How I Take Care of Myself on the Hard Days (Mental Health)

Man with his back turned representing the hard days
Advice for the rough days

Some days, you wake up running low on hope. Everything feels heavier than it should, and you’re not sure if you can face the day.

I call these hard days, and they happen to me from time to time. I’m sure they happen to you too.

I don’t expect to always feel motivated or optimistic, so when these days do occur, I say to myself, “Ok, I’ve been here before. What can I do about it?”

Here are the things that help most on days like these:

Go Through the Motions on Hard Days

If you’re a student or an adult, then you probably have obligations to fulfill on any given day. Having a hard day makes these tasks feel overwhelming.

What I do is this: I resolve to myself that I’m going to maintain my life, so I make the commitment to just go through the motions. I take it one step at a time, one action at a time.

I don’t put a lot of passion into what I’m doing, and I don’t do it with a smile on my face. I do one task, like brushing my teeth, then I regroup and shoot for the next task. Having deeply ingrained habits helps here.

Sometimes, if I gain enough momentum, I start feeling hopeful again.

Creative Work

The last thing I want to do on a hard day is immerse myself in something that requires deep thought and self-expression.

But, if I fully dive into a creative task like writing, I can feel my burdens start to lift. If I’m lucky, I can enter into a flow state, and for a little while, I can transcend what was weighing me down. Creativity is therapeutic.

Making consistent progress in a hobby or creative outlet brightens up your life. Especially when you can track it over a long period.

Be With People You Care About

If you’re fortunate enough to have a real friend in your life, then days like these are when you call them up.

This makes me nervous. I always think, “I don’t want to burden them,” or, “They don’t want to hear about my problems.” But then I wonder, if they came to me looking for help, would I say “Ugh. Do you know how busy I am? I don’t have time for your problems.” No, I would not.

When I share what I’m feeling with a friend, especially an empathic friend, I become grounded. I see what was troubling me from a different angle. It’s hard to feel biased against yourself when someone else understands what you’re experiencing.

Problems get amplified the longer you keep them hidden.

Planning Something Fun on Hard Days

Sometimes you realize that you haven’t had a good time in a long time. Having one thing to look forward to can alleviate the burden you’re feeling.

I plan to do something I know I can get some joy from. I’ll watch a movie I’ve been meaning to see, or I’ll pick up an old role-playing game on Steam. Or it could be something less planned, like smoking weed and listening to music. Rainy lofi playlists on Spotify can save your soul on a bad day.

This one is simple. You try to add more joy to your life. It can be hard to enjoy things on hard days, but even a little bit of fun could potentially help.


You have to remember that you’ve been here before, and it didn’t stop you. You’ve survived 100% of your worst days. And odds are, today is not your worst day.

This is my way of practicing gratitude. I try to remember who I was in the past and who I am now. The contrast helps me keep moving forward. If you’ve only just begun to try and make your life better, then you need to give yourself credit for making the first step.

Of course, counting your blessings helps too. I try to think about the people who matter to me, the opportunities I have, and the health that allows me to pursue anything at all.

It sucks thinking about what’s good when everything feels bad, but it’s not for making yourself feel guilty. It’s for helping you feel gratitude.

Having a Heart to Heart With Yourself

Following from practicing gratitude, this is being there for yourself as a friend would. This is supporting yourself when you don’t want to take another step. I’ve done this standing in front of a mirror.

It’s natural for me to overthink and analyze things, so I try to analyze what’s causing me the most pain, and what can be done. It’s like I’m trying to map out the roots of the problem.

Sometimes I find clarity from doing this. It will feel like I had a difficult conversation that needed to happen eventually. If I can be honest with myself about why everything feels so wrong, then I can worry a bit less about what the problem might be. And I can feel a bit more self-compassion.

3 Things That Definitely Don’t Help on Hard Days

We all have vices, but the more I indulge when I’m in pain, the worse my mental state gets:

Binging Internet Videos

A few youtube videos can be entertaining, but an endless feed of increasingly upsetting content wreaks havoc on my mental health. It’s a numbing process, and falling down rabbit holes for hours almost always makes me feel worse.

Rotten Food

When I feel like garbage, I want to eat like garbage. It’s tempting to skip making dinner and pick up McDonald’s instead. But when I fall prey to temptation and feel all that nasty stuff swimming around in my gut, it only adds to the suffering.

Isolating and Not Speaking Up

The pain you experience privately will fester if you don’t get it out in the open. And when I have things to say that go unsaid, either out of shyness or a desire to prevent conflict, those things eat me up.

I’m starting to realize that speaking your peace is almost always the best thing to do. If you have something to say, you better say it.

Hard Days Pass

You do the best you can on days like this. The criteria for a successful day change on hard days. Sometimes, it’s more important to look after your health than it is to relentlessly cross everything off your to-do list.

Just try to do what’s best. Go to your therapy session, talk to your friends, drink water, and keep inching forward. You are nowhere near defeated, despite what your brain is telling yo