs can be quite intimidating – particularly if you are feeling a bit off your game. Having your own personal coaching toolkit, plump with powerful tools that are guaranteed to deliver success, right there at your fingertips, can be downright frustrating – particularly when you know you desperately need them and yet they seem entirely inaccessible in the moment.

It’s a bit like the biblical account of the slave who knew his master’s will and was punished harshly when he did not get ready or act accordingly, while the one who did not know what was expected and yet committed deeds worthy of a flogging, got off lightly. To be honest, on more than one dark day, I have been to myself both the master and slave, punishing myself harshly when I fall short of my own expectations, holding tight to the belief that having been given much, therefore much is required. What excuse could I possibly have for feeling down? I should just stop it!

In the darker moments I really appreciate the honesty of people like Tim Ferriss. In his blog, “Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me), Tim confessed the reality of his own successful but rather crazy life and aptly observed that ‘most “superheroes” are nothing of the sort. They’re weird, neurotic creatures who do big things DESPITE lots of self-defeating habits and self-talk’.

Dispelling the myth of the superhero is one great way of taking the heat off ourselves when we are down. Here are five other tips I have learned about dealing with dark days:

    • Despite how you feel, you are not alone – as Tim Ferris pointed out, even the very best have bad days. Don’t try to be a superhero and tell yourself you need to handle it all alone. Reach out. Your true friends will be there to support you if you allow yourself to need them.
    • Let go of judgment – beating yourself up for feeling down is no way to help yourself climb out of the pit. In a judgement free space we get the freedom to be curious and see things from a new perspective.
    • Be present to the moment and accept it for what it is – a monotone life is dreary. The beauty of art, photography and comes from richness of contrast. We can’t have mountain top experiences without passing through the valleys.
    • Little things matter – doing a few simple things can really help. A little win can make a big difference. Take a break, clean up the desk, go for a walk, put on some music, have coffee with a friend.
    • This too will pass – nothing lasts forever. Take a deep breath and be content to simply survive till you get through the tough patch. You have what it takes to thrive when the new day dawns.

What is your top tip for getting through a dark day?