We've all had those days where we don't feel ourselves: our bodies don't feel the way we want them to or we feel sluggish and weighed down. However, on these days when our self-esteem isn't up, it's essential to figure out ways to feel better when we're feeling "gross." More importantly, it's helpful to pinpoint why exactly we feel that way so we can work to not only fix our opinions of ourselves, but work to establish healthy habits so we don't have to feel as uncomfortable.
"Many women use the term 'feeling gross' to mean that they feel uncomfortable in a specific way — namely that they are perceiving their bodies as unattractive or unacceptably large," says body-positive dietitian Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN over email. "We’re also trained to channel our feelings of insecurity and discomfort onto our bodies, so instead of being specific about what ails us (e.g. 'I’m feeling bored and exhausted' or 'I ate too fast and now I have a stomachache'), we use the catch-all 'I feel gross.'"
Negative self-talk happens, but it can often make things much worse. It throws off our road to being healthy or course of improvement by causing us stress, leading to binge eating, and even hurting our gut or immune system, according to Mayo Clinic.
"Looking at the deeper issues underneath 'feeling gross' can empower you to make real changes that bring genuine happiness and comfort, rather than staying on the surface level of body, appearance, etc.," says Harrison.
No matter the cause, it takes some work to talk yourself out of that icky sensation. If you're feeling like your self-esteem is low in any particular moment, consider these 11 ways to feel better about yourself.
1. Reverse The Negative Self-Talk
First step: Try to get rid of your negative thoughts about yourself. "Ask yourself if there is a way to switch your negative thoughts into positive ones," says Alena Gerst, LCSW, RYT over email. "For example if you're feeling bloated and sluggish, can you recognize an area in your life where you are healthy and strong and focus on that?" Referring to yourself by your name instead of using "I" can also help shift your perspective by creating distance from your own self, helping you to change the way you feel and behave, according to research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
2. Check In With Your Body
Do you feel gross because you haven't exercised all week, or are you just feeling down on yourself because you're not living up to society's standards? "Use the 'gross' feeling as an indicator that you need to check in with yourself," says Harrison. "Instead of looking outward for 'fixes' like a change of clothes or a change in your eating habits, look inward to get at what’s really going on."
3. Take A Walk
"Take a quick five or 10 minute walk around the block," says Gerst. "A brisk walk can counter the stress response, which is most likely activated if you are feeling gross." A little bit of exercise can not only increase your endorphins and fill you with more positive emotion, but it can also help boost your self-esteem. A study from the University of Florida found that the simple act of exercising helps improve people's body image.
4. Text A Good Friend
Your bestie is friends with you for a reason, so let them remind you of why. "Call or text a good friend," says Gerst. "Not someone to share in your misery, but someone who is generally positive. Your people influence you more than you know." A study published in the journal Developmental Psychology also found that spending time around your best friend can help lower the stress hormone cortisol.
5. Stop The Comparisons
"Much of our self-love and self-acceptance is heavily weighted by how we perceive ourselves in comparison to those around us," says self-esteem expert Jess Weiner over email. "When we don’t think so much about how we measure up to others, we have more time to focus inward." Research from Stanford University shows that when you are unhappy, you are more negatively affected by social comparisons, so don't let yourself fall into the trip of looking at others have when you're feeling down.
6. Write It All Down
Take the time to write down everything you are feeling. A study from the Journal Psychological Science found that when participants wrote down negative thoughts about body image on a piece of paper and threw it away, they were less affected by their thoughts when later evaluating their attitudes on the topic.
7. Drink Water
"Rehydrating is one of the easiest things we can do to boost our health and know that you did something good for yourself," says Gerst. Water can not only help get rid of any unwanted bloating, but it can also improve your mood. A study from the Journal of Nutrition found that even just mild dehydration can cause moodiness, so drink up.
8. Figure Out What You Need
"Ask yourself what you need right now to help you feel better," says Harrison. "A hug, a snack, a nap, some fun distraction? Try to give yourself whatever feels most authentic and nourishing."
9. Continue To Honor Your Body
Despite what you may feel, don't restrict yourself or practice self-harm as a type punishment. "Continue to honor your body’s hunger and desire for food," says Harrison. "Restricting your food intake will make you feel worse, because low blood sugar often leads to a low mood. Instead, try to make sure you’re eating a meal or snack when you notice signs of moderate hunger (which generally happens every 3-4 hours)."
10. Don't Ignore Your Feelings
"It’s okay to experience self-doubt every once in a while," says Weiner. "Life is about self-discovery, so if you’re in a funk, do some good old-fashioned soul searching. Welcome a good cry. Give yourself time to self-reflect and get to the root of your feelings. Do what you need to do to better understand your journey.
11. Forgive Yourself
After all is said and done, the worst thing you can do to yourself is hold on to any unpleasant feelings. "Forgive yourself," says Weiner. "Forgive yourself for doubting, for feeling so bad, for questioning your beauty. Forgiveness heals."
Everyone experiences moments of low self-esteem, but it's best to get to the root of the problem so you can feel better both mentally and physically.
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