Ways to Practice Self-Care in Difficult Times


“There are times when I’m anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed to the point of feeling as though the tightness in my chest is consuming me.” We've all had moments or seasons in our lives when we feel the world is crumbling around us. Mine came when I found out my oldest and best friend had taken her own life. Sometimes we don’t know what to do. And that’s ok. It’s ok to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you need to feel. To take a step back and simply breath. Below are the 4 strategies of self-care I find most helpful during the difficult times in my life and I hope they can help you during yours.


1. Disconnect & Recenter:

In our world, high productivity has become this subjective standard we measure ourselves and our lives against every single day. There are times when I’m anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed to the point of feeling as though the tightness in my chest could consume me. After reflecting on these moments, I realized days I felt these feelings the most, were also days I had been scrolling through social media the most, especially TikTok. The constant and addictive intake of individuals seemingly funnier, smarter, prettier, and happier than me casted a dark cloud of self-doubt and pity. Now, when I have defeatism thoughts rushing my mind, I throw my phone across the room and recenter myself on the world around me.


The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique is my favorite grounding technique. Before starting this exercise, pay attention to your breathing. Once you find your breath, go through the following steps to help ground yourself:


  • Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.

  • Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet.

  • Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.

  • Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your bedroom and smell a pillow. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.

  • Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?

After completing this technique, I notice the stream of jumbled, negative thoughts crowding my mind subdue and I’m left feeling more relaxed and tranquil.


2. Practice Gratitude

In our toughest moments, it’s easy to forget everything we are blessed with. We take so many things for granted…our sight, hearing, taste, smell. Our body’s ability to move when we want it to, to smile, speak, walk. Perception is everything and during my difficult moments, I actively try to perceive the world around me with gratitude. It may sound cliché and fluffy, but I’ve started a gratitude journal to use on my hard days. I started with my most basic blessings and add 3 things to that list every single day. I’ve had it for over 2 years now, and I haven’t run out or had any repeats. And on the days where I don’t have the energy to even pick up a pen, I simply read from the list I’ve already created. Gratitude fosters positive emotions and strengthens our ability to overcome adversity.


3. Set Small Goals

Setting goals on a day where you feel overwhelmed and weighed down can seem counterproductive. However, setting small, low energy, achievable goals can increase self-confidence and self-efficacy. Personally, I create housework or organizational goals. Goals, that if completed, would make me feel better in that situation. It can be as simple as making your bed or taking a shower. Completing a small, mindless task can give you a sense of self-assurance, leading to a better attitude towards achieving other tasks and higher-effort goals.


4. Get Active

Physical activity stimulated the release “feel good” hormones like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, which correlates to our mood. I’ll be honest, when I’m feeling down and low, the last thing I want to do is put on activewear and workout. I’m not asking you to jump in the gym and crush an intense workout. A 10 to 15-minute stretch, walk, yoga flow is what I’m looking for. Something simple to get your body moving. Something easy, that could be done in pajama’s if you didn’t have the energy to change. Often after completing an easy and short workout, my mood and motivation increases. It snowballs into a full workout, leaving me with a clear mind, less stress and a more positive outlook on the rest of the day.


If anxiety is something that you struggle with regularly, and you continue to have trouble refocusing or coping with these feelings, please seek help and know being alive is a miracle and the world needs your smile, your laugh, your talents and abilities. And if no one has told you this yet today, I’m proud of you and celebrate you for simply being you.


References & Additional Resources:

· https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/it-or-not-social-medias-affecting-your-mental-health

· https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

· Navy Seal Admiral Shares Reasons to Make Bed Everyday: https://youtu.be/KgzLzbd-zT4

· https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx

· https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

· https://afsp.org/get-help

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