The first sniffle of a cold or the first twinge of a sore throat sets me into super-healthy mode. Green smoothies, Emergen-C, tea and plenty of rest is my immediate response.
Why don’t I practice that level of self-care on a regular basis? We will never know.
"Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort."
But that’s beside the point. When I even have a hunch that I’m getting sick, I jump into immediate action so that I can avoid a week of sniffles, sneezes and inevitable earaches that follow.
I’ve recently decided to do the same thing with my mental health, as part of my burgeoning effort to treat my mind with the same care as I treat my body. Enter: my Bright List.
The Bright List
This is one of those self-care practices that can seem a little silly or embarrassing, but it’s helpful when it comes to having a tangible plan for taking care of yourself before your day gets out of hand.
Here’s what it is: a list of everything you can do in small spaces of time when you feel that first lump of stress or anxiety in your throat.
I keep this list by my desk at home, but it could be a great list to keep at the office as well. I’ve even popped it onto a spreadsheet in my Google Drive because that’s how I roll.
Here’s how it works: When I start to feel bad, I do something on my list. I’ll usually resume my work or whatever I was doing before, but if I need more I’ll go back and do another item.
Do what makes you feel brighter until you feel better.
My list includes some super basic (and some necessary) items. But sometimes you just need something to tell you what to do, even when it’s obvious:
- Make tea
- Walk around the block
- Pet my rabbits
- Drink a glass of water
- Change clothes
- Make bed
I added a list of my favorite pick-me-up songs too. Don’t judge:
- You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC
- Blank Space by Taylor Swift
- Roar by Katy Perry
- Good Intent by Kimbra
- Lonely Boy by The Black Keys
- Can't Get Enough of You Baby by Smash Mouth
How to create your own Bright List
First, draft up a list of everything that has the potential to improve your mood. There are no bad ideas when brainstorming.
Think of regular routine things that you can do in the environment that causes you most stress. Do you work an office job? You might be able to walk around the building, listen to a favorite song, stretch in the bathroom or make yourself a cup of tea.
I used to purposefully drink tons of water just for the excuse of getting up to go the restroom at one of my particularly grueling office jobs. (They'd write people up for stepping outside during work hours.)
Then group the items into how long each would take. I keep my list to five, ten, and fifteen minute practices so that I can choose which best fits my schedule and my surroundings.
I tend to avoid anything over fifteen minutes, because that can add stress into my day if it wasn’t previously scheduled.
Finally, pick your format! Spreadsheets, word docs, and handwritten pages or sticky notes all work.
What NOT to include
There are a few things I’ve deliberately left off the list. These are things that either provide too much of a distraction or aren’t a productive solution to my doldrums.
Anything that involves spending money (like shopping or buying a coffee)
- Anything that promotes unhealthy behaviors (like solving a bad mood with a beer)
- Anything that involves a screen, other than music (Instagram and YouTube can draw you in for too long)
- Anything that takes over fifteen minutes
This can vary based on what really makes you feel a little more cheerful on a rough day, but be careful not to select things that make any issues worse.
Always remember preventative self-care
Is this practice foolproof? Of course not. Keeping up with regular, preventative self-care practices is the best way to avoid frequent bad days.
Take this as a “permission list” if you will. This list both reminds you and allows you to take a few minutes of your day to take care of yourself.
What is your essential practice for maintaining a balanced day?