Doing and Being to Cope

One of our first requests in the ‘What do you want to do’ box came from a reader who expressed having a hard time motivating themselves to get out of bed, have a shower, start their day, and get on with the rest of it.  We’re going to address this question in three blog posts. Today we wanted to focus on occupation-based strategies for mental health & wellbeing, tomorrow we will bring you some sleep hygiene and wake-up tips, and the final piece of this series will be about grief, coming from a mostly personal perspective with a few occupational therapy-inspired nuggets. 

It’s OK not to be OK

We expect they aren’t the only one. As humans, according to Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000), our intrinsic motivation (our motivation to do an activity for the sake of doing that activity) and wellbeing are influenced by:

  1. Our sense of competence: Can we do this?
  2. Our sense of autonomy: Do we have control of our situation? Can we make informed decisions that reflect our wants, needs, and values?
  3. Our sense of relatedness: Are we connected with others? Do we have caring relationships in our lives? Are we experiencing things with other people?

In the current pandemic, many of us, especially those who live alone, are limited in our direct contact with friends, family, and other humans in general. Many of us are finding ourselves in positions where we have to navigate a new normal; this requires developing new skills.  With all the uncertainty, it is common to feel that we have limited control over our lives and limited capacity to make informed decisions about what we want and need to do. As a result, many of us will have a hard time coping and motivating ourselves – feeling like we’re stuck. It’s no wonder that at a time like this, many of us feel like there is a wall preventing us from continuing to manage our daily lives – and it’s hard to get over it. 

To the person who asked this question, you are not alone. If you continue to feel this way without change, we recommend that you reach out to a mental health professional in your region so that they can work with you one-on-one. We have also listed crisis lines at the end of this blog post as an additional resource for non-judgemental support in times of need.

What could you do?

As occupational therapists, we work with an individual to identify what their strengths, resources, and barriers to doing are in their individual context. We partner with the person in discovering occupation-based solutions that enable them to reach their goals. When working with individuals, we also advocate for counsellors or clinical (neuro)psychologists to be on the team because the person needs lots of support and multi-disciplinary services for their wellbeing.

6 occupation-based strategies for supporting your mental health & wellbeing:

    1. Nurture your values through doing: Does what you do align with what you value? When we act in line with our values, it helps us feel well. Explore your values with these free worksheets: and and then choose to do an occupatoin that fits with your values.
    2. Identify your personal strengths & resources: What are you good at doing? What tools and spaces are available to you to engage in your meaningful occupations at your home?
    3. Reach out to friends for support – a phone call, a videochat, a text to connect with someone you love.
    4. Are there meaningful occupations that you are grieving right now that might be possible at home? Activities that usually nurture and fuel your spirit? We invite you to get curious about ways you can adapt them for life at home. If you’re feeling stuck, please reach out and ask us anonymously – it will become a future blog post. 
    5. What foods can you eat that are nourishing for your body? What recipes do you love to cook or what meals are your favourite to eat? 
    6. BE. Give yourself space and time to be. To process what you  need to. Give yourself time each day to simply practice mindfulness and being in the present, to nurture your senses in the present moment. 
      • Peeling an orange? What does it smell like? 
      • Washing your hands? What do the bubbles look like as you lather your fingertips? 
      • How do your bed sheets feel as you wake up?
      • What is soothing for you to feel, smell, see, hear, and taste? 

Stay tuned for more ideas in future posts.

Now that we have offered some ideas, reflect on how they could apply to your life and what your next step could be. It can be small or big – what matters is that it is a just-right challenge for you. 

The next occupation that I can do to nurture my mental health and wellbeing is: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

This occupation is nurturing for me because:


I know that this occupation is possible for me because:


By the end of this week, I will do ______________ (occupation) at ____________ (time) for _______ (min/hours) this frequently: __________.


Thank-you for reading! As we want to keep people safe, if you need additional mental health support, please see a list of crisis & mental health support resources:


Canada has a list of national, provincial, and regional support lines

UK – Samaritan’s: 116 123; or email [email protected]

Australia – Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14

Austria – 017133374

USA – Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)  

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255

For people who have hearing/speech-impairments: 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)


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