Terry woke up with kind of a vague feeling that something wasn’t quite right.  It wasn’t anything she could put her finger on, but her energy felt lower, and so did her mood.  She wasn’t experiencing anything she would call feeling sick, but she wasn’t feeling all that great either. Terry didn’t feel like she needed to raise any alarms with her doctor, but she was concerned.

In a way, Terry wondered if it wasn’t almost worse to feel just generally out of sorts than to actually be feeling sick.  Why?  Because she knew from experience that on days when she was a little off kilter, and without a clear reason why, her mind tended to go to dark places.

“It’s not like you’re sick,” she told herself.  “You can still do the basics today, even go to work.”  She couldn’t help but ask herself: “Is there something going on with me?   And finally: “Is there something lurking around the corner and about to strike?”

It wasn’t like Terry hadn’t talked to her doctor about the potential of having days when she wasn’t feeling at her best.  Her doctor even told her which symptoms to contact her about.  But still… Terry couldn’t help but feel concerned.

How about you?  Do you have days when you aren’t quite feeling yourself and can’t help but feel alarmed that your health might be headed south?  Scary, right?

Rational Mind is Your First Defense on Those Days When You’re Not Feeling Your Best

Here’s some help in coping on those days:

Give yourself a pep talk.  The last thing you need to do is to fall into self-criticism.  Instead, be kind to yourself by talking back to any negative self-talk with words of encouragement.  Remind yourself that you’ve had not-so-great days before.  That you’re doing what you need to do to take care of yourself and you’ve got a healthcare team you trust, backing you up.  A good pep talk can help keep your mind from wandering into darker territory.

Avoid catastrophizing.  Use your self-talk to help keep your perspective on the big picture.  Remind yourself that a day when you don’t feel at your best is just that: It’s a day when you don’t feel at your best.  Nothing more.  Don’t turn it into a catastrophe by giving it meaning it doesn’t need to have.  Engage your rational mind.

Remember: Normal is a moving target.  You can waver from feeling your absolute best self and still be at what, for you, is your range of what’s normal.  Most likely, if you haven’t already discovered this, you will be more able to take a day like this in stride.

Talk it out.  One of the best ways to regain your perspective, and stay focused on the big picture, is by talking things out with someone you trust, someone who can listen without judging you or telling you what to do.  Someone who knows you and can help you sort out how you’re feeling, and remind you of some of those other days, when you felt more like yourself, or even when you didn’t feel so great, but found a way to cope.

Distract yourself.   When you spend too much time focusing on what’s bothering you, you can end up magnifying it and making it feel bigger, or even come up with some other reasons to feel bad.  That’s the pathway to catastrophizing.  So, try some positive distractions.  Getting involved in your daily tasks.  Doing something you enjoy or that relaxes you.  Socializing.

Push forward, but not too hard.  The message here is to stay involved in your life.  That’s what I mean by pushing forward.  But be careful about pushing so hard that you end up making yourself feel worse by tiring yourself out or bringing on symptoms that weren’t there before.   Take things one step at a time.  Rest when you need to.  Be nice to yourself.

Listen for a message.  Keep in mind that a day when you feel out of sorts may be the result of pushing yourself too hard the day before.  Listen to your body.  Is it trying to tell you something?

Trust your instinct.  There is a difference between pushing through a day when you’re not at your best and denial of symptoms you need to pay attention to.  You know your body.  If your instinct tells you something is not quite right, then do what you need to.  Including calling your doctor and letting him/her know what’s going on.  If an alarm is going off, that call may be just the reassurance you need.

Not quite feeling yourself today?  Not feeling all that okay doesn’t mean you’re not okay.  Stay focused on the big picture.  Each day – a good day, a not so good day – is another opportunity to learn how to listen to the messages your body sends you. And take your life in stride.

Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, relationship coach, and author in New York City, who specializes in working with individuals diagnosed with chronic and catastrophic medical conditions, their caregivers, and professionals. His book, “The Power of Closure: Why We Need It, How to Get It, and When to Walk Away,” will be published by Tarcher Perigee in the spring of 2024. His website is www.JustGotDiagnosed.com.

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