It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future…

Yogi Berra


One of the hardest challenges I often observe in my coachings and also personally used to face, is sticking to self-care activities such as daily yoga and meditation routines in more stressful times. Simultaneously, I am aware that it is when these very same activities would be the most effective and help us remain grounded.  Having recognized this pattern I investigated various ways how to prevent, what  I call “self-care freezing” in such moments and tried to develop a contract with myself to overcome freezing and taking action.

The idea of activities didn’t come over night and was initiated by various leaders that inspired me. To start with, it was people around me I had conversations with, but on another, even more personal level, it was also books from inspiring leaders that helped me understand how to still take action, especially when I feel like doing it the least – but need it the most.

As always in coaching, what works for one person must not work for the other, so here comes a “menu” of various things to do as prophylactic so you’re reminded when you’ll need it.  Some things I tested myself and others I have extensively used with my coaching clients, if any of it also resonates with you, we’d love to hear from you!  I’ll also mention the books that inspired me at the end of the article.

As always in coaching, what works for one person must not work for the other


I’d like to start with three different jars. One of them I knew before but nerver used, until my Coach brought it up – thanks Edson! While it’s just an analogy it still helps us  focus on what counts. The other two are gratitude and crisis instruments.

1: What are my big stones? Am I wasting my energy with sand?

Imagine a jar. You put sand in it, then some pebbles and add some big stones at the end. By this technique, most probably the space of the jar is not optimized – unless it was a very wide jar that you could easily shake 😉 …our minds are more like the narrow jars, where the sand will have filled up the bottom and therefore the  pebbles and big stones may fit in the jar but will leave many empty spaces inbetween.

What does that mean applied to being more present, particularly in difficult times?

Constantly learn about and cultivate your ‘big stones’: what are the things you really care about?  Do you also put these things first? For example: do you ignore even replying to messages from your friends and family for a long period, particularly in times when everything’s stressful at work? Maybe you should rethink this habit… Not only may it be crystal clear to you right now (if you’re reading this and not feeling stressed) that it is them who can help you regain energy and cheer you up – they may also help you endure more if you spend some breaks with them. As several studies suggest and just recently were mentioned in the ‘happyness lab podcast’ – taking breaks before a big test, competition or projects that require high performance, is what helps you way more than overdoing and overthinking on preparation. It’s probably not what you’ll want to hear then – personally, I hate it when I’m told to “relax” when I am stressed – it stresses me even more 🙂

But being aware: putting my big stones first in the jar, adding the pebbles second and then sprinkle the sand on top is my metaphoric focus exercise I mentally love to do.

  • What are my big stones right now?
  • What’s just pebbles?
  • What is sand?

…in which priority am I spending my time and energy right now? If it was sand, let’s drop it, shake it off my hands and go back to the big stones!


2: What to do right now? Prepare in good times for the bad times.

When nothing works anymore and you’re down, it’s the worst moment to actually come up with things that are good for you. Reflect about the things and people that make you feel good right now or at any moment when you are feeling good. In that very moment you’ll probably feel foolish for collecting ideas – it’s a bit like taking the last pills of the antibiotics package, although you already feel much better! There are numerous ways to do it and while the most pragmatic approach is to make a list of five things that make you feel good on your mobile phone, it is probably not the most effective. Whatever we write with our hands is much better processed (1) and therefore I would suggest you write down the things you identifyed by hand. Take it one step further and instead of writing a list, take single pieces of paper and fold them once you’ve written down the possible actions. Once in your jar you can then just pick one and get inspired by what you took.

Examples of notes in my very personal jar:

  • go offline for an hour
  • meditate
  • go for a run!
  • bake a cake
  • call my friend Nadia
  • go for a swim
  • facetime with my godson


3: Practice Gratitude: collect good times for the bad times.

With this tool you’re not going to DO anything, you’re reminding yourself of the amazing life you already have and by reading all the good things that are actually happening, literally ALL THE TIME, you’ll refocus your energy. This often inspires to think more positive and will remind you of things you can do that make you feel better (see also #2 above).

This time you set yourself a reminder (i.e. weekly or monthly – in the beginning you may even do it daily!), sit down and write down the things you are thankful for. You can take small pieces of paper and then fold them, so again you will randomly pick a reminder of a good thing that happened to you or keep a gratitude journal. Again, you can just as well write (or type) a list, but the most effective way is handwritten.

The next time you feel down, just have a look at all the good things going on in your life!


How about you? How do you overcome self-care freezing when you feel bad?


some Books on self-care that inspire me and made me grow*

…the list is non-conclusive, but a great snapshot of books that could also change your life!

Currently on my bedside table: Invisible Women by Criado Perez , Yuval Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and Peggy Orenstein’s Don’t Call me Princess.


*PS: I love books and truly believe they can be a powerful coach! I only promote books that I have read myself and therefore identify with at least the parts of its content I refer to in the blogpost. Some of the links in my blog are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase, I earn a small commission. Once I have a critical mass of visitors on my blog I hope the commission will finance the many books I buy, (but I am not yet there ? ). If you like my recommendations and want to support me, now you know what you are contributing to. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you. Whenever you see the link to the german version in brackets, it’s because I have read the book in German.


(1) Handwritten vs. Typed notes