I’ve been known, on several occasions, to have a – what I call – “Hat Day”. The premise is very simple: you wake up, decide that 20 extra minutes’ sleep is more favourable than dragging yourself into the shower, throw on a beanie hat and whack some dry shampoo in your fringe and hey presto, it’s a Hat Day. Hat Days are great; people think you’re going for the casual and cosy look, but really you’re a lazy cow with greasy hair and nobody knows it – and then you get to come home and have a bubble bath because now you actually have time to clean yourself. What a treat.
Except there are a few problems with Hat Days. You don’t jump out of the shower refreshed and ready to take on the world; you throw some clothes on so you can slog your way through until bath time. You end up procrastinating to while away the hours even though you know that the time will go faster if you actually do something. You grab fish and chips for dinner because you’re having a foggy kind of day and can’t face cooking right now. You slump in front of the sofa and stay there instead of doing any of the many things you would like to do if only you had more time. You have the time, it’s now, but you’ve spent the whole day doing nothing much and somehow you’re exhausted. I’ve had a few too many days like that.
Because the other problem is that Hat Days beget more Hat Days – this week alone, I’ve had two. Because you think: “Wasn’t that a nice and easy day I had on Monday? Sure I didn’t work very hard or get much done, but I did eat a lot of chocolate and do a lot of sitting. Let’s do that today.” So you set yourself up for another day knowing it’s not going to be one where you’ll bother with anything much, knowing that you’ll do the minimum you need to, knowing you’ll switch on autopilot, survive this one and try again tomorrow. Suddenly you’re living from one Hat Day to the next, and wondering how you’ve wasted so much of your life – this gift you’ve been given – simply going through the motions instead of really living. Where does it end?
It’s not surprising so many of us have days like these. Life is hard and imperfect and busy, and once we’ve done everything we have to do, we have no energy or willpower left for the things we ought to do, or even the things we want to do. We wish we could write that novel, or bake more, or spend more time with friends, but life has knocked us down and we’ve fallen onto the sofa and stayed there. So when you’re tired and stressed, when you’re going through a really bad time, when you’re drained and have nothing left to give, how do you pick yourself up again? How do you climb out of that hole you’ve dug for yourself and lined with beanie hats?
This is not, perhaps, ground-breaking advice but here it is: do something. And when I say do something, I mean do anything. If, for example, you want to start running but can’t be bothered, don’t write it off altogether; just start by putting on your trainers. You can do that, right? Once you’ve got your trainers on, you might as well take the bins out. I mean, the bin bag is right there, and then there’s a point to you putting your trainers on. Now you’re outside, you might as well take a little walk around the block. Well, as you’re already walking…you see where I’m going with this?
If you need to clean the house, don’t think about cleaning the house; just pile up the things on the floor so it looks a bit tidier. And then once the floor is clear you’ll probably have given yourself the energy you need to run the hoover round. And now the living room is so nice it would be good if the kitchen was a bit better too…you see?
It doesn’t always work; sometimes you do manage the first step and stop there – and that’s fine, at least you did something. But sometimes you do jump that hurdle and get the gumption you need to clear the next one, and the next, until you’re finally back in the race and not just a spectator of your own life. Every novel begins with the first sentence, every painting begins with the first brushstroke. All you need to do is make a start, and maybe get up and shower in the morning instead of throwing on a hat.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti