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In Case of Emergency

Or: self-care for when the chips are down and shit gets real.

I get it. Self-care is best arranged to keep us well. It is best applied in small doses over time. It is a practice, a salve; it is not meant as triage.


Well, except when that isn’t really possible. Because there are days when self-care is the thin turquoise line (I like to think of self-care as turquoise). There are days when self-care isn’t the thing we do, diligently, to stay well.

Self-care is what keeps the pieces of our being from flying out into space. Or that’s what it feels like.

So, what then? What does self-care look like when the chips are down?

I have some ideas for you. Don’t fret. It’s going to be okay. I’ve got you covered:

Lie down on the floor

Better yet? Put your legs up the wall.

Get yourself, very literally, grounded.

Lying on the ground, feet on the ground and knees in the air (or with your legs up the wall), has real physiological calming effects.

Place your hands on your belly or over your heart, for even more gentleness.

Get in a super-hot shower

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets all her good ideas in the shower. A nice hot shower will clear your head and help to reset your brain. Breathe deeply and let the water literally wash it away.

But there are tangible benefits, too.

The hot water stimulates your circulatory and lymphatic systems. The rhythm of the water soothes the nervous system and adrenal glands.

Plus, if you’re having a particularly tough day, treat yourself to some of the good shampoo or a loofah. You’re totally worth it – and small treats like that can go a surprisingly long way to turning a shit day around.

Turn off your computer, walk away from your desk and go outside

Even if you’re at work. If you’re reading this in a meeting, things are probably pretty real right now. Just get up and go. You can explain yourself later. If you work with grown-ups, they’ll probably get it, even if you’re totally honest.

Get yourself some snuggle time

With a dog or cat.

Borrow one if you have to. I love the people in my life to pieces, but when the chips are down, nothing beats my cats. Animals are the ideal companion for a self-care emergency. They’re delightfully non-verbal and non-judgmental – and the reciprocal pleasure they get from rubbing their faces on my hand.

In case of emergency card

Before I memorized it, I had one of my favorite lines from my favorite poem written down on a little card. I kept it in my wallet and would pull it out in emergencies. Words have power.

Get yourself a “when things get real” mantra and keep it on your person.

Those words may just carry you through.

Drink something calming

Different herbs have different properties. Warming, cooling, astringent, sweet. Choose something that calms you.

Sure, probably not coffee. But you might look for something with cooling properties, like peppermint tea or grounding properties, like dandelion root tea. (“Root” is generally a good code/shorthand word for “grounding.”)

Treat yo’ self

After wrapping a particularly big project, I came home one day, took my really hot shower. I made some tea. I lay on the floor for a while.

Then I got up and really asked myself what would help me feel really restored.

Turns out? It was coloring in my Enchanted Forest coloring book, and watching five straight episodes of NCIS (because I have my mother’s taste in pop culture).

It was the pinnacle of indulgent. Not the healthiest. Not the most spiritually enlightened. But it totally worked. I felt like a radically different human afterward.

Sometimes, we gotta do what we gotta do.


I hope you’re taking good care of yourself a little bit every day. I hope that you’re looking after your heart and staying as close to your true self as you can. But if you can’t? That happens to the best of us. And when it does, there’s hope there, also.

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