fitness · self care

In search of the perfect self-help list

CW: talk about personal fears during the pandemic.

I love those lists of X things to do/buy/eat/read/make/etc. that will completely refashion our lives to make them perfectly balanced and full and grounded and happy. Yes, they’re either obvious or impossible or obviously impossible, but I read them all just the same.

These days I’m feeling extra in need of those to-do lists. I’m very lucky and grateful to still have a job that’s paying me my full salary. And I’m grateful for general health, home stability, community and family.

So what’s there to bellyache about? How about I just make a list:

  • I’m struggling with exercise of any sort after having been so sedentary for months;
  • I’m struggling with severe self-judgment about the above;
  • I’m floundering amidst the lack of external structure that usually helps me regulate my sleep, eating, activity, and social contacts;
  • I’m worrying about the future, both immediate and longer term;
  • I’m afraid of backsliding so far that I can’t catch up to resume a life that resembles what I had before March of this year;
  • insert whatever I can’t bring myself to say or even countenance, but which brushes up against me and causes strife.

Okay, you might be thinking: whoa, that’s pretty heavy (while backing slowly away from this post…)

No idea what this is an image of, but I like the message: that's a big list but anyways best of luck :)
No idea what this is an image of, but I like the message: that’s a big list but anyways best of luck 🙂

Now that I’ve made my list, let’s start with the first item: struggling with exercise. What sorts of lists can I find to help with this?

The Washington post’s list for those struggling to move during the pandemic says this:

  1. be kind to yourself;
  2. set new goals;
  3. stay accountable;
  4. look forward (to how you feel after exercising).

What about all that self-judgment? I’d like to be kinder to myself, but what should I do?

Self magazine has a list of ways to be nicer to ourselves when things are tough– here are a few that I liked:

  1. don’t worry about keeping up with the news;
  2. be nice to yourself if you can’t stop keeping up with the news;
  3. feel free to wear what you want;
  4. be kind to yourself if your place seems messy to you;
  5. be accepting of whatever sleep schedule you have;
  6. give yourself plenty of time and space to do nothing.

I was looking for self-help lists for dealing with fear about the future, and accidentally came across this article, translated from French, in which several experts comment on my worst Armageddon-type coronavirus fears in great detail. Don’t read that article if you want to sleep tonight.

Luckily, I found a nice list from this article in the NY Times about managing pandemic-related anxiety and uncertainty:

  1. know the facts;
  2. put the pandemic into perspective;
  3. identify sources of anxiety;
  4. refrain from shaming and blaming;
  5. don’t be afraid to ask for help;
  6. prepare as best you can for future uncertainty;
  7. connect connect connect;
  8. practice self-care.

There’s certainly a theme to these lists. All of them remind us that we are not alone, that for many of us, movement helps us feel better, and that being stern with ourselves is not a good idea (right now, or maybe ever).

None of these is the perfect list. But I’ve found it! I was inspired by listening to the podcast In the Dark’s series on Coronavirus in the Delta, episode 2– inside Parchman Prison in Mississippi. You can read about it and get the link to listen here.

Here’s the perfect self-help list:

  1. breathe slowly in;
  2. breathe slowly out;
  3. breathe slowly in;
  4. breathe slowly out;
  5. breathe slowly in;
  6. breathe slowly out;
  7. repeat.

I think that’s it for right now. I can do this. You can do this. Let’s keep doing this.

Woman with eyes closed, breathing. By Allie for Unsplash.

What are you doing to deal with what’s causing you struggle these days? I’d love your tips, lists, or any comments you’d like to share.

2 thoughts on “In search of the perfect self-help list

  1. p.s. i love that “big list best of luck” image–the unfulfilled (as yet) promise of wings to bear away the giant cannon ball of weight–what we are all waiting for in this moment.

    Liked by 1 person

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