When something’s wrong – whether it’s pain, stress or relationship troubles – we usually want to solve it immediately. Anything to get rid of the discomfort, pain or anxiety.
But life is rarely so simple, and quick fixes often lead to even bigger, more complicated problems further down the road.
Many of us view problems as anomalies – as soon as I’ve found a steady relationship/got that promotion/sorted my eyebrows out, then life will be peachy and I’ll live happily ever after. But perfection doesn’t exist and curveballs, obstacles and stresses are a normal part of life.
When we’re not at our best, we tend to refuse help because the problem feels, or sometimes is, unsolvable. What if instead of aiming to solve a problem outright, we thought about what might strengthen us as we move through the process?
When a perfect solution isn’t available, how can we cope better with life’s ups and downs? The answer is in supporting yourself through challenges – taking small steps to improve what you can control, so you’re better able to deal with the stress of what you can’t.
An easy way to do this is to get into the habit of asking yourself: ‘how can I feel 5% better?’
I call this the 5% trick. There are hundreds of small ways you can make yourself feel that little bit more comfortable, more confident and calmer on any given day. These small acts of self-care go toward building a more sustainable routine, keep us going through hard times and help avoid burnout.
It works because – unless you’re floating on a lilo in the Maldives while reading this – there’s always some small way you can make yourself feel incrementally better.
If you try the 5% trick while you’re feeling rubbish, it will help you get through a difficult day. If you regularly 5% yourself during a normal day, you’ll find your energy, stamina and mood improve. Use the 5% trick every hour, or when you complete a task.
The beauty of it is that making yourself feel 5% better is low-energy, low-cost and low-effort – so you’re more likely to do it.
Here are a few 5% heroes:
Drink a glass of water
This will make you feel 5% better, any time of day or night – whatever you’re dealing with. Go and drink one now.
Eat something healthy
A banana, a slice of toast, a proper meal. If you’re hungry, take the time to find something that will nourish your body.
Take a deep breath
When we’re stressed, our breathing gets shallow. A deep breath will signal to your body and mind that you’re safe, and your stress will ease a little.
Take a moment to feel where your body is holding tension or feeling uncomfortable. If you’re stuck at a desk for long periods, getting into a bridge position helps because it’s the opposite to sitting on a chair. Likewise, if you’ve been on your feet all day, child’s pose helps you feel that bit better.
Re-write your to-do list
Looking at a messy, long list with haphazard additions and crossings out just adds to feelings of stress and overwhelm. Take a clean piece of paper and write just what needs doing today.
Do the scary thing
The thing you’ve been putting off, the one that’s playing on your mind and causing you anxiety – do it. And if there’s more than one thing, do one of them. Even if it’s scary, you’ll feel better having put it behind you.
Obsessing over getting left on read? Worried that your friend’s angry with you? If you’re wondering, that unknown space will get filled up with your insecurities. It can feel like asking will make things worse, but any relationship that’s ruined by you asking a question isn’t worth your time – ask.
Crying is a super-effective way for the body to release tension. If you feel overwhelmed or miserable, find somewhere you feel comfortable and treat yourself to a good cry.
Doing things the hard way can be useful, but when you’re down, ill, hungover or overwhelmed, the easy option is worth it. Order takeaway, say ‘no’, leave the washing up for tomorrow.
Think about how your body could feel a bit more comfortable. Perhaps an extra cushion, an extra layer or a looser waistband.
Take a nap
A 20-minute nap will help your mind and body reset, so you feel more able to face the rest of the day.
Look for small joys
Little luxuries go a long way. Whose day isn’t 5% better with a little treat – be it a takeaway coffee, clean sheets or something as simple as cutting up your apple rather than having it whole?
Trust your gut
If you instinctively know something will make you feel 5% better, then go for it. We’re complicated creatures and what we find comforting or reviving is unique. Check in with yourself regularly and make the adjustments that feel supportive to you.
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