We all have those days (more or less) when we feel not great, and lately mine have been coming less-frequently. My secret is that I have a list of things I do when I’m feeling not that great; spectacular ways to show myself that I am loved and worthy of care and compassion. These 13 things always make me feel better, even when I’m already feeling pretty great. Sometimes all it takes is doing one or two things, and some days it takes all 13. I call it my Baker’s Dozen for Emotional Health. It helps me to get better at loving myself, so I’m confident it’ll help you love yourself. I’ve even included my superb drawing of the yoga sequence that always makes things feel better. Feel free to download, print, and carry it with you.
- Drink a glass of water. I know it seems so simple, but many times brain funk can be solved with a simple, cool glass of water. Long before you get a dehydration headache, you’ll have an attitude about it without even realizing it. It’s a perpetual loop from there, so grab a sip of water before you do anything else.
- Take a shower. Whatever you’re living with will fell much better when you stand under a stream of warm (not hot) water. Just relax into it and feel the individual shower streams on your body. I hold my hands up to the streams to feel it on my fingertips. It’s so relaxing.
- Take a nap. I love naps. I don’t always get naps, so when I don’t sleep well at night (insomnia and anxiety go hand-in-hand), getting a nap in can make all the difference in how the rest of my day will go.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Do it again. And again. Pay attention to what you smell and hear.
- High-five someone. This usually forces you to make eye contact and smile, too. Everyone loves high-fives. If you’re a germaphobe, carry sanitizer.
- Pet an animal. Studies show that petting an animal releases oxytocin, and cuts back on cortisol, as well as also soothing your pet. When my roommate’s cat – who is the king of not wanting to be touched – comes over to lay with me and purr, I take advantage. His purr puts me in such a relaxed state. It works the same with my beagles. I love their furry faces, and they are good snugglers.
- Read a chapter. It doesn’t have to be a favorite book, just the nearest. It will teak a load off and distract you, which will ultimately help you to sort what you need to sort.
- Take a walk, barefoot if you can. Or, find a place to kick off your shoes and put your toes in the grass, the sand, the concrete. Let yourself connect with the earth. Feeling a part of something bigger can make you feel important and whole. If you don’t want to walk (or can’t), get out in the sun for at least 10 minutes a day. Don’t forget your sunscreen.
- Eat an orange. There is some indication that citrus is a natural antidepressant, because the folate in the fruit releases serotonin.
- Draw a picture. Doodling is fine.
- Write a poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme.
- Eat a bowl of Pho. No matter how good or bad I feel, pho make me feel exponentially better. I usually add a Thai Tea to it, for double the pleasure and healing.
- Do my Better Mood Yoga Sequence. No matter what’s going on, getting down and doing this sequence as few as 3 times always elevates my mood. It probably has a lot to do with inversion and breathing. Click the here to download, and enjoy!
And just so you know, it’s absolutely okay if you don’t feel great. Just don’t unpack and live there. You can make it, and this will pass. It’s important that – if you continually feel not great, or you’re having violent thoughts – that you reach out and get some help. There are people who will help you in confidence, and nobody has to know you’re struggling (though many people who know you would reach out their hand to you). You need to love yourself, and sometimes that’s hard, but it’s the answer to most things in life.
If you know of other things that you do to self-soothe when you’re having a hard day, list them in the comments. I’m always looking for more ways to cope.