Self-Care is Hard if Feeling Better Seems Out of Reach

Self-care is hard when nothing makes you feel better, so ask yourself what won't make you feel worse
Photo by Michael Milverton.

Here's a self-care story I came across recently on the podcast The Nod: it was about a woman whose husband up and left her, out of the blue. For a period of time, she was in such deep grief that she couldn't do much of anything. Her big move would be to change in the morning out of the clothes she slept in and into a nice pair of pyjamas that she would then wear for the rest of the day.

These nice, clean pyjamas were both a small act of kindness and a monumental moment of self-care: they accepted where she was at (unable to do things, not leaving the apartment), while still giving her something fresh to change into.

It didn't make her feel better, necessarily, but it definitely didn't make her feel worse, which was vital at a time when everything seemed to make her feel worse.

This notion has stuck with me since I listened to this episode. It's a good thing to remember for those really hard times in life, whatever they may be: if you can't feel better, maybe there is something that won't make you feel worse.

Sometimes, whether due to a sudden loss or onset of a terrible depressive episode, the question "what will make you feel better?" sounds overwhelming. In those moments, the answer is nothing.

What won't make you feel worse seems more achievable. It's a reminder that you can still be nice to yourself, even if you don't have the will to engage with life.

So, if you're currently feeling like nothing can make you feel better, what won't make you feel worse?

Maybe you pour yourself one glass of water in your fanciest drinking vessel and put a garnish on it as if you matter. That probably won't make you feel worse.

Maybe you make sure to take care of your physical comfort by wearing nice, plush, warm socks and having a cozy blanket ready to curl up in at all times. Always being warm enough probably won't make you feel worse.

Maybe you do one round of the apartment, picking up the garbage that has accumulated and throwing it out, because being in an apartment that isn't full of take-out containers and empties may not make you feel worse.

Maybe you write a sticky that reminds you that you are still awesome, even though you feel like crap and stick it somewhere you will see every day. It probably won't break through the hard shell currently separating you from the world and make you feel that awesomeness, but it likely won't make you feel worse to have that reminder.

Maybe it's something else. It's up to you.

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