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Red Light Days

There is an ebb and flow to life. Everyday is not the same, and no one feels exactly the same all the time.

On some days, you have a lot more energy and creativity, things seem to flow, and the general feeling is one of sailing through a green light.

Then there are the red light days. We all hate these days. Energy’s low, mood’s blah, everything seems difficult to do, the level of frustration is high, and going back to bed and sleeping until the next day sounds like a really good idea.The truth is, this is a part of reality and both kinds of days are necessary.

There’s no problem in appreciating the easy days and taking advantage of the smooth sailing. But the red light days? What’s the value there?

There is a Silver Lining

Red light days give us a chance to strengthen our fortitude, widen our objectivity to see life as bigger than any particular set of circumstances, and often give us an opportunity to step back and see if there’s anything we need to change or improve.

Red light days are actually growth days, even if they don’t feel like it. The growth doesn’t necessarily seem to take place on those days, but in retrospect there is often progress made.

These days are also what I call “incubation” days. We go and go and go and then seem to come to a screeching halt. Incubation days allow things to settle, to sink in, and to digest. Even if it seems like nothing productive is happening, it is.

Have you had the experience of working on a problem and going at it fairly relentlessly and not coming up with a solution, but after you sleep on it, the solution pops up in your head after you wake up?

The sleep time is incubation time. You aren’t aware of what’s happening during that time, but work is being done all the same. Red light days can have a similar effect. They feel like wasted days but they’re not. They actually are necessary.

Make Good on It

A good approach is to go with it rather than resist it. Make the best of what you have. Choose activities that you can accomplish on those days, and practice emotional equilibrium so that you can get through frustrating situations without succumbing to reactivity.

Good things to do on these days:

  • Busywork of any kind that doesn’t require emotional or creative energy.
  • Obsessive-compulsive work like cleaning out drawers and closets.
  • Taking walks or any kind of exercise. Walking with music is helpful because it distracts you and changes your mood.
  • Reading.
  • Catching up on movies you’ve been wanting to watch. Sometimes, even a full “veg” day is helpful. Most people call those “mental health days.”

Things not to do on those days:

  • Anything that’s particularly creative and requires emotional energy.
  • Ruminating about why you feel the way you do, and moving into self-attack mode because you can’t seem to snap out of it.
  • Taking mood-altering substances of any kind.
  • Discussing important relationship issues with a loved one.
  • Starting a new initiative or program such as a diet.
  • Making any kind of important decision.

These are good days to focus on activities that don’t require a lot of emotional energy, but leave you with a sense of accomplishment, or activities that are distracting. Save the green light days for creativity or important undertakings.

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