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Dealing with Dark Days: Help for When You Don’t Feel Your Best

Rainy Day

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” ~Theodore I. Rubin

I live in a rainy city. For most of the winter it’s endless grey—weeks in which you’re lucky to get a glimpse of the sun at all.

It might be drizzling, it might be pouring, it might be merely fog. It is certainly wet.

For me and a lot of the people who live here, it’s almost a deal breaker. When I first arrived, I spent a lot of time complaining that it was raining again. When the sun came out, it was summarily dismissed with “yeah, but for how long?”

Sometimes I still fantasize of moving somewhere nice and hot. Maybe I’ll melt all summer long, but at least there’s sun, right?

But the bottom line is that I like living here. For a thousand reasons, it’s my home. I’m not going anywhere.

So my choice is this: embrace my decision with a full heart, rain and all, or live in bitterness, fearing the next cloud.

I can’t change the weather.

I also live in a rainy mind. Like everyone I’ve met, I have anxieties, fears, and a thousand other difficult moods that arise in me on days when I’d counted on sunny, focused productivity.

For the last couple of years it’s been panic attacks.

Everything is going so well until something derails and my world becomes scary, my breath comes with difficulty, and I’m falling down the rabbit hole again.

The hardest part to let go is my plans for the day. I was going to write a blog post, clean the kitchen, or go out with friends, but now I’m crouched in the corner expending all my energy to keep air pumping into and out of my lungs.

Not fun.

But recently I realized, I can’t change the weather.

Sure, I can do things to take care of myself so panic attacks are less likely, but if it’s not one thing it’s another:

I couldn’t sleep last night and now I’m tired. My project isn’t coming along like I’d hoped and now I’m cranky. The other people involved in my plans got sick and now they’re cancelled.

Life isn’t always sunny. Life gets rainy.

And no, that’s not fun. Rain on a day you were hoping for sun is frustrating and sad. It can seem like everyone in the world expects constant sunny positivity from you, and when you can’t manage it, there’s shame and guilt.

But it’s kind of magical when you decide to look at it like it’s largely outside of your control. What if today’s mini disaster blew in on the wind with the clouds? What if that same wind will blow it out again?

Maybe today you finally buy some rain boots so you can go for a walk without getting wet. Maybe today you learn that the beach is different in the rain, but still kind of cool. Or you could spend today curled in a ball, cursing the grey.

Either way, it’s still raining. Either way, you’re still lovable. You don’t have to like the weather, but it’s an option.

And the funny thing that happens, once you stop fighting your internal weather, is it becomes calmer. It turns out that so much of the problem was the expectation that things be different than they are, that everything would go smoothly.

Now when it rains, I tell myself I know that I will see the sun again. It might be two weeks, but it’ll happen. Probably sooner than I think.

When I feel anxiety creeping up I remind myself that we all have emotions that are difficult for us. That I will feel calm and happy again—probably pretty soon.

And then I have the space to make the best of the day I was given, not the one I ordered.

Some thoughts that help (think of them as affirmations, if you like):

1. This is the weather right now. I can’t change the weather, but I can take it into account to make myself more comfortable.

2. The sun always comes back. There are always days when things go right. This discomfort is temporary.

3. Everyone has hard days, even if not everyone talks about them. I’m still normal and lovable when my weather is rainy.

4. I’m allowed to feel disappointed that things aren’t going the way I wanted. I don’t have to be ready to make the best of it right away.

5. What if today were supposed to be rainy? What if this were exactly the right thing?

What helps you on days that things aren’t going according to plan?

Photo by H.Koppdelaney

Avatar of Rhiannon Laurie

About Rhiannon Laurie

Rhiannon Laurie writes, teaches and coaches people who are interested in getting to know themselves better at Mirrorhaven, an online Academy of Self Love. She believes self-work requires equal parts compassion and sauciness. Click here for the free guide: “Ten Things to Reflect On.”

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  • Grey

    I really needed to hear this today. Thank you!

  • Louie

    Thank you! I needed this.

  • Gin

    Thank you!!!! so helpful

  • http://www.motivationmy.com/ Syafique

    “Rain on a day you were hoping for sun is frustrating and sad.”

