Today’s times are jarring. Unexpected mini self-care strategies can go a long way in protecting mental health. Here’s how.

Self-care during chaotic times can feel like trying to fill a bathtub with a leaky bucket and broken drain—and while blindfolded.

Gone are the days when relief can be mustered with a quick walk in the park or a simple mantra. The pandemic is forcing us to be warriors, with jarring disruption at every turn. Staying well feels like a full-time job.

Given the nature of what’s at hand, some creative approaches—backed by science—are warranted

1. Worry less about what others think about you

This is stellar wisdom in general and the guiding principle when attempting to enact unconventional strategies. It’s better to risk looking foolish than feeling bad.

2. Find a metaphor that captures what you’re going through

Therapists are known for providing metaphors to help their patients explain phenomena, process emotions, and maneuver difficult circumstances. Creating abstractions can help us see stress from a different vantage point, enhance our ability to illustrate our emotions and experiences, and convey our needs.

3. Don’t shy away from humor

If you can’t crack up, you might crack. Humor is seen as a protective factor toward resilience. Being silly and irreverent can provide diffusion of tensions.

4. Embrace your weirdness

To get started on this one, I recommend reading Little Weirds by Jenny Slate. I’m obsessed with Jenny Slate like Boston sports fans are their teams. Her candor, wit, and artistry not only transcend but, in my view, also provide solid inspiration for writing. Consider drafting a short piece about an aspect of yourself that is weirdly wonderful, in true Slate fashion.

5. Strike up a conversation with a total stranger

Life is awkward and the pandemic has hitched that up, with mask-wearing, distancing, and missing they majority of cues that we used to have access to when we could see actual human faces, and people weren’t cringing when they were within a 19-foot radius of us. Research shows that these micro-interactions can boost our mood and sense of belonging.

6. Break into childhood songs and sounds

We all have them etched into our minds, and even if you don’t want to break them out in public, or on a Zoom call, these jingles and sounds can evoke positive memories and emotions that help provide a reprieve from all the seriousness of adult life.

7. Pull a nice prank

Send a rebuttal to mean TikTok prank culture and instead pick someone in your life to give a nice surprise. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture: a sticky note, funny meme, tiny act of service, affirmation, inside joke, and fun gag gifts all do the trick. Good surprises nourish our relationships and boost morale for both sender and receiver.

8. Create a mock commute

For those working remotely, few miss the perils of traffic and swerving texters, but there’s something to be said about consistent routine. Routines, rituals, and structure are highly valuable in our efforts to stay calibrated. Consider ways to create a simulated commute, such as taking a walk before logging in, listening to uplifting music and podcasts, or putting into play any mini rituals that can be repeated daily to fuel and prime the brain.

Maintaining mental health during jarring times is no easy feat. Keeping our creative juices flowing can help us implement unconventional self-care strategies that nourish well-being and help us to avoid being pulverized by the nonstop stress at hand. By cultivating awe and gratitude in our everyday lives, we can positively contribute to well-being. Start by picking one that seems the most fun and doable, and build you repertoire from there.


Lee, K. (2018). Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking: Learn What It Takes to Be More Agile, Mindful, and Connected in Today’s World. Deerfield Beach: HCI Communications.


  • Dr. Kris

    Behavioral Science Expert. Psychotherapist Comedian. Global Citizen.

    Northeastern University

    Dr. Kristen Lee, Ed.D., LICSW, known as “Dr. Kris”, is an internationally recognized, award-winning behavioral science clinician, researcher, educator, speaker, and comedian from Boston, Massachusetts. As the Lead Faculty for Behavioral Science and Faculty-in-Residence at Northeastern University, Dr. Kris’s research and teaching interests include individual and organizational well-being and resilience, particularly for marginalized and underserved populations.  Dr. Kris works with organizations and leaders around the world on how to use the science of behavioral change and human potential to build healthy mental health cultures that help prevent burnout and promote organizational and human sustainability.  She is the author of RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress, winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Motivational Book of 2015, best-selling Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking-Learn What it Takes to be More Agile, Mindful and Connected in Today’s World and Worth the Risk: Learn to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World, a 2022 The Next Big Idea Book Club nominee. She is the host of Crackin’ Up: Where Therapy Meets Comedy and is a regular contributor to Psychology Today and Thrive Global. Dr. Kris’s work has been featured at Harvard and on NPR, Fast Company, Forbes, and CBS radio. Her TedX talk, The Risk You Must Take is featured on Ted. In her spare time, she can be found out on the running trails, attempting tricky yoga poses, eating peanut butter cups and drinking kale juice—but not all at once. Connect with her at or @TheRealDrKris (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat).