Very concrete actions you can take when life is too much
Thu, 29 Jul 2021 04:01:25 +0000
My most recent existential crisis has been the deepest and longest I’ve ever experienced, and it’s not even over yet.
At the beginning, I was too overwhelmed to do anything but wait it out. I wallowed and allowed myself to just feel.
But after a few days of that, I was finally ready for some action. I reached out to some friends and talked about it. Everyone listened and nodded and was extremely supportive. I was in need of very concrete advice, as in, what can I do to make things better?
I got some pretty good suggestions that I want to share with you.
Sit with your feelings
First of all, acknowledge that it’s ok to feel. You don’t have to try and “make things right” all the time. And you don’t have to repress feelings that we were taught are yucky, like anger or frustration. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s valid and part of who you are. You don’t need to fix it.
(Thank you Marce)
Meet your basic needs
You can’t function properly unless your basic needs are met. Maslow explains this concept in his hierarchy of needs, according to which people are motivated to fulfil basic needs such as breathing, eating and pooping before moving on to more advance needs. This means you might find it harder to focus on tasks like socialising, practicing self care or applying for jobs, unless you have fulfilled your basic needs first. So before you try to sort out your life, make sure you’re hydrated, you’ve had enough sleep, and your tummy is full.
(Thank you Elena)
Get to know yourself
Know your boundaries, know your needs. Self discovery is a never-ending journey, but getting to a point where you know how to listen to your body and mind will help.
Personally, I know my mental health and wellbeing has to come first. So whenever I feel overwhelmed, I try to be kind and gentle with myself, and do things that will nourish my inner self, like journaling or going for a walk in nature.
(Thank you Emily)
Break it down into smaller steps
When you feel overwhelmed, it’s hard to understand that big, stressful situations are nothing but a conglomeration of smaller elements.
This point can be further broken down into two subcategories:
A. For long-term projects, like if you want to steer your career: Work backwards.
For example: I want to be a software developer in two years time, but currently I work as a librarian. How do I get there? I might need to study. What classes do I need to take? A, B and C. What universities offer these courses? This one. What do I need to apply? A reference letter and this much money. What can I do right now to tick those boxes? Save up this much money per week, and contact this person to write me a reference letter.
This process zooms in from a long-term goal to a simple, concrete action you can implement right now that will eventually get you where you want to be.
B. For times when you feel so overwhelmed you can’t even get out of bed: Take a step back and ask yourself, What is the easiest thing I can do right now?
This can be as simple as, go take shower. Drink a a glass of water. Once you’ve done that, ask yourself the same question, until you’re back on your feet. The more you do this, the more it becomes a routine, and you won’t even have to think about what the next step is. This has gotten me through the day in several occasions.
(Thank you Luke)
Have a mental health first aid kit
This will look different for different people, but it’s essentially a box that contains things that you know will help you when you’re having a hard time: maybe a book that warms your heart, the lyrics of your favourite song, the phone number of someone you can call, or something you like to hold that makes you feel safe.
I don’t have one of those yet but I’m working on it.
(Thank you Beka)
Say no to things
To make space for inner self nourishment, you might need to say no to other things. I’m not very good at this and I definitely haven’t said no to anything since I’ve had my breakdown. Retrospectively, I think I’ve been keeping myself busy so I don’t allow myself time to think. But I know how much solo time is important to me, and I’m planning on taking myself out on a date soon, or just spend some time at a café reading and journaling with no distractions.
(Thank you Olivia)
Find your routine
Being homeless (but even when we had the bus) makes it hard to have a routine.
This week, I woke up really early for a couple of days in a row and spent a few hours reading and writing before the sun came up. This is one of my favourite things to do and it definitely helped me recenter. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep this up with all the moving and shifts and life that’s been happening, but I’ll try to remind myself how good I feel when I manage to stick to a routine and do things that make me happy first thing in the morning.
(Thank you me hehe)
Read something inspiring
This can be a single quote or an entire book. If it's a quote, I recommend writing it on a PostIt note and sticking it on your mirror or above your bed or somewhere you can always see it.
I’m currently reading In Order to Live and The Fire Never Goes Out, which are two very different books but both moving and uplifting. Next on the list is Station Eleven.
(Thank you Sabrina)
Connect with people in the same boat
Even though I’m putting it at the end of the list, this has been my number one action I’ve been taking. Mostly I’ve been reaching out to friends and people I knew would listen, and 99/9% of the time it turned out they were also going through the same life dilemmas and environmental doom. Which is both relieving and terrifying. But as David Attenborough teaches us, there’s power in number. We are all in this together. And together, we can get through it.
(Thank you Stella)
I love sharing little bits and pieces of life advice that have helped me even though I’m obviously not an expert or when I’m still working through stuff. I hope it’s somehow helpful to anyone who’s also struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.