I think one of the things that can be really tough right now is a sense of overwhelm.

With our day-to-day routine so disrupted, it can be hard to know where to start.

  • Should I get more work done?
  • Should I rest more?
  • Should I do something creative?
  • Should I clean up?
  • Should I go exercise?
  • Should I take a course?
  • Should I get a project done?

Sometimes having deadlines and pressures can help us with motivation.

Right now we are in uncharted territory and it can be tough to know where to put our energies.

It’s natural to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel like the only thing that we want to do is check social media, watch Netflix or sleep. We can start cleaning and then get distracted and then wonder if we’ve really accomplished anything which can leave us feeling frustrated, anxious, feeling down or depressed.

Too many options and too much space can leave us feeling frozen and directionless.

It’s hard to know if we need to be productive or be more compassionate with ourselves.

I saw a list the other day from Lindsay Braham that seemed to me to strike a balance between accomplishment and self compassion. This is my take on it.

1. Shower

For me there is something about getting up and getting showered that changes my state and often helps me change my mindset when I’m struggling.

2. Make your bed

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it can feel good to get something done to start the day.

3. Drink water

Giving your body plenty of water helps your body function properly — which is always a good thing. During challenging times it’s especially important to stay hydrated.

4. Take your meds and vitamins

Taking care of your physical health, including giving your body the nutrients it needs, supports your ability to cope in challenging times.

5. Connect with something living

It might be getting a hug from someone that you are isolating with or snuggles with a pet. It can be letting yourself really notice a bird outside or a tree or flower. Take in that connection to life.

6. Address a cleaning or organizing task

Starting and accomplishing something you’ve been putting off, like tidying a room, organizing the “junk drawer,” or decluttering the garage, can really feel good in times like this.

7. Focus on the present moment

At any time that you’re feeling overwhelmed, wherever you are, take a breath and take a few minutes to focus on something, such as:

  • a sound where you are; for example, a quail calling its mate, children playing nearby, a plane overhead,
  • a song playing on the radio or your playlist,
  • something in front of you; for example, artwork on the wall, a tree in the yard, flowers blooming in a city park,
  • the food you are cooking or eating,
  • your breath that sustains your life, or
  • a spiritual practice that feeds your soul.

8. Contact someone outside your household

In this time of social isolation, it can be easy to start believing that we really are alone or that we don’t matter. Connecting over the phone or Zoom can also cause a lot of anxiety for some people. This is a place where you can get support. Let someone know what is going on for you.

Make a point of reaching out to someone by text, phone, or video call, such as FaceTime or Zoom. To share some laughs, use the funny visual effects like the ones in Facebook Messenger video calls.

9. Do one thing just because you love/like doing it

Notice yourself doing it. Enjoy it. Choose it. It can be the difference between spending the day on Facebook because it’s easy to fall into the social media vortex, or saying “I’m taking an hour to just enjoy scrolling around and then I’m going out for my walk.”

10. Get your heart rate up

This doesn’t have to be an insane new exercise regime. Just do something. Because you know… it’s good for you. It also can change your feeling state and your mental and emotional state.

So often, when I am in a rough place emotionally or mentally, if I actually process that energy with movement, it starts to clear me up. I may not feel 100% better, but it often starts moving me through that stuck feeling and I feel more energized.

11. Get outside

A short walk. Standing out on your balcony, porch or deck. Take a few deep breaths. Again, it doesn’t have to be anything major.

12. Laugh

As they say, “laughter is the best medicine.” Sometimes when things feel so serious and hard, it can be tough to look for the levity. Sometimes I have to just watch a comedian or send something that I find funny to someone and then they might respond. It’s so good to laugh, often especially when you don’t feel much like laughing.    

13. Do something you know that afterwards you’ll be glad you did

Maybe it’s as simple as a bike ride or a walk. It could be researching a new hobby you’ve been thinking of starting. Taking a break to read a book. Or playing with your kids and watching their joy. As you read this, what comes to mind for you? Do that!

Above all, be kind to yourself. This is not meant to be a list that you get 13 out of 13 on every day. It’s a guide that you can use to help you know that you did something, even when it can feel hard to know what day it is, let alone if you’ve accomplished anything.

These are times that are unsettling. Be compassionate with yourself. If you need a day to just relax, then allow yourself that and do it guilt free!

Want a reminder of these 13 things? Download this PDF and put it where you’ll see it every day — on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door, next to the TV remote? Anywhere you’ll be sure to see it and can do a quick check-in and check off one or two on the list.

Nate Torhjelm
Associate Counsellor at Steadfast Counselling | Website | + posts

Nate Torhjelm is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor (RTC #2443) with the Association of Cooperative Counselling Therapists of Canada (ACCT). He is a graduate of Clearmind International Institute with a diploma in Transpersonal Therapeutic Counselling.

View Nate's biography and counselling schedule.