Human beings are remarkably resilient creatures. We crash down, but we also bounce back. Sometimes we are easily overwhelmed, but often it doesn’t take much to rewhelm us (I know that’s not a word, but it should be, ok?!).

Last night I was feeling massively overwhelmed. I have a crazy hectic week at work, something on every night after work (and a work commitment on my one day off). Lots of people want “just one little thing” from me, to the extent that I feel I have farmed out so many pieces of myself that there are none left physically attached. When I am tired I am about as emotionally stable as a house of cards in a hurricane, so it doesn’t take much to bring me down. I was quite convinced that one more demand would tip me right over the edge.

And then I got an email from an enthusiastic student who is doing great work in one of my subjects. He was just talking about the work he and his group were doing, and asking a few pertinent questions, but it gave me a real boost. The project is one I am excited about, and proud to be involved with. This student’s enthusiasm picked me right back up and set me on my feet again.

It was a small thing, but sometimes that’s all you need.

Sometimes there are days when the pick me up never comes, but the blows seem to accumulate. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are alone in the world, that no-one else has ever felt this way, and that things could not possibly get better.

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (Hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life, well hang on

Everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don’t throw your hand, oh no

Everybody hurts, REM.

You can usually see it when someone is having one of those days. It shows up in the set of their shoulders. In their tone of voice. In the unconvincing way they say “fine, thanks” when you ask how they are. Sometimes all it takes is a light “that’s not very convincing!” and genuinely listening to their response. It’s embarrassing, for some even humiliating, to cry in public, and there are days when even honest answers to sincere questions can seem out of our reach. Sometimes reaching out for help is just too hard. So we pretend everything is fine while drowning in our private misery, and feel utterly alone in the middle of a crowd of people who would support us if only they knew.

So take the time today to make eye contact with someone. To smile, ask how they are, and take interest in their response. Sympathise with someone who’s going through a tough time. Maybe even ask if someone nearby needs a hug (there’s nothing better than touch therapy).

It might just change a life.

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