The moments right after a breakdown are so crucial. Once the tears and tantrum end, it’s what you do next that will make or break you. Going straight to sleep, getting drunk or high, binge eating, going out and beating someone up to “let off some steam,” or doing anything other than turning your attention to yourself in a loving, caring way, will always lead you to a shoddier place emotionally. This is because you have completely abandoned yourself at your worst time. Going to sleep right after a breakdown may not seem like a bad idea, and it’s actually not bad. I mean, sleep is necessary, and it’s not destructive like the other options, right? No, but what it is, is an easy way to avoid looking at your life and dealing with your pain. In times of crisis, that is the healthiest thing to do if you want to bring the issue to a close as soon as possible: deal with it—no drugs, alcohol, violence, or convenient escape mechanisms.
You know how when a friend calls you in a panic and asks for your help with a problem? You usually do it without hesitation, because you care about that person. You take time out to focus on their issue, show them that you care, dig in and come up with some encouraging words, find a [hopefully healthy] way to make them feel better, if you can. That’s the advised approach to take with yourself, in your own time of need. You don’t skip out on your friends when they’re down, so why would you do that to yourself? In times of emotional turmoil, the best counteraction is to find a way to do something loving for yourself, to come to your own rescue, stat!
Typically, after a meltdown, the first thing you forego is your “normal routine.” For example, maybe the dishes won’t get done; the laundry won’t get folded; your teeth may not get brushed and flossed that night; you may skip your exercise routine; if you’re in school, you might not get that homework done; maybe you’ll postpone that prayer session you had planned; or you had cooking a healthy 3-course meal on your agenda, but now you’ll just opt for some greasy fast food. Whatever it is that you normally do when you’re okay, those things are usually the first to go by the wayside when you’re distraught. It’s just too much. You’re too broken down. You’ll do it later, after you ruminate for 18 more hours on the issue at hand.
It’s how you care for yourself in moments of crisis that shows how deep your love for yourself really is. After a breakdown is precisely the time to put extra focus on taking care of your life—even if you just take out the trash, clip your fingernails, dust the shelves, or walk around the block once. Do any healthy thing that you know will make you feel better or feel good about yourself, even relax you. Any move you can make towards showing yourself that you care about yourself, and even your immediate surroundings, is a great start. You may not think it’s worth much at the time, but I can’t stress enough how showing yourself love and care when you feel bad will boost your self-esteem, and, dare I say, allow you to feel a glimmer of hope about getting through your situation.
Being your own friend and motivator first, changes things. It gives you incredible strength and resilience. It helps preserve your sanity. It says, “I love myself enough to not let myself sink into the abyss of hell.” Remember: wallowing is reactive; self-care is proactive.