Editor’s Note: The end of summer can be an enjoyable time, but it can also be… exhausting. With a mix of regular social plans and back-to-school prep for many, there tends to be a lot going on. For anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed, we hope the reminders in this post, originally published in October of 2020, help make your day a little brighter.
Sometimes the simplest advice is the hardest to take. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “self-parenting” before, and while the concept makes sense at first blush, learning to parent yourself is often a lifelong journey. To make it a bit easier on myself, I often think about what my mother would say, along with the other nurturing figures in my life—my therapist, in-laws, girlfriends, teachers, and mentors.
I asked our team to share some of the best advice they gleaned from their mothers or from other wise people in their lives (or the advice they give to their own kids). The goal was to pool a small clipping of their worldly wisdom to share with you today. And if you haven’t remembered to call your mom (or any comforting figure in your life) to thank them lately, remember gratitude will get your serotonin firing when you are feeling blue.
And now, helpful reminders for when you’re having a bad day. These are the simple yet incredibly important things we tend to overlook or forget about when we’re running on empty.
Drink some water (or hop in the shower)
When was the last time you had a drink of water? When was the last time you showered? Drinking water or being near/in water are great ways to help yourself reset. When you’re overwhelmed, showering sometimes feels like the last thing you should do, but it’s something that will help bring you back to your center.
Make sure you’re eating
When was the last time you ate? What have you been eating? There is never a wrong time to make a healthy decision when it comes to food. Ask yourself what kinds of foods generally make you feel energized, strong, and focused, and follow those instincts. Greasy foods have a time and place, and it’s not usually when we need to be extra caring to our bodies and minds.
Get some sleep
It’s time to get really clear with yourself on the bedtime routine that will help you get the best night’s sleep possible. What rituals can you begin before bedtime that will help you rest easier? Put yourself to bed earlier, put your phone away—do the things you know will lead to more sleep.
Repeat a mantra
I have certain mantras for different periods in life. One for when I’m anxious (my anxiety feels worse than the thing I fear), one for when I’m sick (I trust my body and what it needs to do to heal), one for when I’m grieving (grief is part of the human experience), and one for when I’m dealing with difficult decisions (there is no right or wrong, only forward).
Repeating these mantras helps get my head in a place where I can be logical and rational again, and not let my thoughts run away from me. What are the mantras that work for your life?
Cry it out
It’s okay to cry.
Check in with yourself, and if you feel physically overwhelmed or need an emotional release, let out some tears if you’re able. If you are on an SSRI it can sometimes be harder to find this release, so when it comes, EMBRACE IT. I cry a lot less now so when I do, I make sure I give myself the time and space to really let it out. And wow, does it feel good!
Peace is being in the moment without judgment. Worrying about what happened or what’s in front of you is not a way to fix what you’re feeling. Focus on what you’re doing right now and try to do it without judgment. Check in with yourself and ask, “Am I okay?” and try to be okay with it if the answer is no. (I understand this isn’t possible in all circumstances, but when it is, it can be a helpful perspective to take.)
Change your scenery
It can sometimes feel tiresome to stay in one place for too long. Ask yourself if you need a change of scenery to help adjust your mental state for the better. If you do, something as simple as moving to another room, another workspace, or a neighborhood park can help you reset and start fresh.
Call a friend
If social interaction sounds appealing to you, making a simple phone call to a friend or family member (or getting a hug from someone, if that’s an option for you) can help you get yourself out of whatever spiral you find yourself in at the moment.
Spend some time alone
Sometimes you need social interaction (see above). In other instances, interacting with others can feel draining. When that happens, if you’re able, spend some time with yourself doing a favorite activity, doing a bit of thinking, or doing nothing at all.
Get off your phone
The new iOS system has widgets that allow you to check how much screen time you’ve used—something I find so helpful in keeping my phone usage in check. If you’re feeling drained from technology, put your phone in another room and focus on, quite literally, anything else.
Take a few deep breaths
When we’re feeling stressed, one of the first things to go is deep, intentional breathing. Pay attention to your breathing patterns during times of stress. You’re likely to find that you’re holding your breath at times or taking short, shallow breaths without even realizing it. The next time you’re experiencing anxiety, try practicing belly breathing—you may be surprised how much of a difference it makes.
We’re never going to eliminate bad days completely, but we can find ways to improve them when they happen. Here’s to better bad days for all of us.
Kate is currently learning to play the Ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, kids, and dogs. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.