I am willing to bet that you are reading this in the middle of a million other tasks that you feel like you need to do in order to feel “normal.” Or maybe you are reading this in an attempt to get yourself out of a rut or improve your state of mind while feeling depressed. Either way, I am here to help! A lot of times, we (meaning you, me, and everyone we know, honestly) feel like if we aren’t doing something, we are failing.
On the contrary; if we aren’t doing something, that might be for a reason, and we need to be in tune with why that is. You see, sometimes it is enough to just be surviving in the world—“just getting by” is totally okay, because it happens to all of us. Everyone hits a point where they just cannot keep doing whatever routine or tasks they have been doing, but we still forget to really take care of ourselves and understand that stopping or slowing down can be good for us.
And if you feel like you have been doing nothing for too long, then that is okay too! Dear reader, below I have eight ways you can remember to not be so hard on yourself when all you feel you can do is survive.
1.You do not have to finish all of your tasks in a day.
Whether you are depressed or you have been busy with work or school, sometimes your tasks start to pile up. This can include homework, dishes, laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, going to the DMV, going to the doctor, or even just remembering to call someone. You feel helpless thinking about getting everything done, especially as you start to think of those tasks as urgent, no matter how urgent they may actually be. Then, in an effort to get on track to completing those tasks, you get into the mindset of “everything will get done today, no stopping, only doing!”
While it seems like a good mindset to have, it can actually be more destructive in some ways than feeling helpless. When we set these goals up for ourselves to get every single tasks or chore done, we are almost always setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment. It can be extremely difficult to get all of those things done in one day, and when it doesn’t happen, it feels like we failed, and then we might slump back into feeling helpless and letting things pile up.
It is important to remember that it is better to take on tasks individually and complete them without feeling the need to rush onto the next thing. This way you are moving at a pace that is more beneficial to your mental health and can foster the development of a routine where tasks get done more consistently than trying to finish everything but ending up feeling helpless all over again.
2. Slow down, take it easy!
No matter what anyone says, we are typically a lot busier than people were 20 or 30 years ago. It may not seem like it on the surface, but we occupy a ton of our time doing something—using our phones, reading articles (like right now!), texting friends, watching TV, going to school or work, exercising, playing video games, etc.—as opposed to doing nothing—i.e. relaxing. It is easier now than it ever has been to constantly be distracted by something or be involved in some activity at all waking hours.
It has become the norm to think that “go-go-go” is the only way to live, when sometimes you just need to stop, or at the very least slow down.
Like the point above, sometimes we just need to realize when we are pushing ourselves too hard to be doing literally anything. It is important to come to terms with the fact that taking time for yourself to just relax is good for you. You just need to remember to breathe deeply from time to time. In the same vein, when you feel like you just cannot do all of those things you are accustomed to doing, whether it is because you are tired or feeling depressed, then that is okay too. You do not have to constantly be doing something in order to be “okay.”
3. Sleep is important (and naps are too!).
While you are in “go-go-go” mode like we talked about above, you often forget to do the things that actually matter for your survival. One of the first important activities that goes is really more of an inactivity: sleep. You probably find yourself constantly tired, feeling like you have not had enough sleep, or like you need to always be awake to do all of the things you did not get to do during typical waking hours.
The basic, flat-out truth: sleep is good for you. Letting your body and brain rest during sleep is one of the reasons why we have survived as a species, because we are sharper, more efficient, and happier when we have slept. Of course, sometimes our schedules make it hard to sleep at night, or you might have a condition that prevents you from sleeping. While you are making time to just relax, you could benefit from finding time to take naps, especially if your schedule or condition makes you sleepy during the day.
4. Don’t starve yourself (of food or love).
Sleep is not the only thing we give up when we are too focused on getting all of our daily tasks done or feeling like we just cannot do anything. Food is often one of those things we forego, whether it is eating less than normal or not eating at all, even for days at a time. This can be caused by having a low self-esteem, feeling like you do not deserve to have food.
You have to know that being able to survive and get to the next day, you have to treat your body with care, and that means nourishing it properly.
We also tend to starve our bodies of love, which is another important part of surviving. If there is nothing else you can do, you should at the very least make sure you are surrounding yourself with love and treating your body with the care it deserves, even if it seems impossible, because you and your body will be much happier.
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5. It’s okay to feel good and like what you like.
Whether we are trying to get everything done at once or we are feeling depressed, we often forget that we deserve to do things that make us feel good. For many of you, I would bet that you have not done something that makes you truly feel good in the last 24 hours, or 48 hours, or a week, or even longer.
Sometimes it is because we feel like we just do not have the time, or it is because we feel like we do not deserve to feel good because we have a negative view of ourselves. It might even have to do with a feeling of shame, due to thinking that what you like or what makes you feel good isn’t “normal,” because someone has made you feel bad about liking what you like.
First, you definitely deserve to feel good, you definitely deserve to do things that make you feel good, especially if that means you are surviving to the next day. You deserve to take the time to do whatever it is that you love doing (so long as you aren’t harming anyone or anything else, of course!). But even more importantly, you should never feel ashamed of the things that you like, whether it is music, a video game, listening to a podcast, watching a TV show, or even just sleeping (because, like I said, sleeping is good).
6. It’s okay to avoid stressful social situations.
You have probable been in the situation more than once where you end up at a party, function, or event that you truly did not want to attend. Maybe you just do not like the people who were going to be there, or your friends guilted you into getting out the of the house. You spend the whole time thinking about all of the other things you would rather be doing, not enjoying the time spent in a situation you did not want to be in to begin with.
It is much easier said than done, but you do not have to subject yourself to uncomfortable social situations if you do not want to. You should not have to explain yourself either—just a simple, “sorry, I can’t go this time” should be enough for understanding friends.
Your first responsibility is yourself, and you need to make sure you are okay.
You do not need to feel bad for not wanting to put yourself in a situation you are going to feel bad in anyway. We must learn to be happy by ourselves more often.
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7. Don’t be afraid to accept help from people who care.
There are many times where we feel like we need to handle our problems by ourselves. We feel like no one else will care about our issues, or we feel like we cannot trust other people to really help us. You probably have experienced this with even your closest friends, where you sometimes feel like you bother your friends too much or that they just do not understand.
You try to survive the days by not interacting with others, and while this can sometimes be a good way to avoid additional drama, some days that distance can be a hindrance.
Sometimes, surviving means letting people in to help to make it through the hard times. If you have people that you consider close, whether it is friends, family, a romantic partner, even a coworker, you should try to reach out, have them understand your needs, and be willing to accept the help that they are able to give.
Surviving can certainly be enough and surviving can certainly be okay, but surviving does not have to happen in solitude.
8. You don’t have to be perfect!
What all of this boils down to is one simple concept: you do not have to be perfect. Surviving is enough, and you should not feel bad if that is all you can manage sometimes.
You do not have to do every single little thing that you have decided is important to do. You do not have to cater to the needs or norms of the people in your life if it might be harmful to you or your mental health. You do not need to be ashamed of loving what you love or doing things that make you feel good. You do not need to give up sleep or naps because you feel like they are just a waste of time.
You need to understand that as long as you aren’t hurting yourself, as long as you can manage to survive the day, then you are doing just fine, and that by itself is perfect.