How To Feel Better Right Now
We’re good at coming up with meanings for things, with patterns and explanations. And if we find ourselves feeling utterly terrible, we’ll often have an explanation quick to hand—“Because I’m a failure,” “Because nobody truly loves me,” “Because I’m depressed and I’ll never get better.”
I would suggest not accepting any of these explanations too quickly. Yes, you might be feeling lousy because you’ve lost someone you love, because you aren’t succeeding at your work the way you’d like to, because you were badly hurt as a child. But before you settle on one of these insoluble answers, try the following:
1) Drink a full glass of water or sports drink. The symptoms of dehydration can include irritability, exhaustion, headache, restlessness, rapid heart rate, and general discomfort—it’s easy to confuse it with anger, fear, depression, or other kinds of distress.
2) Have a small snack which contains both sugar and protein. The sugar should give you an energy boost right away, and the protein will keep you going after the sugar’s worn off. (After you’ve done that, if it’s mealtime and you haven’t eaten, prepare yourself a meal.) Some good examples are yogurt, cheese and fruit, a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, trail mix (nuts and dried fruit or chocolate), beef jerky and a granola bar, a smoothie, a protein bar, etc.
3) Take any prescribed medications you normally take and haven’t taken today.
4) Notice whether you’re in physical pain from anything. If you are, try to do something about it—change body positions, take pain medication, stretch, loosen tight or constricting clothing, do a relaxation exercise—whatever will make you feel better.
5) Notice whether you’re too warm or too cold, and do something about it. In particular, if you’re cold and wet, try to get warm and dry as soon as you can.
6) Take twenty deep breaths. Inhale, then hold it for a moment, then exhale, then hold it for a moment. Try to think about nothing but your breath and relaxing your body.
7) Get some exercise. If you can go for a walk outside, that’s often a great idea, as the change of scenery is an additional help. Either way, try to do something that gets you moving and active, for at least five minutes. If you can exercise even more than that, enough to get endorphins flowing, that’ll probably make you feel considerably better.
8) If you’re female (or otherwise a person affected strongly by estrogen), eat a piece of dark chocolate.
9) Notice how long it’s been since you’ve slept, and whether you’ve done difficult, strenuous things since then. Taking a nap, or going to bed, might not be a bad idea.
10) Do something that engages the rational, logical part of your brain; Sudoku, math problems, word puzzles, drawing exactly what you see in front of you, alphabetizing things, playing scales on an instrument, etc.—something that gets you thinking logically and methodically.
11) Make contact with someone who cares about you. A hug is often ideal, but it can work just to talk on the phone, reread a text, email, or letter that someone sent you, look at a picture of the person, or even just think about them. Pets definitely count as someone who cares about you. So does your therapist.
12) Do something distracting—watch TV, read a book, go out somewhere, listen to music, dance, get in a conversation with someone. This may or may not make you feel better, but it gives your mind time to process the bad feeling, and may keep you from getting stuck in it.
13) Take care of your hygiene in one small way. You don’t have to do everything, but sometimes one thing—washing your face, changing clothes, putting on one item of clothing or an accessory you really like, taking a shower, even just going to the bathroom—can help you feel better, both in your body and in your ability to take care of yourself.
14) Do something to change the world around you in a small way. Chores—cleaning, organizing things, putting up a picture, cutting grass, etc.—can be great for this. Be cautious with this one, as chores can have a lot of associations with them, and not all positive. The idea is to do one small thing that lets you see you have some control of something around you, even if it’s very minor.
15) If all else fails—or if you can’t do any of the things on the list right now— simply sit with the feeling. Remind yourself that the feeling is not absolute truth; it’s not that you are doomed and worthless, it’s that you feel doomed and worthless. Try to name the feeling in very basic language—that you feel sad, or angry, or scared, or lonely, or guilty, or ashamed, or embarrassed, or tired. Remind yourself that it’s all right to feel that way, and that you won’t always. Then settle in and wait for the feeling to pass. Go ahead and do things you need or want to do, and accept that you’re going to feel lousy as you start to do them. Talk it over with someone later, if you can.
In the end, it may come down to the fact that what you’re dealing with really is one of the sorrows of your life, and you simply won’t feel better about it until you’ve processed it emotionally. But you’ll often find that even the worst problems you have are easier to face when you’re warm, dry, fed, comfortable, and rested.