How focussing on yourself can help you feel better

Often, we get caught up in what we need to get done and we forget to look after ourselves. Or at least I do. Sometimes something is just so important it can't be put off - like a major report due to your boss or instructor - that we forget we need to take a moment for ourselves too.

I often get sucked into the vortex of work, work and more work. The finish line can feel so close that I become consumed in what needs to get done. But I learned some things I can remember to do to help myself feel better and be more functional. These all have to do with focussing on how I’m feeling and remembering to take a second to take care of myself. Over the years, I’ve found that the most important thing is making sure I focus on how I’m feeling. So, here is my own list of tips to get through some really busy times in your life (these are things that I have come up with on my own and are not reflective of medical advice).

Write a list of things that comfort you

If you’re having a hard time coming up with a list, think of the following questions:

  • What makes me happy?

  • What is comforting to be around?

  • What helps me relax?

  • What are my favourite things?

Answering these questions can help you find different things that have positive impacts on you and help you figure out which of those things you can do.

Did you write it? Okay, now find what can be related to those things. For me, the most relaxing place is sitting near my lake but since I live in snow for half of the year I’m not really able to be near water all the time. So, I have an app on my phone so I can listen to the sound of waves while I read.

Try to find different things that you enjoy doing and things that bring you peace.

Now you can also write a list of the things can have a negative impact on you. This can help you to determine which things in your life or in your space are causing you more stress.

If it helps, answer these questions:

  • What makes me anxious?

  • What causes me the most stress?

  • What makes my tasks more difficult to finish?

This list can help you to avoid the things that have a negative influence on you so you can focus on the positives and try to bring in more of the things that make you comfortable.

When you feel overwhelmed - stop

It may feel like if you keep working, or trying to do whatever it is you’re trying to do, you’ll be able to get it done sooner. Even if it means you work yourself too hard. But, it’s better to recognize if you’re getting frustrated or need a break. When you do, get up for a few minutes or even an hour if you really need to, and come back to it later. Once you’ve had a second to relax, it might be easier to refocus and finish what you need to.

Do what YOU need to do

We often place our responsibilities at the top of our priority list. But that isn’t always the best way to go about getting things done. This goes along with the last point about stopping to take a break because there are lots of things we’ll always need to get done, whether that’s bills, studying, planning a project or even taking the dog for a walk, but what’s most important is making sure you’re prepared to handle those responsibilities.

Taking a few moments, or hours, to do something that helps you refocus and relax can make all of the difference in the quality of your other work. If you’re overworked, it’ll show and you may not produce the results you want.

Make sure you check in with yourself to recognize when you need to take a break.

Take a nap, go for a walk, eat something nutritious, do some yoga or a workout, or even just take some time to watch a few episodes of your favourite show if that’s what you need.

We all need something different at different times in our lives so that just means you need to find what’ll work for you.

This doesn’t mean to push off your responsibilities altogether, but make sure you take care of yourself so you are able to successfully complete your tasks.

Be mindful of how you’re feeling and do something about it

Sometimes there is so much going on that we don’t check in with ourselves to see how we’re handling all of it. This can quickly become overwhelming and may have a negative impact on you. If you’re feeling stressed, recognize that and learn what you can do to help yourself stay relaxed and focused.

For me, keeping a list on my desk of the things I need to get done is helpful because I’m not overwhelmed by trying to remember everything at once. But sometimes, working for too long or on too many things at once can cause me a lot of stress. These are the times when I have learned to recognize when I’m going into overload and need to take a second.

Doing something about how you’re feeling is important. If you recognize a negative feeling, learning how you can personally deal with that will help you build resiliency and know how you can deal with those feelings in the future.

Here’s my list of check-ins to figure out when I need to take some time:

  • Is my mind jumping from task to task?

  • Am I getting easily frustrated/angry?

  • Am I becoming sad/upset?

  • Am I feeling overwhelmed?

These are the questions I ask myself while I study or work on big projects. They all help me recognize when I need to step away for a break and by recognizing what is causing these negative feelings I am better able to figure out how I can help myself refocus. Once I am able to answer these questions, I think of my list of comforting things and try to do one of those.

For example, if I am getting easily frustrated and my mind is jumping around, that’s a good sign for me that I probably need to make sure I drink some water and take 10 or 15 minutes to stretch. I lack focus when I’m dehydrated and get more frustrated when I’m tense, so by drinking water and stretching I’m giving my body what it needs and allowing it the time to relax so my mind can do the same.

and finally…

Remember to drink water

Seriously, I know this is something everyone says but whenever I get really busy I tend to forget to be drinking as much as I should. So, I try to have a glass of water every morning and remind myself to keep a glass of water or reusable water bottle with me at all times so I can drink water whenever I need to. Having it with you is a good reminder and helps you stay hydrated all day.


Please note: These are some of the things I have come up with for myself over the years and this is by no means medical advice. This list is an idea that can help you figure out what can be more positive in your life but it is not treatment for any type of mental health illness.

Jennifer P