25+ Ways to Take Care of Yourself When Everything Isn’t OK

Here's how to feel a little bit better when your world is falling apart.

By Tuck Woodstock November 10, 2016

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Phase One: Stay Alive

  • Keep breathing. Try 5-count breaths or box breathing. Relax your shoulders. Meditate, if that’s your thing.
  • Call someone. Your friends and family would love to hear from you and support you. If you’re feeling suicidal, call or text the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (or the Trevor Project for LGBTQ youth).
  • Drink water. Or maybe some nice herbal tea?
  • Take a shower, and get dressed in clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident.
  • Take your meds, if you have any. This includes mood-boosting supplements like Vitamin B and Vitamin D.
  • Nourish yourself. Don’t forget to eat! Juice bars like Kure and Harlow offer bowls of healthy goodness and yummy green smoothies that allow you to slurp down all your daily nutrients. Alternately, grab a Clif bar or open a can of soup. Whatever you can manage is great.
  • Go outside. If you have a safe space to stretch your legs and feel fresh air, take advantage of it—science shows that it will help.
  • Stay sober. If you’re a recovering addict of any kind, resist the urge to use drugs or alcohol. Reach out to your sponsor or loved one if needed. 

Phase Two: Get It Out 

  • Feel your feelings. Scream. Sob. Do whatever you need to do.
  • Write down your feelings. Whether you use a journal, compose a letter to a friend, or even craft a heartfelt social media post, describing your feelings in words can help you to process and address them.
  • Eat your feelings. Portland has so much great comfort food. There’s no shame in treating yourself to a slice of cake when the world is ending (or literally any other time).
  • Listen to music. Start with sad or angry songs that match your mood, then gradually shift to more positive, upbeat tunes. If you play your own music, all the better.
  • Exercise. Whether you love running, hiking, or biking outside, hitting up a spin class (like anti-bullying BurnCycle or pro-feminist Revocycle), playing basketball in the park, or crushing your weightlifting PRs at the gym, those exercise endorphins will make you feel better and more empowered.
  • Find a therapist. There’s never shame in asking for extra help, especially from someone who’s trained and paid to do so. Many college health centers and therapists offer sliding scale sessions for folks with limited means.

Phase Three: Take Action 

  • Make a plan. What’s one way that you can take charge of your life and make a positive impact? Write down small, simple steps to achieve that goal.
  • Volunteer. If you’re able, serving others is one of the best ways to alleviate dark moods. Check Hands On Portland for nearby volunteering opportunities, or reach out to an organization you care about.
  • Donate. If you’re able, consider contributing to a cause you care about. Willamette Week has rounded up 141 local nonprofits in their annual Give Guide, and Jezebel put together a list of national organizations that need support, too.
  • Ask for help. It’s always okay to ask for what you want and need. You are not a burden. There are people who love you.
  • Learn self-defense. The Portland Police Bureau’s WomenStrength program has taught personal safety workshops and self-defense skills to roughly 130,000 Portlanders. Folks who don’t feel safe attending a PPB event can find many other classes in the Portland area.
  • Attend a gathering. Whether it’s a vigil, protest, workshop, potluck, or a few friends eating snacks, creating community is vital. Here are a couple of upcoming gatherings we’ve spotted.

Phase Four: Be Kind to Yourself

  • Focus on the positive. Write affirmations, gratitude lists, and memories of happy moments in your day. When you’re sad or scared, reflect on these lists.
  • Adopt a dog or cat. Animal companions can benefit your health and well-being in many ways. If you can’t take care of a pet right now, but would still like a little bit of unconditional love, consider volunteering at a shelter.
  • Sit, soak, and sweat. From Scandinavian Loyly to crunchy Common Ground and swanky Knot Springs, Portland has plenty of spas and wellness centers to treat yourself to a massage, facial, soaking pool or sauna.
  • Find your perfect yoga. Our city offers an incredible array of yoga classes that facilitate deep breathing and moving meditation, including trauma-based yoga and humans of color yoga.
  • Take a media detox. It’s okay to stay off Facebook or turn off the television if the constant barrage of news and opinions threatens to overwhelm. (It’s also super okay to walk away from toxic relationships and conversations, no matter who says otherwise.)
  • Go for a hike. You never know who you might run into.
  • Share the love. Tell folks you love them, appreciate them, and/or support them, whether it’s your closest family member or your bus driver. You’ll be amazed by how many folks give you support and love in return. We love you!
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