Feeling Miserable

February 15, 2023
March 1, 2023

Feeling Miserable

The Miserables

Miserable: wretchedly unhappy, being in a pitiable state of distress, or pathetically grouchy. Carolyn and I had a fun weekend visit with family including their very young children. Little kids show their feelings out loud – including feeling miserable.  At age 2, feeling miserable looks like runny nose, streaming eyes, distressed face, and loud or whimpering complaints. The two-year-old wanted a snack, but when it was given to him, he refused to take it. When an adult leaned in to comfort him, he flailed at their face. At the height of his misery, he wanted something and nothing was acceptable. He was tired and miserable. 

We adults generally keep our misery to ourselves, and yet we are human. We wail away inside our minds, refuse assistance, feel utterly alone, and grouch at those who might be kind. Life gets real when misery is compounded. Just as you are cataloging all the ways you are miserable, your child starts crying that their socks hurt their feet. Or your co-worker begins to whine in detail about just how awful the copier is but won’t listen to any of your suggestions about how to make it work. It is miserable to feel miserable and to be around people who are miserable.  

Managing the Miserables

  • Rule #1 : Feel Your Feelings

    Throw yourself a one-person pity party. Go ahead. Put your head in your hands and notice just how wretched you feel. Be compassionate. As tempting as it is the phrase, “knock it off and get your stuff together!” doesn’t fix the situation, it drives it underground. Acknowledge the misery. If privacy allows, wail a little or yell at the universe – it feels good to let it out.

  • Rule #2 : Name your Feelings (Emotional & Physical)

    I feel sad. I am tired. I feel overwhelmed. My head hurts. By putting a name to your thoughts, sensations, and emotions, some obvious solutions will present themselves. Try scanning yourself from toe to head. “My feet are ok but my lower back is achy. My belly feels anxious. My breathing is clear and I can take a slow breath. Naming clarifies the need.

  • Rule #3 : Start with Small Comforts

    A tissue, a drink of water, a fruit snack.  Consider next steps: cry, nap, curl up with a cup of tea, or air your grievances to a patient listener.  Do what you can to help yourself, or the other miserable person, feel better. Often what is really needed is rest. (That will be next week’s post – How many ways are there to “rest”?) Comforting yourself may be all you need to get on with your day, allowing you to feel less miserable. 

Warning! In cases of compounded misery be sure that you care for yourself as well as the other person. We have the myth of self-sacrifice as ideal – blessed are those who put the needs of others above their own. The truth is: cranky and short tempered are those who continuously self-sacrifice.

The healthy path is to have compassion for all, taking into consideration abilities and responsibilities.  Offer your cranky co-worker a cup of tea and a listening ear or let them know you have to head out and agree to help with the copier when they are ready. Scoop up your two-year-old, dodging their flailing arms, wipe their nose, and cuddle them. Then accept the offer of babysitting and have dinner with your spouse later that day.  

Feeling miserable is awful. Being compassionate toward yourself allows you to identify ways to climb out of that state. Hanging out with little ones gives us a window into the full range of human emotions. Various combinations of nutrition, rest, and play cure a lot. How are you doing at taking care of yourself when you feel miserable? Feeling miserable is part of being human. Identifying ways to care for yourself and to reach out to others allows you to better alleviate misery when it occurs.  


Laura A. Gaines

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