On the hard days, the smallest things are the most important

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing down some of the lessons I wish I knew during the difficult moments… the anxious periods with panic attacks and a crippling fear of being judged, the lows I never thought I’d find a way out of, and days when I couldn’t see another option than being shy and insecure.

I’ve noted down fifty of these lessons now. It’s become a sort of letter to my younger self and a guidebook for the future. I started writing it on a good day, but since then there have been wobbles. I’ve reviewed what I’ve written and noticed which words I need to hear most. I wanted to share some of them with you. This seemed like a good place to start.


On the hard days, when small and big problems compound to create a reality that feels like you’re snowed under with just the tiniest pocket of air to breathe, set the smallest goal you can think of.

Get out of bed, take ten deep breaths right into your belly, shower with the good shower gel you got for your birthday, eat a meal that isn’t from a packet, put on laundry, walk once around the block, stretch and remind your body of the wonders of movement.

These are the most important jobs for you. They are your path between now and recovering. They’re not small or less worthy than writing a book and learning Russian and getting a promotion; they’re the most vital achievements in the universe right now.

Do one of these things, then two, then all of them. They will guide you to a foundation for healing. With time you will find it easier to make the decisions you need to make to get back to where you need to be.

The tiny accomplishments that seem so trivial when you feel well are the helper ants that move the rock a thousand times their weight up a hill on the tough days.

Reading list

Zen: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyō Masuno. For a reminder to slow down, look out the window, and breathe deeper.

Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World by Tara Brach. For being gentle with yourself.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. For escaping to the Gulf of Finland and spending a day sailing between islands.

Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton. To take the pressure off seeking perfection.

Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way by Lars Mytting. For getting back to basics and realising the philosophy and joy in the little things.

Handpicked reading

Zen: The Art of Simple Living as a beautifully illustrated book for self-care

12 calming books to help you take a deep breath and relax

12 of the best audiobooks to enjoy now

Lucy
It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.