Things Fall Apart: 20 things that have helped me feel better

In the last year, Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she is exploring the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.

Sometimes, despite all the time passing (the anniversaries got through, the weeks, months even, gone by without grief, sadness or anger rearing their collective heads), you will, out of nowhere, feel low. On the one hand, you just have to sit with it, I suppose. Suppressing these things is the path to repressed anger, depression, dysfunctional coping. But while you’re sitting, there are things you can do that will make you feel better. Things that are a lift; not a band-aid. So I thought this week I’d make a listicle of some of the things that I have found most helpful, and of some of the hugely effective tips experts (who I am lucky enough to get to grill in interviews and call it work), have told me.

Related: I've come to know myself and do what's best for me

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  1. Make a listicle. It’s tantamount to doing nothing, but just writing down a list of things that the doing of will make you feel better instantly makes you feel, well, even just a tiny bit better. There’s a sort of contact high.
  2. Exercise in an entirely non-pressured way. Don’t set yourself the goal of doing a specific thing, it risks becoming some sort of insurmountable object for your tired, upset brain to beat itself up with. Just do…something. Move in some way. That could be a walk around the block, or to the local shop. A yoga class. A ten-minute run (yes, I have done this. Regularly. Put on loud, fast music and belt it around the block).
  3. Read a book; instant escapism and brain-rest. I get the aversion to Kindles, but having one means you will never have that just-finished-a-book-what-one-earth- will- I-read-next moment. Get a Kindle, always have a number of good books lined up ready to go.
  4. Even if you really feel like putting the duvet over your head, go outside. Ideally to a park, somewhere where you can do a full 360 turn and only see nature. Drink all the coffee required to work up the energy to do this.
  5. Cook yourself something nice.
  6. Listen to Fearne Cotton’s podcast Happy Place.
  7. Make another list, this one of ten movies you’re going to watch this autumn. The Work Wife and I are currently about to embark on a Winona back catalogue deep dive. I’m also doing the Brideshead Revisited boxset with another friend, and the Harry Potter movies with my younger cousin.
  8. Look after yourself in some tiny way. Paint your nails. Get your hair done. Put on body moisturiser. Treat yourself as something that is to be looked after, cared for.
  9. Tidy your house. I’m not suggesting a wholescale top to bottom deep clean. Even the thought of that will most likely just make you feel exhausted and you’ll fall at the first post. Pick one small task. Change all bed linen. Empty all bins. Do a wash and put another one away. Pick one small corner and fully reorganise and declutter it, every time you look at it there will be a kick of satisfaction.
  10. Stretch. Especially if you work sitting at a desk. Five minutes and you will feel better.
  11. Watch Netflix in bed. Basic, but effective.
  12. Plan a night out or a dinner party in with female friends.
  13. Listen to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast. This works on two levels. It’s Oprah, so it’s instantly comforting; the woman’s voice alone is about as close as you’ll get to an aural massage. There is also the unintentional comedy value. Her delivery occasionally borders on a parody of someone else “doing” Oprah. My favourites are when she stops her guest mid-sentence, and solemnly intones the line they’ve just said, several times, in the manner of an inspirational quote come to life, before chirpily announcing, ‘that’s a teachable moment’, or even better, ‘that’s tweetable’, whereupon she announces ‘tweety tweety tweet’.
  14. Have People-Without-Polite-Preamble. These are people who you can call or arrive upon in person and immediately go straight to how you are really feeling. They are close enough/up to date enough to know what’s going on (no preamble) and to know this isn’t your typical state, so they won’t be horrified if you break down in tears at the sight of them.
  15. Find empathisers rather than sympathisers. An empathiser gets it, that this is tough, but that these things happen, and life will go on. Sympathisers mean well, but sometimes all that pity is just upsetting. You will know them by the sympathetic head tilt with which they announce themselves at the sight of you.
  16. Speak to another woman. Be as honest as you can. You will invariably find that she has been through something too. And you will feel uplifted by the share.
  17. Keep telling yourself this will pass. Because it will. Remind yourself that you got there once, to that plateau of contentment with occasional bursts of happiness and joy. You will get back there.
  18. Figure out what your album is. Mine is Van Morrison’s No Guru No Method No Teacher. I can feel my shoulders drop and my whole body relax the minute that first song kicks in.
  19. Figure out if you are the kind of person who when not feeling great, needs alone time, or people time. And do whichever works for you.
  20. Read The Importance of Being Aisling, out last week. I was twenty-six when I really realised what the M50 was, so within The Pale was my upbringing. I have never been to Coppers and only to the Big Tree for a few visits in my twenties during a short, novelty fling with a barman working there, but the first book gave me a warm nostalgic glow for a past I never had. These books are the equivalent of tea and toast. Always a good idea.

Photo: Unsplash

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