how to take care of yourself when the world feels heavy

The world feels particularly heavy these days. 

Another period of lockdown in many countries combined with political chaos just as the days are getting darker is making many people feel unsettled, anxious and sad. 

So how can you take care of yourself when the world feels heavy? 

On the Ten Percent Happier podcast, Lama Rod Owens describes taking care of yourself as “trying to reduce the discomfort and harm for ourselves and others around us”. I thought this sounded so apt.

Taking care of ourselves is not just a fad, a thing that’s become fashionable. Taking care of ourselves means taking care of the only person who we’ll always be with. The person who we’ll always be around. The person whose wellbeing determines more than any other person’s how we are in the world. 


“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” – Audre Lorde


5 ways to take care of yourself when the world feels heavy 

re-establish your boundaries

I often talk about the importance of setting boundaries when it comes to work-life balance, but setting boundaries is important in all parts of life. 

Some boundaries to set or re-affirm at a time like this are: 

  • when you work and when you don’t work
  • what you consume, especially in terms of media, and how much of it
  • the kinds of sounds you listen to, the smells you smell, the things you physically feel 

In practical terms this might look like:

  • establishing at the beginning  of the day when you’re working and when you’re not, and sticking to that. Communicating it to others adds accountability
  • avoid the news in all forms: keep the TV turned off, avoid or block news websites + rely on a few trusted (government) resources that don’t promote constant scrolling + refreshing for your information
  • delete social media apps, or at least reconsider how you use them
  • listen to soothing music, or music that uplifts you. Find a playlist on YouTube or Spotify, or create your own (or dig out an old CD!)
Want more ideas?

Download my free resource seven days of gentle rest + joy. I put together in the Spring with the pandemic in mind. It’s free for newsletter subscribers.


embrace ritual

Rituals can be hugely comforting, and are a great way to transition from one activity or feeling to the next. They are also a great way to take care of yourself when the world feels particularly heavy.

Some ideas for rituals for dark days: 

  • take walks when it’s still light out as much as possible to soak up much-needed vitamin D
  • light candles and draw curtains at the end of the day
  • put on comfortable clothes to signal the end of the work day
  • wear a particular scent to uplift you throughout the day (I love rose oil)


conserve your energy

Boundaries are important here too. When you don’t have a lot of energy to spare, making sure that you stop working on time, or earlier than usual, is even more important. 

It’s also important to step away from conversations that might be fuelling your sadness or anger. Try telling a partner, friend, or family member that you’d rather not talk about whatever world event/pandemic/whatever is causing anxiety. I like to say ’tell me something happy’ to my partner as a shorthand for this, and it works. 


what you focus on grows 

Shift your attention. Yes, a lot of things are hard, sad and heartbreaking in the world. We might even be affected by those things personally. 

But we can try to shift our attention, if only for a brief moment.

Take a moment to look outside. Which natural things can you see? Can you observe a bird? Do you notice changes from previous days or weeks? 

We might do the same inside the house, by observing a pet, loved one, or houseplant. 

How to take care of yourself when the world feels heavy includes embracing rituals such as lighting candles.


make a list of things to look forward to

This one is hard.

Around this time of year my partner and I usually plan a weekend away together. Just two days away is often enough to recharge—and there’s weeks of looking forward to this as well.

Needless to say, that’s not happening this Autumn/Winter. Instead, we’ve planned a staycation weekend for the end of November. We’ve blocked out the weekend in our calendars and will not be spending any of that time on chores around the house or work. I’ve planned food delivery from our favourite restaurant, and we’re drawing up a list of films to watch. 

Small pleasures to look forward to:

  • try out a new tea flavour
  • stack up on books or magazines
  • go for a walk in a different location
  • watch a new film or TV series (I’ve been loving Anne with an E), or rewatch an old favourite 

What are some ways that you can take care of yourself right now?

Some favourite resources:

Want more ideas?

Download my free resource seven days of gentle rest + joy. I put together in the Spring with the pandemic in mind. It’s free for newsletter subscribers.

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