Sometimes days are hard. Sometimes life hurts. Sometimes it’s just heavy.

Sometimes it’s hard to wake up in the morning. Not because you didn’t sleep long enough, or didn’t sleep well enough (though those also may be true) but simply because being awake means facing the day. And facing the day means facing your current situation. Means your thoughts racing endlessly, at a pace that would tire marathoners. It means acknowledging that you are exactly where you are, and that that place feels heavy right now.

In my phases of grief in life, I’ve had months on end filled with what I call “grief fog,” where I can’t totally tell you how I spent my time. Most of it was spent trapped in my own head and chest, trying to make it through another hour, another day.

And honestly, though I am content in life, and things are going well, I still have times of the year, and just random days that are harder to face. Nothing like the excruciating beginnings of grief. But the days where the weight of life still seems heavy. Where I have to inhale a bit  longer to lift my chest up to get a full breath. Where it still feels sad to be living inside my skin.

Recently I was having a hard day, and I started to make a list of the things I’ve continued to do in life despite hard days that seem inconsequential, but that have helped me put one step in front of another and make it to the next day. I thought I’d share them with you. If you have any things like these that you do to help yourself through these types of times and days, please share them too. We all could probably use some suggestions.

  1. I wake up, get out of bed and get ready for the day, even if I’m staying at home and may not be seen by anyone. I wash my face. I brush my teeth. I put on make up and I do my hair nicely. I put on clothes that I feel good about or good in.
  2. I make my bed. There’s something about having a clean, organized, made-up space to bring a tiny piece of order to my mind.
  3. I pray. In short bursts. Sometimes with cursing. Sometimes just confessions like “God, I’m sad today.”
  4. I reach out to others. Sometimes to say “hey, I’m having a hard day.” because I’ve found that the key to breaking my loneliness is to be honest and vulnerable with the ugly shit. Or sometimes to just see how they are doing. Caring about others is good for my soul too, I’ve found, and often makes the days a little lighter.
  5. I write about it. If I have thoughts racing so fast that I feel overwhelmed, I try to write them out. The writing forces me to slow down my thoughts enough that they become coherent and, fortunately, less overwhelming.
  6. I go on walks. I’ve always loved walking. When I was little, my best friend and I would go on walks and bike rides and scooter rides everyday. Somewhere along the way I lost that practice. But finding it again in my early adult life has been a life saver. Especially when I’m lonely or sad, going on a long walk outside is a huge help.
  7. I drink coffee in the morning. I try to stick to the same routines I have in normal day-to-day life. Routine is a helpful tool for getting me through what otherwise does not feel routine.
  8. I eat healthy foods. If I feel like crap, eating healthy at least helps my insides feel less like crap.
  9. And sometimes I eat my best comfort foods that are not healthy at all (this is much more of a un-sustainable coping mechanism) — hello mashed potatoes and dessert.
  10. I cook. I find that doing something productive yet semi-mindless where I have a physical product to show at the end is a helpful release for me.
  11. I watch, read, or listen to something that always makes me laugh at the end of the day before I go to bed. For me, my go-to’s are sitcoms or standup comedy.

And I remember that I only have to do this one day at a time, one hour at a time.

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

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