Life is not easy. Sometimes it’s stressful, worrisome, painful, overwhelming, defeating, or just plain hard. Nobody, no matter what their Instagram feed tells you, avoids suffering of one sort or another.
When it feels like too much, when your mind is swirling with negativity, when it seems like you just can’t pull yourself together, here are nine simple things you can try, to chip away at the gloom.
Let the Sunshine in
How much time have you been spending indoors, staring at screens? Walk through your home and make sure your shades are open and that you’re letting as much sunlight in as possible.
Then step outside. Feel the sunlight on your face, listen to the sounds all around you, and just soak it in for at least 10 minutes.
If you look around your space and see chaos, that outer state is definitely contributing to your inner state. Put on some energizing music and, as fast as you can, start putting things away. Set out a couple of bags: one for garbage and one for donations—so that every item either goes back in its place or in one of those two receptacles.
Even if you only have 15 minutes to do this, you’ll be surprised at the positive impact you can make. Do this repeatedly over the next few days and you’ll begin to enjoy a space that is welcoming and calm, rather than stressful and chaotic.
Get Fully Dressed
Take a look in the mirror. Has personal maintenance taken a back seat to your worries? Showing up at your best can have a significant effect on the attitude and energy you bring to any situation. Take an hour to get yourself fully cleaned up, coiffed, and dressed—right down to your shoes.
You don’t need to get dressed up, necessarily, just dressed in whatever is appropriate for the day at hand. Enjoy the feeling that you’re ready for anything.
Move Your Body
Anyone who exercises regularly knows the counterintuitive truth that exercise gives you energy. Choose a physical activity that is simple and enjoyable, and go do it. A 30-minute walk outside can work wonders.
Especially when we’re busy with all of the things that are overwhelming us, we can easily forget to eat and drink. Make sure you’re getting plenty of water each day. For extra enjoyment, add a few slices of lemon, lime, or cucumber.
All of your to-do’s, what-if’s, and other ideas are swirling around your mind with nowhere to land. Sit down with a journal and begin getting these thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Write until you can’t write anymore—until you feel like you’re totally out of ideas.
No matter how many pages you wind up with, it’ll be smaller in scope than what it felt like before.
Your next step—perhaps at another sitting—will be to comb through what you’ve written and cross out anything you decide to simply let go of. Then, gather everything that you want to hold onto for a “Someday/Maybe” list, as productivity expert David Allen puts it. What’s left will be things that you actually need to give your attention to. Choose one and make progress on it.
Inventory Your Kitchen
What you eat can have a big impact on your mood. If your kitchen is chock-full of carbohydrate-heavy processed foods, consider rethinking your grocery list. Pack up those items that aren’t really serving you nutritionally for a local food pantry.
Restock, instead, with ingredients high in protein, healthy fats, fiber, and nutrients. Items like meats, greens, whole grains, and fats like olive oil, coconut oil, or avocados will help to reduce drastic highs and lows in blood sugar and keep you from feeling “hangry” over time.
Before the day is through, take out your journal again, but this time set your sights on the ideal. What would your ideal life look like? What would bring you spiritual fulfillment? What do you believe you’re here for?
Ask yourself the big questions. Enjoy the process of freely writing, doodling, and dreaming.
Aim to regulate your sleep rhythm and get enough sleep each night. Stop looking at digital devices at least an hour before bed. Tidy up, set a cool temperature, read a good book… Establish a bedtime routine that you enjoy and that contributes to your own peace of mind.
We can’t avoid suffering in this life, but we can take on the responsibility of giving ourselves the best chance possible at reaching our individual potential. One thing at a time, even a smaller amount of progress can make a big difference.
You’ve got this. Now, get to it.