    I LOVE THAT QUOTE!

    In my life, sometimes I have difficulty in dealing with people cancelling on me at the last minute. This could be for a hangout session over dinner, or a project collaboration. It’s upsetting when ppl cancel at the last minute, when you’re looking forward for their presence.

    TQ for this wonderful post. A reminder that life is not always sunny…or as we would like it to be :)

  • http://www.craigmcbreen.com/ Craig McBreen

    Hi Rhiannon,

    Life does indeed rain on you, quite often. And it’s so true about control. You can control certain aspect of your life, but thinking you can completely control your life and your direction is an illusion. Once you accept that, learn to roll with the punches and take advantage of those golden nuggets when they do appear … well, your golden :)

    I also live in a place someone once referred to as a giant moisturizing pad. It’s a foggy outpost with 10,000 shades of gray, usually from October-May, but gray is conducive to great work and creativity … at least that’s what I keep telling myself ;)

  • ariellabaston

    Very timely and lovely! I really benefitted from reading this. #1 and #4 directly relate to my health challenges this year and they were difficult to remember at times!

    The wisdom in this, ooof:
    “I have the space to make the best of the day I was given, not the one I ordered.”

    I received a similar message in my inbox this week from a newsletter (synchronicity rocks):

    On this day of your life, I believe God wants you to know…

    …that it could seem like you are losing something right now, but do not be fooled. This is simply a turnaround orchestrated by your soul.

    Even before this, you were.

    And even after all this passes away, you shall be. All the Rest Of It is stuff and nonsense. The accoutrement. The flora and fauna. Pretty, perhaps. Shiny and sparkling, perhaps. But having nothing to do with anything.

    Let it go. Release it. If it was not supposed to be removing itself from you now, it would not be doing so. It will never return to you in this exact form, and it is not intended to. If it returns at all, it will be in a higher form.

    That is the purpose of its leaving.

    All of life only improves itself. It can’t do anything else. This is called evolution. Trust it.

    And now, smile. Tomorrow is coming!

    Tomorrow is coming!

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    Mmmmm. Tomorrow is coming! I love that. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    That’s what I tell myself too. If it weren’t foggy and wet all winter, when would I get my quiet reflecting time? Whether it’s true or not, it’s what I choose to believe. :)

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    :) Thanks

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    I’m so glad it was helpful.

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    <3

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    Glad to help. We’re all in it together.

  • liz@lifedreaming

    thank you for this wonderful post.

    I’ve been going through a few rainy weeks and I allow myself to feel the sadness/anxiety/fear/despair stuff.

    I also do things to help myself and you listed quite a few that I already use.

    I allow myself the duvet days.

    I also do physical things that move me away from the heart/sorrow stuff – walk my dog every morning to start. Today I was feeling much better and did 1 hour of housecleaning and 3 hours of gardening.

    Doing things that have finite and visible results can be very heartening.

    I also rang my Mum and talked to her for 2 hours and it wasn’t all about me! She makes me laugh.

    Another thing I did last week was to give back and respond to other people’s requests for help. It takes me away from myself and uses my skills to be useful.

    And at 54 I know that I will get through the rainy days – and I make sure I eat well and get sleep and don’t drink when I feel low.

    I also used my Resource Cards [http://www.lifedreaming.me/archive/products/life-dreaming-resource-wheel-cards/ ]and looked at all the different people I needed to help me make a few things happen.

    I needed someone with pr and pricing skills to give me some advice and a new friend was staying here over the weekend. I asked her if we could email each other – she said yes!

    Another friend asked me to do some probono design work last week and I asked her if she would give me some sales advice.

    So, in all the rain [ and it has been a tough few weeks emotionally] I kept focusing on ways to respect what I was feeling as well as moving through it.

    I use my own inner resources as well as a lot of external ones to help me live my passionate, purposeful and playful life.

    Many thanks again for this post – very timely.

    You have inspired a post on my Life Dreaming site [and I will link back to you] that I’m calling Life Gets Rainy.

    It’s about being honest about how tough as well as fantastic life can be.

