If you’ve been feeling distracted, emotional, or anxious lately, I can assure you you’re in good company. The world feels especially heavy right now. Between the seemingly never-ending global pandemic, the climate crisis, and the heartbreak of this war, it’s hard not to feel a sense of despair, even paralysis.
I have been thinking a lot about how to take care of myself and others during this time, and to feel like I am making a difference – even if it is a small one. I’ve pulled together a list of simple things we can all do to boost our spirits today, and any time things start to feel really tough.
Find Small Ways to Help
Whatever current event or crisis is bringing you down, there are always ways, both large and small, to show up and help if you look for them. Make a phone call to your elected officials, post or share a resource that you trust, donate your talents, time or money, find a creative way to volunteer. Even something as simple as calling a friend or family member and checking in on them can create a ripple of kindness. Doing something always feels better than doing nothing. As my wise mother reminded me recently, “What we can do now for ourselves, and those we care about, is to remain calm and steady, to create islands of sanity and safety, to focus on people we love, our work, and doing good where we can.”
Practice Random Acts of Kindness
When I was a kid, my Dad used to pay the toll for the person behind him every time we crossed a bridge, and we would get such a thrill from seeing the look of surprise and elation on their faces when the toll-taker waved them ahead. Pay for a stranger’s coffee, leave a massive tip for a server, liberally dole out compliments to everyone in your life, surprise someone with a floral delivery, gift card, or gift. Send someone a handwritten letter telling them how much they mean to you. Bring your partner or children breakfast in bed. Cook dinner for a stranger in your community through this brilliant new project, Lasagne Love. Random acts of kindness are a surefire way to give others (and yourself) a boost, and a little bit of sunshine when things feel dark.
Escape to Nature
Escaping into nature doesn’t have to mean deep sea diving, exploring hidden caves, or scaling a mountain. Take a drive with the windows down. Go on a hike and look up at the trees. Head to your closest body of water, or park, and drink in the sights and sounds. At the minimum put all devices away, go outside, take a deep breath of fresh air, and let the sun (or the cold) touch your skin. I am a city girl at heart, but a few minutes of staring at the ocean waves, or the nearby redwood trees, can give me an instant sense of calm and perspective.
Bake a cake, write a story, throw a pot (I’ve never said that sentence in my life but maybe there’s at least one potter I know is reading this… Hi Ariel!), gather a bunch of wild flowers into a beautiful bouquet… just create something – anything – that adds creativity and beauty into the world.
Engage the Senses
Engaging the senses is an easy way to feel more present and calm your central nervous system. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Light a candle. Boil a pot of water filled with lemon and herbs (I did this once, forgot about it, and burned the herbs. It was a disaster, but I know if you do it right it’s really quite lovely). Put on music that you love. Curl up with your favorite book. Wrap yourself in your coziest blanket (I still haven’t caught on to the weighted blanket craze, but people seem to love it). Open your eyes and look at things that make you happy – pictures of loved ones, your favorite pieces of art, images of cities or beaches you hope to one day visit.
Refresh Your Environment
Our physical surroundings inform how we feel, and it doesn’t take much to make a big impact. Clear a surface. Declutter a drawer. Vacuum up the dust bunnies. Bring in some greenery. Swap out art or textiles or decor. Rearrange the furniture if you’re feeling ambitious.
Our clothing can be a reflection of our emotional state and a shorthand for how we are feeling. I know when I am particularly down I tend to put far less energy into my appearance and sometimes get stuck in a fashion rut (i.e. the Covid classic: workout leggings and sweatshirts again). Instead of waiting to feel better (or lose weight, etc.) to start dressing your best, I encourage you to start now. Lay out your favorite outfit the night before so you don’t have decision fatigue in the morning. Put on your favorite lipstick or accessory. Paint your nails. Identify a daily uniform that fits and flatters and wear it unapologetically on the regular.
Move Your Body
Exercise can be the best medicine and an instant mood booster. If you tend to get stuck spiraling or overanalyzing like I do, get those walking shoes ready and head right out the door. Even fifteen minutes of fresh air and movement can help completely reset when the going gets tough.
Sending my love to those who are suffering or struggling right now and hoping these ideas bring even a little bit of relief. I’d love to know – what strategies work for you when you really need a pick me up?
Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson