101 Self-Care Ideas for When It All Feels Like Too Much

For most of us, there are times in life when it all just feels like too much. There may be some days, weeks, months, maybe even years when – for whatever reason – just getting through the day, going to work, or putting one foot in front of the other feels hard. Really, really hard.

Maybe it's because you're wrestling with anxiety, depression, or another mental illness. Maybe it's because your heart has been broken. Maybe you've experienced physical or emotional trauma. Maybe you're deeply grieving. Or maybe there's no obvious reason why you're feeling bad.

Whatever the case, I want you to know that it's OK if you're going through a tough time. This doesn't make you any less lovable, worthy, or capable. It just means you're human. Being a human can be a messy, hard, confusing, painful experience sometimes.

If you or someone you love is going through one of these tough times right now, a time where it all just feels like too much, here are 101 suggestions for self-care to help you or your loved one get through it.

  1.  Have a good, long, body-shaking cry.
  2.  Call a trusted friend or family member, and talk it out.
  3.  Call in sick. Take comp time if you can. Take a mental health day.
  4.  Say no to extra obligations, chores, or anything that pulls on your precious self-care time.
  5.  Book a session (or more) with your therapist.
  6.  Dial down your expectations of yourself right now. When you're going through life's tough times, soften your expectations of yourself and others.
  7.  Tuck yourself into bed early with a good book and clean sheets.
  8.  Watch a comforting, silly, funny, lighthearted TV show or movie. (Parks and Recreation, anyone?)
  9.  Reread your favorite picture and chapter books from childhood.
  10.  Ask for some love and tenderness from your friends on social media. Let them comment on your post and remind you that you're loved.
  11.  Look at some really gorgeous pieces of art.
  12.  Watch Youtube videos of Ellen DeGeneres and the adorable kids she has on her show.
  13.  Look at faith-in-humanity-restoring lists from Buzzfeed.
  14.  Ask for help from whoever you need it – your boss, your doctor, your partner, your therapist, your mom. Let people know you need some help.
  15.  Wrap yourself up in a cozy fleece blanket, and sip a cup of hot tea.
  16.  Breathe. Deeply. Slowly. Four counts in. Six counts out.
  17.  Hydrate. Have you had enough water today?
  18.  Eat. Have you eaten something healthy and nourishing today?
  19.  Sleep. Have you slept seven to nine hours? Is it time for some rest?
  20.  Shower. Then, dry your hair and put on clothes that make you feel good.
  21.  Go outside in the sunshine.
  22.  Move your body gently in ways that feel good. Maybe aim for 30 minutes. Or 10 minutes if 30 feels like too much.
  23.  Read a story (or stories) of people who overcame adversity. 
  24.  Go to a 12-step meeting. Or any group meeting where support is offered. Check out church listings, hospital listings, and school listings for ideas.
  25.  If you suspect something may be physiologically off with you, see your doctor or psychiatrist. Medication might help, and they can assist you in assessing this.
  26.  Take a long, hot bath. Light a candle, and pamper yourself.
  27.  Read these inspirational quotes.
  28.  Cuddle with someone or something. Your partner. A pillow. Your friend's dog.
  29.  Read past emails, postcards, or letters from friends and family reminding you of happier times.
  30.  Knit. Sculpt. Bake. Engage your hands.
  31.  Exhaust yourself physically – running, yoga, swimming, or whatever helps you feel fatigued.
  32.  Write it out. Freeform in a journal or a Google doc. Get it all out and vent.
  33.  Create a plan if you're feeling overwhelmed. List what you need to do next to tackle and address whatever you're facing. Chunk it into manageable and understandable pieces. 
  34.  Remember: You only have to get through the next five minutes. Then the next five. And so on.
  35.  Take five minutes to meditate.
  36.  Write out a list of 25 reasons why you'll be okay.
  37.  Write out a list of 25 examples of things you've overcome or accomplished.
  38.  Write out a list of 25 reasons why you're a good, lovable person.
  39.  Write out a list of 25 things that make your life beautiful.
  40.  Sniff some scents that bring you joy or remind you of happier times.
  41.  Ask for support from friends and family via text if voice-to-voice contact feels like too much. Ask them to check in with you via text daily or weekly. Whatever you need.
  42.  Lie down on the ground. Let the earth (or the floor) hold you. You don't have to hold it all on your own.
  43.  Clean up a corner of a room of your house. Sometimes, tidying up can help calm the mind.
  44.  Ask yourself: What's my next most immediate priority? Do that. Then ask the question again.
  45.  Read some poetry. Rumi, Hafiz, and Mary Oliver are all excellent.
  46.  Take a tech break. Delete or deactivate social media if it feels too triggering right now.
  47.  Or maybe get on tech. If you've been isolating, interacting with friends and family online might feel good.
  48.  Go out in public, and be around others. You don't have to engage. But maybe go sit in a coffee shop or on a bench at a museum and soak up the humanity around you.
  49.  Or, if you're feeling too saturated with contact, go home. Cancel plans, and tend to the introverted parts of yourself.
  50.  Ask friends and family to remind you that things will be OK and that what you're feeling is temporary.
  51.  Put up some Christmas lights in your bedroom. They often make things more magical.
  52.  Spend a little money, and treat yourself to some self-care and comfort. Maybe take a taxi versus the bus. Buy your lunch instead of forcing yourself to pack it. Buy some flowers that delight you.
  53.  Make art. Scribble with crayons. Splash some watercolors. Paint a rock. Whatever. Just create something.
  54.  Wander around your neighborhood, looking at all the lovely houses and the ways people decorate their gardens. Delight in the diversity of design.
  55.  Visit or volunteer at your local animal rescue. Pet some animals.
  56.  Look at photos of people you love. Set them as the wallpaper on your phone or laptop.
  57.  Create and listen to a playlist of songs that remind you of happier times.
  58.  Read spiritual literature.
  59.  Scream, pound pillows, tear up paper, or shake your body to get the energy out.
  60.  Eat comforting foods.
  61.  Watch old Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood videos online.
  62.  Turn off the lights, sit down, stare into space, and do absolutely nothing.
  63.  Pick one or two things that feel like progress, and do them. Make your bed. Put away the dishes. Return an email.
  64.  Go to a church or spiritual community service. Sit among others, and absorb any guidance or grace that feels good to you.
  65.  Allow yourself to fantasize about what you're hoping or longing for. There are clues and energy in your reveries and daydreams that are worth paying attention to.
  66.  Watch autonomous sensory meridian response videos to help you calm down and fall asleep at night.
  67.  Listen to monks chanting, singing Tibetan bowls, or nature sounds to help soothe you.
  68.  Color in some adult coloring books.
  69.  Revisit an old hobby. Even if it feels a little forced, try your hand at things you used to enjoy, and see what comes up for you.
  70.  Go to the ocean. Soak up the negative ions.
  71.  Go to the mountains. Absorb their strength and security.
  72.  Go to the forest. Drink in the shelter, life, and sacredness of the trees.
  73.  Put down the personal help books, and pick up some good old-fashioned fiction.
  74.  Remember: Your only job right now is to put one foot in front of the other.
  75.  Allow and feel and express your feelings – all of them – safely and appropriately. Seek help if you need support in this.
  76.  Listen to sad songs, or watch sad movies if you need a good cry. (Steel Magnolias, anyone?)
  77.  Dance around wildly to your favorite cheesy songs from your high school years.
  78.  Put your hands in the dirt. If you have a garden, go garden. If you have indoor plants, tend to them. If you don't have plants or a garden, go outside. Visit a local nursery, and touch and smell the gorgeous plants.
  79.  If you want to stay in bed all day watching Netflix, do it. Indulge.
  80.  Watch or listen to comedy shows or goofy podcasts.
  81.  Google examples of people who have experienced and survived what you're currently facing. Seek out models of inspiration.
  82.  Get expert help with whatever you need. Whether that's through therapy, psychiatry, a lawyer, or clergy, let those trained to support you do it.
  83.  Educate yourself about what you're going through. Learn about what you're facing, what you can expect to feel, and how you can support yourself in this place.
  84.  Establish a routine, and stick to it. Routines bring comfort in times of life that feel chaotic or out of control.
  85.  Do some hardcore nesting, and make your home or bedroom as cozy, beautiful, and comforting as possible.
  86.  Get up early and watch the sunrise.
  87.  Set up a chair and watch the sunset.
  88.  Make your own list of self-soothing activities that engage all five of your senses.
  89.  Develop a supportive morning ritual for yourself.
  90.  Develop a relaxing evening ritual for yourself.
  91.  Join a support group for people who are going through what you're going through. Check out the listings at local hospitals, libraries, churches, and universities to see what's out there.
  92.  Volunteer at a local shelter, hospital, or nursing home. Practice serving others who may also be going through a tough time. 
  93. Accompany a friend or family member to something. Even if it's just keeping them company while they run errands, this kind of contact can feel like good self-care.
  94.  Take your dog for a walk. Or, borrow a friend's dog and take them for a walk.
  95.  Challenge your negative thinking.
  96.  Practice relaxation techniques.
  97.  Do something spontaneous. Walk or drive a different way to work. Order something new off the menu. Listen to a Spotify playlist of new songs. 
  98.  Work with your doctor, naturopath, or nutritionist to develop a physical exercise plan and food plan to support whatever you're facing right now.
  99.  Pray. Meditate. Write a letter to God, the universe, your higher self, or whatever you believe in.
  100.  As much as you can, please try to trust the process.
  101.  Finally, remember that what you're going through right now is temporary. It may not feel like that from inside the tough time you're in, but this too shall pass. You will feel differently again someday.

I hope you found this list of self-care suggestions helpful. But please remember, by no means is this list exhaustive, nor will every item feel good and right for you. This list is not meant to be prescriptive, nor do I mean to imply you need to do all or any of these things to take good care of yourself. You are the expert on your own experience, and I trust that you know what's best for you. This list is really just a starting point meant to catalyze your thinking about how you can best take care of yourself during life's tough times. It's meant to spark your curiosity and interest in strengthening your self-care, both now and in the future. Also, my hope is that in reading this, you're hearing me say how normal and natural it is to struggle. It's part of being human. You're not alone.


Disclaimer: The suggestions in this list are in no way a substitute for care or advice from a licensed mental health care clinician. These are self-care coaching suggestions, not therapeutic advice. Moreover, if you feel suicidal or find yourself having suicidal ideations, please call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.

This piece was originally published on Annie Wright Psychotherapy.

After coming from and then healing her own extensive relational trauma background, Annie became a licensed psychotherapist - specifically a trauma therapist who specializes in relational trauma recovery - and, in addition to her clinical work with clients, she also founded and runs a boutique, trauma-informed therapy center in Berkeley ( where she oversees a staff of 20 clinicians and 5 operations staff who deliver top-notch clinical care to clients across California and Florida.

Moreover, she's a published mental health writer with over 200+ essays on her personal blog ( centered around recovering from childhood trauma. Annie's writing and opinions have been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, NBC, Buzzfeed, and The Huffington Post, to name but a few.