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57 Self-Care Ideas for a Bad Mental Health Day

It can be difficult to practice self-care during the moments we need it most. On bad mental health days, when everything is dark, when our bodies fill with panic and nothing feels OK, it’s like we completely forget how to take care of ourselves. It’s so tempting to fight against it, or just “will” the bad feelings to go away — and then just as tempting to beat yourself up when it doesn’t all get better with sheer willpower alone.

That’s when it’s time to pause, take a breath and take care of yourself. Self-care is a practice, and having a go-to list to turn to can help when life gets tough.

To get some ideas from people who’ve been there, we turned to our mental health community and asked them to share their tips for coping during a bad mental health day. We hope their self-care tips inspire you. You deserve to give yourself some love during these dark moments, just like you would a friend. Doing so isn’t selfish — it’s survival — and we can’t take care of others until we take care of ourselves.

Here’s what they shared with us:

  1. “Shower. It’s so basic, but if you’re going through a really bad rough patch you can forget about it completely. When you get out, you feel fresh and beautiful again — which is a huge boost to me.” — Nina F.
  2. “Lots of chocolate and Netflix in bed.” — Zara M.
  3. “Turning my phone off!” — Valerie C.
  4. “Giving myself permission to self-validate that I’m having a bad day. And I remember that these moments came to pass and practice gratitude, because then my perspective loosens up.” — Holli E.
  5. “Go out for a walk. Take a bath. Have some tea.” — Sandi C.
  6. “Cuddle and kiss my dogs.” — Auror B.
  7. I try to utilize my senses, like mindfulness skills, and I try to watch something upbeat. I’ve probably seen every episode of ‘Modern Family’ multiple times. I light a candle, usually lavender. Eating a piece of chocolate or drinking really cold water. Soaking in the tub with a Lush bath bomb. Listen to music. Color. And my cat is one of my best friends. She’s very empathetic and the softness of her fur and her adorable purr is soothing.” — Leigh A.
  8. Music, instantly. I think a few genres of songs really are helpful. Days like this happen a lot, and knowing the turn-out, it’s different for me. Music helps me think straight, and lyrics help too.” — Hunter P.
  9. I like taking a long hot bath and reading. It is literally the most relaxing thing ever.” — Jessica C.
  10. “Bullet journaling and a comforting favorite TV show.” — Kae-jo W.
  11. “Writing letters all around the world and watching a series at the same time. I absolutely love it and it works.” — Mika M.
  12. “I listen to my favorite ‘calm down’ song, ‘Details in the Fabric‘ by Jason Mraz, and pray.” — Nova T.
  13. “I watch ‘Friends’ on repeat. I know it all by heart and it’s comforting.” — Iga Ż.
  14. “Taking my medicine daily and just taking it one day at a time, one hour at a time or just even one minute at a time.” — Lee W.
  15. “A nice nap under a warm blanket with music in the background.” — Julissa R.
  16. “Journaling. Listening to music. Going for a walk or to the gym.” — James T.
  17. “Coloring in mandalas. They’ve helped me get through some of the toughest times with anxiety, PTSD, an eating disorder and a chronic illness. There’s something so soothing about the repetitive patterns and empowering about choosing the color scheme and process I take to color each one.” — Cate M.
  18. Any guided meditation that I find the music and narrator’s voice soothing.” — Holly B.
  19. “I get in my car and drive down to the beach, put on my music and watch the waves. So relaxing.” — Renee C.
  20. “Usually I read a book or scroll through Facebook for a while. It seems to take my mind off all the messiness in my head.” — Leslee B. 
  21. “I buy myself flowers. I love picking up the different bouquets and smelling them, and finding the brightest ones. They can really lighten up a room, and every time I look at them, I remember self-love. Selfishness isn’t always bad!” — Chelsea J.
  22. “I watch anything with Robin Williams. He always makes my day a bit better.” — Meesh M.
  23. “I take a bath with a glitter bath bomb and I suddenly focus on all the glitter around me and begin to relax.” — Kimy B.
  24. “Sing — put on a good classic CD and sing my heart out. (Maybe have a boogie while I’m at it.) Works at home and in the car.” — Sara C.
  25. “Watching ‘Family Guy.’” — Brandon C.
  26. “During a depression episode, trying to brush my teeth even if I plan on staying in bed all day. It’s small, but I find it helps motivate me even if it’s just to stay up a few extra hours a day.” — Cori A.
  27. “Art is my best way of escaping from suicidal thoughts. I’m not a professional artist, but you can get really good stuff as you’re releasing your pain into a piece of art. It really works for me. In addition, I’m always listening to my favorite music, it is my therapy as well. Pain can be transformed into something beautiful and positive.” — Bell G.
  28. “A bath! Water is so healing to me. Submerging myself for however long I need. I can read, listen to music or just sit on my phone. Just sitting in warm water with candles and pleasant scents can calm me so much.” — Alyse R.
  29. “As a makeup artist, I find skincare can be not only beneficial for my skin, but it also helps make me slow down and not self deprecate constantly. I always feel a little happier afterwards!” — Nova M.
  30. “Just talk about it. Try to open up and let someone know what you are feeling. It really helps to just be heard.” — Tammy F.
  31. “Self-care for me is doing something I love. Or being with someone I love. I either spend time with my boyfriend and daughter or I treat myself to some sushi.” — Janet B.
  32. “I dance to music. It takes my mind of things for a while. I forget all my thoughts and just listen carefully to the lyrics and express myself.” — Lily B.
