How To Beat The Mean Reds
Posted on January 11th, 2012
The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn’s character is a society girl called Holly Golightly who interestingly enough, is obsessed with Tiffany’s, can play the guitar and gets bouts of anxiety that she calls the mean reds. Somewhere between the blues and full-on depression, she describes the mean reds as feeling afraid and not knowing what you’re afraid of. For me, it’s always been more like feeling a sinking sense depression, like the edges of your world and reality are being pulled down so that your life seems distorted.
I guess the point is not really ‘Do you ever get that feeling?’. The thing is: how do you deal with it when it comes?
- Escape your life.
Let’s face it: even the best of us who live the best of lives can sometimes just feel sick of it. It’s not ingratitude or being demanding to need to escape your own life once in a while. So if you can swing it, plan a little escapade. Pack a small bag, load up your ipod, bring a notebook and pen and hop on a train to the next town. Or if you feel like company, rally up a few friends and take a weekend roadtrip. The point isn’t how far you go, the point is to go far enough that your life feels like you left it behind at the last mile.
- Find your Tiffany’s.
In the movie, Audrey Hepburn is a Southern country girl who has run off to the big city and reinvented herself as an LBD-wearing socialite. But she has her own demons to escape and the place she feels safest at is Tiffany’s. I don’t quite get the allure of Tiffany’s, which I happen to think is overpriced (but so pretty!), but I can definitely relate to having a safe place. A place where you feel warm and protected and shielded. Mine is any bookstore or cafe or library. Or Ikea. In fact I don’t think I could live in a city that didn’t have Ikea.
- Do something productive.
Looking back, I’ve realized that bad days don’t really change that much. In my experience, there’s a limit to how much you can turn around a bad day, let alone a day of the mean reds. But what you can do is change what you do with that day. I always find that even on a really terrible day, I can do one small productive thing so that it wouldn’t be an entire failure — even if its something tiny like writing a blog post or scouring Tumblr for stuff that inspires me or making pot roast.
- Take a walk
There’s something about taking a walk that corrects your perspective on things. Even if you live in a dreary, grey city like Beijing, taking a walk means seeing something or someone other than the four walls of your own life and that my friends, is perspective. Which is a very good thing to have when the mean reds have you by the throat. At the very least, you’ll get some exercise and fresh air. Although if like me, you live in Beijing, fresh air might be replaced by soupy pollution and secondhand smoke.
If all else fails, there is the blessed realm of unconsciousness. I happen to think that part of being human is acknowledging that some days are just bound to be a write-off. I had one of these days recently, when I had gotten out of bed with a vague feeling that I had somehow already failed at life (how was this possible? I had just woken up!), a friend suggested a solution that was elegant in its simplicity and proven in its effect: go back to sleep. So if it’s possible, hop back into bed, pull up the covers and hope that when you next wake up, the reds will be gone.
Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!