Self-Comforting Through Difficult Times

Therapy is not just something “delivered” by another person for a scheduled time each week. To ensure our own mental health, we need to look for opportunities to help ourselves outside of therapy sessions. Therapists realise this and often will recommend tasks to be completed between sessions. Sometimes these tasks involve reading a book – within the therapeutic relationship, this is called a number of things, including “bibliotherapy”. Sometimes, clients will be asked to watch for certain things and then make note for discussion at the next session. These can be wonderful tasks, that can be focused upon in therapy.

What about things to do between sessions or once sessions have ended? What sorts of things can you do to help yourself? Learning as much as possible can be empowering (and I will discuss that in a post soon), but second to that focus, I try to self-nurture.

Think about it like this – if you had a friend who was down, what would you do? Maybe you would take over some soup. Maybe you would buy them something nice that you thought would cheer them up. What might cheer them up? Flowers? A book? Music? A new robe? I am going to say this with emphasis – THE CARING, NURTURING, LOVING APPROACH THAT YOU TAKE WITH OTHERS, YOU CAN TAKE WITH YOURSELF. Now, I can hear responses. “That would be self-indulgent!” “I would feel silly!” Toss all of those notions out the window.

Now, most of us practice SOME aspects of self-nurturing. Who hasn’t gone on a big shopping spree to help their moods? The problem is that caring for yourself can be sporadic and tends to fail the most when you most need it. Would you be happy with a friend who was inconsistent with help and never showed up when you needed them the most? Don’t be that sort of friend to yourself!

Me? I have a lot of self-care ready and waiting. The long, wet New Zealand winters are hard to bare, so I have a stack of books I love on standby (ordered during summer) and I have some incredibly comfortable nightshirts I order from Ireland (also in summer). What else? When my moods are down, I have one of my guitars sitting next to my bed and I strum and sing to myself. I have framed art made by my son and put around the house. This always cheers me up. When dealing with bullies professionally, I have been known to buy some herbal teas during the day and come home to a movie, fluffy robe and herbal tea. When I find myself dealing repeatedly with people who lack commitment to quality in their lives (not within counselling, of course, but other contexts), I add that much more beauty, quality and intellect to my own. I have enrolled in another course to fill this current gap.

Things I love to raise my mood
Things I love to raise my mood

Today? Drinking coffee from the “Best Dad Ever” cup that my son gave me a few years ago, while I read some history (I love history) and meditating with my turquoise mala (which reminds me of where I grew up).

Yes, seek professional help when you need it, but ALSO take responsibility for yourself, as you would for a dear friend or family member. You deserve to be cared for and who knows your needs better?

Looking for positives

After you have been depressed awhile, the cycle of negative thoughts can make it seem like an impossible task to find joy anywhere.

Weather moods and depression
View from my window which lifted my mood

To help pull oneself out of these negative moods, different things can be effective – some go for walks (especially in nature), some listen to music, some look for creative outlets (like painting or playing a musical instrument). I was feeling a bit gloomy the other day and began to look for positive things. They really are everywhere. I saw the rainbow in the photo below from my window at home. The view helped my mood and I hope it has helped yours, too.

Find things you enjoy and even when you feel down – especially when you feel down – treat yourself. Positives are everywhere!


I began meditating before my son was born, because I wanted to be relaxed for him. I was 36 and had normal stresses, but wanted to be as positive an influence as possible on our baby. I wasn’t interested in religion (I had put religion behind me more than a decade before). I have found many benefits in mediation – clearer thinking, settled mind, a deeper perspective on life generally and troubles specifically, as well as many physiological benefits.

While I spent a number of years with om mani padme hum, lately I have found “OM” alone preferred. While meditating can be on one’s breath, visualisations and other stimuli, I find the pattern of chanting helps to settle my racing mind quickly and has effects that can last days (depending on how much I listen to the chanting).

If you are anxious and need out of your head, I would recommend the following:

Modifying moods through exercise

It can be difficult to deal with the gloom at times. The worst thing to do for your moods can seem the most natural – to stay in bed and brood over the things working through your mind. One of the things that can most help with moods can seem the most difficult to do. To get out of bed and exercise can produce chemicals to help with your moods and being able to focus on the things around you, as you walk, can be incredibly therapeutic.

Exercise for depression
Walking behind our house

I went on a walk today with my son. The wind on my face, the warmth of the sun, the sound of his voice, the feeling of the gravel shifting beneath my feet. All of these things helped to ground me in a place outside of my head. We walked a path behind our home and stopped to take this photo. If you need someone to help you get outside and exercise, try sharing this page with a friend and ask them to help you get outside (and outside of your own head).

Walk, talk, take time to be with others and nature. It might seem difficult, at first, but the rewards can be significant – for you and those who love you.