  33. “Write. Always write whatever comes on you mind. And if nothing comes on your mind, just write anything that makes no sense. It helps calm your mind.” — Mishal S.
  34. “Writing my goals and my strengths and what I’m grateful of. Having a relaxing bath. Putting in time to clean my room. Good music and sports. Going for a walk near the sea or country side always changes my point of view.” — Ruth D.
  35. “My go-to self-care is anything that keeps my hands busy and mind distracted. My main two are water painting and origami. They calm me down so much.” — Lily G.
  36. “Sex! When I care deeply about the person, I can put my whole body and soul into it. The closeness with someone who you love not only distracts you, but reminds you that you are loved. There’s nothing like it!” — Elissa M.
  37. ” I have a few animated movies that always makes me feel better. ‘Tangled,’ ‘Brave’ and ‘Moana.’ On a bad day I’ll put on one of those and burrow under a blanket. I don’t even need to pay attention, I can read or play games on my phone. Just the sound of them is soothing to me now.” — Michelle M.
  38. “Playing piano. It helps me relax, release my feelings and feels like I’m doing something well. The piano has been and always will be one of my best friends, because it’s always there, never judging my ability and helping me become better at what I love.” — Jacinta M.
  39. “The thing that seems to help the most is doing something for someone else. Seeing them smile. Not much better feeling when you know you’ve made a difference to someone.” — Becka M.
  40. “I blast my favorite music to shut out the world, and then I paint, draw or write. Sometimes all three and other times only one. I find it very therapeutic to get what I am thinking and feeling out on a canvas or several pages of my journal.” — Moon N.
  41. “I find that spending time with my cat is always a good form of self-care! Taking care of him gives me purpose and reminds me I am loved.” — Caroline R.
  42. “I sit in my car or shower and cry. I think about the last time I felt that way, and how I felt like it wasn’t going to end — but it did. And it will end again this time. I let myself cry it out and think about all the great things that have happened in between bad days. Gives me hope that after the feeling passes, something exciting is just around the corner.” — Ashlee B.
  43. “I try to accept my feelings and be understanding towards myself about why certain things are harder for me than for others. I say to myself: ‘Look, how far you’ve already come’ and try to be proud of me, even though that’s very hard and I don’t feel it. I remind myself I’m taking steps to become healthier every day and that one day things won’t be so hard anymore.” — Atte M.
  44. “Books. If it’s really bad. Music and books. Did it last night and got a smile on my face. I just love reading. Especially romance. I also love when the music actually lines up with the mood of the book. That happened once last night. I busted out crying because of the beauty. Letting go of some of the tears helps me, too.” — Samantha V.
  45. Lately It’s been watching Disney movies or listening to Disney songs. They make me happy and reminds me of times when life was easier… when I was a kid.” — Katie S.
  46. “Reading books. It transports me to another world and helps me calm down and feel better about whatever is happening in real life.” — Maycie W.
  47. “Get moving. Stay strong as always it will pass. Remember you’re pretty good at this. Or if all else fails, have a nap, sleep it off and repeat.” — Jodie H.
  48. “It may sound odd/trivial, but for me watching ‘The Simpsons’– it’s my go-to feel good program that never fails to put a smile on my face. I’m slowly building up all the DVDs so I always have episodes to watch.” — Becki K.
  49. Sometimes just saying ‘enough’ and going to bed early. Letting myself rest when I’m trying to constantly push through.” — Kalie E.
  50. “Eating ice cream while in a warm bath.” — Erica M.
  51. “I go to my husband and he holds me tight and tells me it’s gonna be OK. We work at the same place and he’ll walk by and mouth ‘I love you’ and reminds me to take deep breaths.” — Kimberly A.
  52. Getting out with my little boy. Even if it’s just to the park, just doing something he enjoys. Seeing the smile on his face is all I need some days and the darkness goes away.” — Georgia C.
  53. “A face mask! I particularly love a peel off the honey one. I feel super relaxed afterwards and it makes me feel like I’ve peeled the bad day away.” — Adele M.
  54. “Tea with honey and laughter. Doing one activity that is something I alone love. Maybe watching standup or ‘New Girl.’ If I can go, I’ll go to the beach behind my house and sit.” — Lindsay G.
  55. “So many of them and I’m still discovering more. The one I use the most is slowing down, caressing my own hands, breathing deeply and probably stretching my muscles if I can at the time, all of this is even better if I’m barefoot. It’s all about releasing myself of the pressures and reminding myself how worthy I am, with every beat of my heart, of care, of respect.” — Luah L.
  56. “I leave the house or make sure I distract myself by keeping myself busy (like putting all of my attention and giving lots effort on my work) I trick my mind basically. I can’t stay in or do nothing because I tend to overthink and it makes things waaaay worse!” — Anna C.
  57. “Following the massive craze of painting rocks and hiding them in England, I made a Facebook group called Positive Rocks Scotland. I find painting rocks so relaxing and therapeutic. I then find going on a walk and hiding the painted rocks around the city exciting and it’s an extra wee buzz when people find them and post to the Facebook group. Spreading smiles and positivity to others is my self-care.” — Hla E.

What would you add?

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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