Latalia White, AMFT

When life feels overwhelming, you often feel the urge to do something to help yourself feel better but lack the energy or the mental clarity to evaluate your options.  It can be helpful to know that there are things you can do that are almost always guaranteed to positively benefit you and not harm you. Below are all the actions you can take when you’re not sure what to do but know you should be taking care of yourself:

Hydrate

Drink some water.  Don’t reach for alcohol or caffeine if you’re looking to really feel better – your body and mind run best when you’re not dehydrated.  There are very, very few instances when water is the wrong beverage to reach for.

Eat a Nutritious Meal

Your body needs fuel.  You can’t operate properly – physically or mentally – without eating.  While reaching for junk food can be satisfying, in the long run you’re only guaranteed to feel good in your body when you’re reaching for foods that are nourishing.  While all kinds of foods can take up some space on your plate when you’re eating in moderation, if you know you need something to help you feel better or less sluggish, reach for some fruits, vegetables, nuts, protein, etc.

Sleep

Are you getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night?  If not, you need to be. We like to pretend that being sleep-deprived is a badge of honor in busy career-driven lives, but you’re harming yourself if you don’t regularly get a good night’s sleep.  (Studies now show that you cannot make up sleep that has been lost.) You can also consider napping to help you feel better, but limit your naps to 45 minutes or less so you don’t lose their benefits.

Exercise

Move your body in some way.  It can be as simple as walking or as intense as hardcore gym workouts.  Whatever it is, you’ll do your body and mind good by not sitting down or lying down all day.  You might ache during or after your workout, but you’ll reap the benefits mentally more immediately.

Meditate

In a fast-paced world, it becomes rarer to incorporate solitude and deep thought into a typical day, even though that may be the key to personal and professional success.  Take some time to put everything away and just focus on how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. Allow your brain time to process everything going on around you.

Journal

Write out how you’re feeling.  Write out stories you have hidden inside of you.  Write lists of things occupying space in your mind that would result in relief to have written down on paper and freed from your brain.  

Meet Someone in Person

Connect with another human being.  A phone call can help, but nothing can boost your mood like seeing and interacting with somebody else in the same physical space.  A caveat to this suggestion is to only meet up with people with whom you have a track record of a healthy relationship consisting of mostly positive interactions – this is not the time to hang out with a friend or family member who feels toxic.

Create

Draw, paint, compose, build, knit, bake, etc.  Do whatever it is with your hands that feels good and leads to you feeling accomplished.  Don’t be afraid of creating without any raw talent. Everyone needs to have projects that do not feel eternally open-ended.

Clean

Having a clean and decluttered space can help your mind feel clean and decluttered.  There’s also a huge sense of accomplishment that comes with cleaning.  

Go to Therapy

With extremely rare exceptions, therapy cannot hurt – it can only help.  It can be really overwhelming to pick a therapist while you’re feeling low, but you could be setting into motion a journey that will positively impact you for the rest of your life.  A therapist helps you deepen your understanding of your problems and helps you expand your options for responding to them.