    Liz

  • tfp

    As my day started with much rain, I will now put on my bright rain boots, open my umbrella, and wade through the puddles with the confidence I can make myself a bit more comfortable until the storm passes. Thank you…..it’s now bookmarked so I can remind myself when the next weather front arrives : )

  • http://yourlifeuntangled.com/ Esther Litchfield-Fink

    what if today were supposed to be rainy? I love this line. thank you. Its actually raining outside my window! I am in New Jersey and used to live in California where it almost NEVER rains…so I should stop talking about the weather already!

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    I also used to live in a dry climate. The transition’s something of a shock, isn’t it?

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    I’m so glad.

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    I’m glad you found the post inspiring.

    It also sounds like you’ve found a great balance between accepting dark days when you’re having them and having tools to use to get you back to sunniness. That’s a tricky (and extremely valuable) thing to do.

    :)

  • Drea

    Thank you for this. I’ve been dealing with a lot of internal weather lately, and you’re right; I can have lots of judgments and critiques of the weather or I can bust out my rain boots and deal. It’s a choice. I think it’s time for me to find a pretty umbrella and get on with it.

  • galeainvegas

    Thank you for this piece. It articulates beautifully something I am also trying to work with at the moment.

  • Susee

    Goodness I thought you must live in Melbourne, Australia! Great piece thank you.

  • Jess

    I think i really needed to read that..thank you :) All these changes and challenges seem so thrilling in the beginning but then keeping up the pace on a rainy day is so hard. But i guess life is about learning to develop resilience and a kind of quiet joy on any day.

  • CupK8

    I have always been viewed as a sunny, positive person. I recently had the experience of losing my temper in front of someone I cared greatly about. I spent the rest of the night angry at everyone, including myself, and feeling horribly guilty – not just for losing my temper, but for losing it in front of someone I wanted to see the best of me. It was only exacerbated when he expressed how shocked he was to see “that side” of me.. I spent the next week dealing with the guilt and depression from “letting” him see me when I wasn’t perfect and sunny and optimistic.

    Thank you for reminding me that I am human, and am allowed to have some rainy days when things aren’t easy, and that the struggle is something we all share.

  • Tamara Epps

    Thank you for this post – I think I’ve been slowly realising this over the past few months, but having it written down like this has given me something to focus on and the weather analogy is one I know will help me when I experience my next panic attack.

  • Laura Onizuka

    Beautiful!

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    A pretty umbrella! I love that.

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    I’m so glad.

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    Aha! I know so little about the weather in Australia – I love having a little piece of experience to share with Melbourne from over here on the west coast of the United States of America.

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    It’s certainly a nice option to have, isn’t it?

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    You know, it’s something I learn and forget and learn and forget. But whenever I slip into thinking everyone else has it together and it’s only me who has difficult times, then something like this happens – all the people commenting here. And I remember that no, it’s not just me. We all go through this.

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    I’m so glad.

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    <3

  • michelle kristine

    “It can seem like everyone in the world expects constant sunny positivity from you, and when you can’t manage it, there’s shame and guilt.”

    I am so glad to hear this acknowledge. I have often found myself feeling worse when I have a bad day and am being “fake”about being happy – but yet many times this is what the world seems to expect – happiness all the time. It can be exhausting.

  • http://mirrorhaven.com/ Rhiannon Laurie

    I agree. Authenticity isn’t always “safe” or “allowed,” but it sure feels a lot better to be real than to fake happiness.

  • joanne

    If one needs help, call a friend or family. Sometimes hearing a familiar voice helps. If nobody avail and one has a stormy mind google mental health crisis line with your state. There are ppl to spk to 24/7, and you can remain anonymous. Everyone has a rainy day mind once in a while, those clouds move away- it is just hard to remember at times.

  • Treesaw

    Oh this was so simple sweet and helpful. These past few months my sleep, mind state and with it mood and health have been difficult. Reading this metaphor of someone who empathizes and relates truly helps to know I’m not alone and it’s true- it gets better. Like the weather, it’s not always in my control.

  • Sandía

    This was gooooood! I’m moving from sunny perfect Mexico to unpredictable rainy Belgium soon and this really helps me see things differently. Thank you so much Rhiannon Laurie!