I was going to write an upbeat post today about the value of kindness. Well, another time. You see, I’m having a bit if a bad day. Today, my partner woke up with a cold, and when he has a cold, he watches crime shows, and I made the mistake of watching an episode with him. (Why??) Predictably, it made me feel awful. Lonely and sad and aching for all the pain and loss and cruelty in the world. So I didn’t feel like a chirpy post about kindness.
Instead, I thought I’d share a list of the things that help me feel a little better on bad days – days when I’m depressed, anxious, sad, or otherwise in emotional pain. I’ll keep updating thist list as I find new things. If you’ve got suggestions, leave a comment and I’ll add it.
- Phone a close friend or family member. Maybe not even to talk about what’s troubling you (though if that’s what you want to do, you should!), but just to hear their voice, share a joke, and think of other things for a little while.
- Watch a favourite film or tv show. Something soothing, pretty and non-violent works best for me. Pride&Prejudice (1995), Emma (2009), The Road to El Dorado, How I Met Your Mother (seasons 1-3 especially, the later ones get a little melancholy now and then) and Sailor Moon (everything except season finales) are some of my rock-solid go-tos.
- Read a favourite book. Something with enough suspense to really draw me in, but relatively harmless tends to do the trick for me, which is why I often pick of favourite children’s books when I’m in a bad place. I love Harry Potter (1-3), and some of Cornelia Funke’s books, such as Igraine the Brave or Zwei wilde kleine Hexen.
- Play a game. Sometimes, pretending to be someone else, in another world, can be excellent therapy and put some distance between yourself and your troubles, giving your subconscious time to process. I like many of the big, famous, triple A games, like Final Fantasy, The Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Dragon Age (I’d need a whole other post to express even a tiny amount of my passion for that series). However, there’s something else. I’ll let you in on a little secret: visual novels. Mainstream gamers tend to think rather little of VNs, because they are less visually exciting and (only sometimes!) less complex in terms of game mechanics. But there are some beautiful, thoughtful, lovely pieces out there. Such as pretty much everyting by Hanako Games; I like Magical Diary best. (Now judge me if you like, I don’t care. It’s f*ing amazing.)
- Take a walk, possibly while listening to some favourite music or an audiobook.
- Drink tea or hot chocolate.
- Bake. There’s nothing like the feeling of having done something right when you open the oven and a heavenly smell fills your home. And it’s so simple – many cookies and cakes can be made with stock ingredients you probably have on hand, take only about an hour (half for preparation, half for the process of baking itself – and you can even do the dishes while you wait), and you just need to follow the directions to have a tasty snack and a rewarding moment of success and validation.
- Take a bath.
- If you have pets, see if they’re in the mood for cuddling.
- Create something. Maybe you’re in the mood for sketching or drawing, maybe you feel more like throwing handfuls of paint. Maybe you like to make collages, doodle, zentangle, or colour. Maybe you’d like to create some beautiful acoustics instead of visuals – play an instrument, tap dance, sing, or whistle. Maybe you’re the DIY-type and knit, crochet, or make your own furniture. Whatever it is that you like to create, doing it can help you feel less pointless and more like the valuable, skilled, wonderful individual that you are.
- If all else fails, go to sleep.
On the internet
- Pinterest. You can find just about everything there, it’s all so pretty, and you can literally spend hours digging through the gorgeousness without even noticing. I’ve got a couple of boards where I collect pretty, inspiring, or heart-warming pictures and links, but there’s so much more out there, of course.
- Cute Overload. The site is no longer updated (a tragic loss for all of humankind), but their huge archives of cute animal pictures are still accessible. And so very heart-warming.
- Fallen London. A browser game set in a noire-steampunk version of 19th century London (stolen by bats!). Intense, original, often tongue-in-cheeck stories that depend strongly on the player’s choices.
- Business Cat. Who wouldn’t want to read a webcomic about a feline C.E.O.?
- Hyperbole and a Half. Comics and articles, laugh-out-loud funny, and very wise. Also includes two deeply personal posts on the artist’s own experiences with depression.
- Feel like it’s just you who messes up, while everyone else has perfect, colour-coordinated, perfectly instagrammable lives? Take a look at these struggle plates and feel better. (Not in a malicious “haha, you suck”-kind of way. In a “Oh. Well. Nobody’s perfect, I guess”-kind of way.) To feel even better, note that some of these photos were taken by Martha Steward, of food she prepared herself. Yup. No kidding. If Martha fricking Steward makes onion soup which looks that gross, you can go easy on yourself for being human, too.
Keeping it together
If you’re feeling absolutely awful and would love to go through the above suggestions one by one, but you actually have to keep it together for now because you need to go to work/a job interview/help someone who is doing even worse/… try some of these.
- Take a talisman with you. A favourite piece of jewelry, a photo in your wallet, a lucky cent, a shell from that wonderful day at the beach – anything you can take with you and look at now and then to get a boost of that warm, fuzzy feeling.
- Get coffee/tea/a cookie. Sure, you should eat healthy and all that, but one cookie to get you through the day probably won’t hurt.
- Speaking of fresh air, sunlight can work wonders on a depressed mind. There are medical studies proving its beneficial effects. Open the window or sit in the sun for a few minutes. (Just don’t get sunburned.)
- Maybe a mantra would work for you? Here are some pointers for finding your individual sentence to give you strength. I’d like to add that a short, funny quote or a line from your favourite book/film can also make an excellent pick-me-up mantra.
- Meditate for five minutes.
- Listen to music while you work to get some positive vibes as your emotional background noise. Use headphones if you share a room with your co-workers. If you cannot listen to music while you’re working, listen on your commute.
- If you enjoy freshly cut flowers or potted plants, put some where you can see them while you work.
- Talk to someone who is in a similar situation and thus likely to understand what you’re going through. If you know nobody who fits that description personally, look on the internet – among six billion people, there’s guaranteed to be a group, chatroom, or forum somewhere for people just like you.
- Know what refuels you. When your time to recharge is scarce, use it efficiently. Are you an introvert or extrovert? Which activities make you feel better? Some things that are beneficial for others may make you feel worse (art, excercise, or cooking, for example). If you’re not a people person, stay at home for an evening or two – and don’t let anyone guilt you into feeling bad about it. Know what truly does you good and focus on that.
Remember also that you should not push yourself like that beyond sensible limits or for extended periods of time. You eventually will need time to process and deal with your feelings. Repression is only a short-term fix, and, if you leave these things to fester beneath the surface, they are likely to errupt in a manner you can no longer ignore, at a time when you least need that.
If it’s really, really bad
- International List of Suicide Hotlines, sorted by country. Don’t do anything rash. Remember how many people would be grieved if anything happened to you.
That’s it for now. I hope some of these things work for you and that you’ll feel better soon! And if you have anything to add to this list, do let me know.