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6 Easy Things to Do to Make Your Life 5% Better

My last column listed 11 ways to sound like a great lover. That was fun, wasn’t it?

Apologies for the absence these past weeks. I’ve been in crisis mode, as my long-time home, my apartment building, has been sold to new owners. Like most of Los Angeles now, we don’t have Rent Control, and other renters will understand the severe problems that presents: we are at the mercy of harsh people who have complete control over whether you’ll have a roof over your head next month.

When one group of people has no power, and the other group has all power…and then misuses that power to threaten and intimidate the weaker…that is the definition of abuse.

So along with this situation comes an old unwanted friend: anxiety. What do you do when a bad situation is long-term, and you’re not sure if things will really get better?

As the cartoon suggests, wouldn’t it be great to just let go of it,  call someone to help you, and move on?! (The man on the bench is supposed to be Rodin’s sculpture, The Thinker.) If only it was that easy!

But it’s not that simple. And long term anxiety can affect your health in scary ways. The ADAA points out that 50 percent of the people who have anxiety also experience depression or even think about suicide.

What can we do about it? These are easy things that have helped me feel calmer, at least temporarily. Every little bit helps!

  1. Walk. I know, everyone says this. But it nudges your brain, along with your body, and I guarantee you will have at least one new thought. (Oh, and pacing doesn’t count as walking. Nothing satisfying comes from pacing. Plus, your legs hurt.) Sometimes I even run.
  2. Talk. Do you remember Tom Hanks in Cast Away? And his friend Wilson (the volleyball)? People need to talk things out. It’s even better if you have a real person. Just one conversation a day is a life-changer.
  3. Look at a tree. You might need to crane your neck a little to see the top. Joyce Kilmer wrote:
    I Think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.

    Trees are like snowflakes — every one is different. Buds, leaves, bare branches, any season – there is always something interesting going on. And they stay around a while.

  4. Sleep your own way. It’s so tiresome to read all the recommendations on how to get to sleep, stay asleep, how long to sleep. Forget them. Even if your mind is racing, so you can’t get to sleep, or you wake up early with dread, you are doing the exact right thing: just lying in bed. Studies prove that just keeping your eyes closed, with no visual stimuli, is almost as restful as sleeping. Just get comfortable and close your eyes until you want to get up.
  5. Have a piece of pie. From FBI Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks“Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it; don’t wait for it; just let it happen. It could be a new shirt in a men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black, coffee.” Oops, I’m sure he said to eat pie- maybe another episode. Well, you could do both. 
  6. Make a list. Either things you should do, or want to do. Then pick the easiest thing, and cross it off. It’s important to actually cross it off with a pen or marker.

Most importantly: Don’t forget the pie.

Did I forget anything? What do you do to corral the worries?

Cartoon originally published in Harvard Business Review: The Thinker.

If you want more cartoons, check out my first book (chocolate) and my second book (love, sweet love). And Like my Facebook page to get notified of new cartoons. All rights reserved, and content including cartoon is ©Donna Barstow 2018. Thanks!

6 Easy Things to Do to Make Your Life 5% Better

Donna Barstow

Cartoonist for LA Times, Parade, WSJ, Glamour, PsychCentral, Barron's, Weight Watchers, and textbooks & Chicken Soup books. Author and editor of 2 cartoon books and a Barnes & Noble calendar.

I both write and draw all my cartoons. You are warmly invited to share the link to this cartoon. The full-size cartoons are all copyrighted, so please email me at pen.drawing AT g mail (squish it) for rates for use in textbooks, prints, presentations, publications, or websites. Email me AT pen.drawing @ gmail. com. (Squish the address.)

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APA Reference
, . (2019). 6 Easy Things to Do to Make Your Life 5% Better. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Dec 2019
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