How to make yourself feel better when you can’t do much

Going through life’s ups and downs is really ridiculously hard and it takes some real work to get through hard times and come out the other side with a smile on your face.

I know that through personal experience and I have a few tried and true methods to get a quick happy hit when things aren’t going as I’d like.

My personal favourite is the (probably unhealthy) emotional eating approach. I tend to treat myself to something nice if I’ve had  hard day (“I deserve an ice cream for getting through today”), if I’ve had a great day (“I earned a hamburger for getting that project live on deadline”) or if I’m not feeling well/have had treatment/just feel like it (“life is too short to not eat biscuits”).

I also have an affinity with exercise to get that endorphin hit. Like a spin class to get that sweaty, happy glow, a martial arts class to release some anger, or a dance class as a pick-me-up when I’m feeling down.

But what happens if you can’t do your tried and true anymore and you end up left high and dry?

I’ve been going through some pretty rough GI issues and because of them I can’t eat any of my classic comfort food (or almost anything fun at all), I can’t drink beer, and I can’t exercise beyond a  short walk when I’m having a good day.

So what’s a girl to do to get through the hard days without any of the most obvious mood boosters?

Well, she googles, asks around, and tries out some new things that take less energy but give the small happy boosts that she needs to push through the rough period she’s going through.

So, based on my personal faves and some of my research I’ve compiled an incomplete list of ideas.

An incomplete list of ideas of mood-boosters for people who can’t do much:

1. Eat breakfast outside.

If you have this option, there’s something about starting the day with some fresh air in your lungs and that slight chill on your skin (keep warm though!). Having breakfast outside has helped me be more grateful for the view I have from my place and start the day actively doing something for myself rather than just shoveling food down and running to work.

2. Take a walk in nature.

If you are able to walk, it makes the world of difference to do it in a park, a forest or by water. Science has proven that making a connection with nature is good for your mental health – so even if you can’t make it to a park, maybe just try and appreciate some pot plants around your house, or small weedy flowers growing through cracks in the concrete to give yourself a small lift.

3. Start a gratitude journal.

The power of gratitude is one of those things that’s becoming more “mainstream” but it’s for good reason. If you start and finish your day thinking about three things you’re grateful for and reflecting on the positives of your day, it begins to shift your perspective on the world.

This can be super hard when you feel terrible and are not sure there is much to be grateful of. But there is always, always, always something. Always. Your gratefulness could be a wonderful partner, a roof over your head, the wonders of modern medicine, or it could be gratefulness towards the creator of Netflix, to soft toilet paper and to the food that you manage to keep down (*cough cough* not speaking from personal experience).

4. Get colouring.

I’m not good at meditation – my mind runs amok – so I prefer my mindfulness to come from things like colouring in a nice pattern in an adult colouring book. These got me through some really lonely, sick times, and have also been good to calm myself down when I’ve been really upset. Big fan.

5. Make yourself something nice to drink.

I used to brew beer, and there is something really nice about drinking the ales that I had made. Now that’s not really an options, I’m looking at other things to replace this with. Cold brew coffee is an easy way to make that caffeine kick in the morning particularly delicious and simple by brewing it on the weekend and having it during the week with some fizzy water.

If you can’t do coffee, maybe try out some iced tea – this should last in the fridge for 3-4 days and you can add in some fruit to make it a super refreshing drink to jazz up your day and surprise visitors with. If you have to stay hydrated, may as well do it with style.

6. Bake for others.

If you have the energy to bake, it could be nice to try to do it in a way you can share it with friends, family or co-workers. Not only do you get delicious baked goods, but you also get to share it with others, and let’s be honest, they’ll be so happy, that you’ll definitely get that lovely oxytocin hit for your selfless (a bit selfish too) deeds.

7. Treat yo’self.

It feels better than it looks, promise. 

There are so many ways to beautify to treat yourself. You could put on a face mask, paint your nails, do a body scrub, or have a nice bath with a bath bomb while watching Netflix on your phone. Try out a new hairdo, or do your make up and practice contouring while watching some YouTube tutorials. Then take some selfies and just feel nice, especially when you really might not be feeling that way day-to-day.

Depending on how much energy you have, you could maybe even do this by getting a friend/friends over and creating your own homemade beauty products and having a pamper night in pajamas and watching “Now and Then”.  (Note to self: Organise this ASAP.)

8. Have a movie night.

Get some movie snacks, make some popcorn, pop on a onesie and put on a pot of tea. Cosy up in a blanket and put on your favourite, feel-good movies. Probably not much different than a quiet night in, but just make it that little bit more special to feel more like you’re doing something for yourself.

9. Start a new hobby.

Lose a hobby, create a new one. I’ve replaced exercise with blogging which is really helpful for me and my mental health. I know that other people with chronic illnesses who have picked up other hobbies like knitting, poetry, drawing, or photography. Not only can these be nice distractions and a form of mindfulness, but they can also be turned into small businesses, gifts or just something nice you can share or enjoy for yourself.

10. Stretch it out.

I know that yoga is the classic go-to for exercise for sick people, but it is for a pretty good reason. When I’m unwell but start to get some energy back, I like to go on YouTube and look up “low intensity yoga” and see if I can find a nice gentle class that focuses on stretches, twists, and maybe a little bit of down dog.

Feeling ill and needing to sit/lie down a lot makes you feel stiff and weak and integrating some gentle yoga or stretches helps to loosen up and maybe build some strength.


I’m no pro, and I’m personally compiling this list as I work through it. My life is currently a rollercoaster and is throwing lots of obstacles around to keep it interesting, so I am more than open to any recommendations from other sick peeps with what they do! So, what do you do to keep positive when you’re chronically ill or your issues are flaring up?

Let me know your tips and tricks and I can update this list and share the love for anyone who may come across it 🙂

Charlie x

Share the love 💕

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *