Written by: Janylene Turcotte, Cl.hyp, ACC, RTT, Executive Contributor
THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED FIRST IN BRAINZ MAGAZINE
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Have you ever noticed that it’s very hard to find the drive to get things done and get in 'action mode' when we are in a bad place? While we are all entitled to 'have a bad day' and stay in bed, which can feel like a treat once, in a while, there is a simple trick you can use to help you 'snap out of it' when you are feeling under the weather or going through a particularly rough patch.
When I was going through a fragile time in my life, I came up with the idea of a list that I could refer to when I was bored, feeling lonely, or simply overwhelmed. The idea was to build a 'TO-GO' list—a list of things that I could do to pick myself up and get my mind and body in motion.
This was designed to be a support tool, that, when combined with therapy, coaching, and/or other methods, could help me move forward.
The trick is to build this tool while you are feeling well — contrary to what I did — because, as you might already know when you are not feeling well, you are likely to be in 'preservation mode' and unmotivated to be creative or productive.
When you are mired in the dark hours of discontent and immobility, you are often confused; your concentration level is low, you lack energy, and just thinking about stepping out of this zone — let alone brainstorming on how to get out of it — is unbearable. Therefore, having a relief list on hand helps you catch yourself before you fall too far down and allows you to focus on something else, something more constructive.
You could call this a mindfulness strategy; one that allows you to reward yourself and feel good about taking even the 'smallest step' towards building up your morale.
I followed through on my idea — ignoring the judgemental comment someone made because they felt my undertaking of this list was trivial and childish ("You really need a list to know what to do???") — and wrote what I then called a 'What-to-do-when-I-feel-lonely' list—later renamed the 'TO GO' list. And, while it did feel somewhat like a kindergarten exercise, in hindsight, it proved to be a very helpful tool.
It is very important to understand that this is not meant to be a 'TO DO' list. There is no pressure, no obligation, and no penalty if you don’t accomplish the things that are listed. You can even repeat activities on the list. The point is not what you do, or how much, but that you take action in any form.
How to begin?
I started my list with the easy, obvious things. I walked around the kitchen and moved through each room, taking note of things that needed repair, things that annoyed me, and areas that needed some TLC. I didn't care if the things on the list would ever get done. My intent was not to create pressure, it was merely to have this 'TO-GO' list to help pick me up and out of the blues.
"Even A Small Gesture Can Feel Like A Giant Step Forward."
Some activities that made the list:
Go through my 'clutter' drawer and throw away anything I don’t need
Clean out my cosmetics and throw out old mascara, etc.
'Marie Kondo' my clothes (everything pink together, shirts together, etc)
Change the photo in a frame
Sort out old photos
Get rid of books I will never read again
Unsubscribe from email newsletters I have no use for
Screw in the electrical socket plate that I have never bothered doing; tighten the loose doorknob, etc.
In retrospect, I noticed that there was a lot of sorting, cleaning, and reorganizing. I suppose, subconsciously, it was a metaphor for what I needed to do in my actual life — make space and reorganizes — so organically, that's what came first.
When you are not well, when you are recovering, there are days when even blow-drying your hair is a monumental event and it makes you feel proud. Over time, my list became increasingly longer and it became almost like a game. Every time I decided to do something on my ‘TO-GO' list, I felt a sense of accomplishment, which in turn helped me rewire my brain, create new habits, and made me feel resourceful. These were teeny, tiny baby steps that contributed to a whole ecosystem of healing.
Eventually, I thought about more things I could do. Reading was too much — because I could not concentrate — I missed it, but I just could not read even one whole page. So, I added other, more attainable things:
Go for a walk
Listen to music
Take a bath with salts and oil (that was my favorite —I always ended up doing this one)
Call a friend
Make a fancy smoothie
Look at a recipe book
Write in my journal
Do an online yoga session
Eventually, the list got was two pages long! Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, nothing too social-media based. I used it, enhanced it, and added to it, and as I went along, I noticed that performing these small tasks really did help distract me from the immediacy of my situation. I was able to move on to something else and feel a sense of accomplishment
“When you are feeling profoundly down, every little action is filled with hope
At the end of the day, whatever works, works. The goal is to take responsibility for your own well-being. It is a phenomenal way to build self-confidence day-by-day, week-by-week, and month-by-month.
I strongly believe in a balanced, holistic approach when it comes to navigating very transformative moments in our lives. This 'TO-GO' list, when paired with other methods of support, can be a simple tool to nudge you forward. It is not a 'stand-alone' strategy, but one that will help you move the needle in a simple, inexpensive, and hands-on way.
If you, or someone you care about, are going through a particularly difficult time, I offer a free, 30-minute consultation to help you explore the strategies available to make a transformative difference in your life.