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To-Do vs. To-Feel

To-Do vs. To-Feel

“Replace all of your lists of things to do with lists of how you want to feel.” –Maryam Hasnaa

I came across this quote by Maryam Hasnaa on Instagram some months ago but just found it again somehow. I like it because I’m a notoriously unsuccessful “To-Do” list-maker; I make lists all the time but often end up feeling overwhelmed and then guilty about them. Guilty? Yes, guilty. My lack of being able to follow through and complete my numerous “To-Do” lists leaves me feeling disappointed in myself and guilty for not doing better or getting more done.

My “productivity” is never enough, and I invariably feel frustrated and upset with myself for not getting more done. I try hard to not beat myself up about this, realizing that it’s incredibly difficult to be “productive” while living with RA, yet I often do. I really like Maryam’s quote because it makes me stop and think that maybe those “To-Do” lists aren’t that important after all. Maybe I should be focusing more on how I’m feeling and living, rather than what I’m “supposed” to be doing. Putting pressure on myself to conform to the expectations of healthy, able-bodied people in society doesn’t make sense. Nor does the stress of it help my own health.

So! Thanks to Maryam’s advice, I’ve come up with a new “To-Feel” list. How do I want to feel right now? Is what I’m doing in my life right now supporting this new list? Probably not, but I think just writing down these goals is a good first step in making some changes.

Angela’s To-Feel List

  1. Healthy
  2. Hopeful
  3. Peaceful
  4. Grateful
  5. Creative
  6. Inspired
  7. Excited
  8. Content
  9. Relaxed
  10. Loving

These aren’t listed in any particular order, except that I did want to place “healthy” at the top of the list. What’s that quote that everyone knows (I have no idea who came up with it)? If you don’t have your health you don’t have anything. We all know how important it is to be healthy, and what a devastating effect bad health can have on one’s life. My own 21 years of “bad health” have gotten in the way of so many things: unrealized dreams, unfulfilled goals, financial security, emotional stability, relationships, a sense of security, and many joys–to name a few. I want so desperately to feel healthy and be healthy.

Hope, of course, is also important. Without hope, what kind of life are you living, for yourself and for others you care for and love? I lose hope time and time again, but it’s important for me to get it back however I can and to hold onto it as hard as I can. Feeling “hope in the dark,” as one of my favorite writers Rebecca Solnit says, is crucial to moving forward in life and not losing yourself to this wretched disease.


Feeling and being grateful is another important one on the list (well, they’re all important of course). And it’s also very difficult (for me) to practice–especially when my RA is flaring or any additional health problems pop up. I really want to feel grateful though. For everything. I think being accepting and kind to yourself plays a big part in cultivating thankfulness. Too often I focus on the bad and what’s wrong, what isn’t working, what’s disappointing, and what I don’t have. But if I stop and really think about all of the good things in my life, I see that there are plenty of them. Remembering to be thankful is a major goal of mine.

I won’t go through explaining the rest of the words and feelings on my list, but they are all important and work together in helping me live the life I want to live. When I feel upset about not getting the laundry done, not applying for a job on time (or doing anything on time), feeling too tired to go on a bike ride, and a host of other things on my always-growing “To-Do” list,  I will look at my “To-Feel” list instead, and tell myself that I’m doing the best I can.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • starscream
    11 months ago

    I’m not sure I wouldn’t feel stressed by being told to feel certain ways every day. With RA I often feel angry or sad, and I don’t want to feel I am supposed to be happy or grateful, and when a brain fog hits, I don’t want some list telling me to be creative or inspired.

    I do have todo lists of work that needs to be done for my job. I’ve sorted it by feelings. On a day when I have anger (which goes with extreme pain): I am supposed to sleep, watch movies, or read books (not go on FB or communicate with colleagues that might anger me). On a day when I feel hopeless, I am to act to help junior colleagues and students by providing feedback and assistance with their projects. I may be thinking of retirement, so then I should ensure those after me are prepared to face a world without me. This often improves my mood. When I am feeling inspired and smart, I work on my own most challenging projects for work. These days come because I rested on the bad days.

  • Angela Lundberg author
    11 months ago

    Thank you for your comment and reading the article! My purpose in writing it was to try to have a different perspective on often-stressful “to-do” lists and the expectations we put on ourselves. The “to-feel” list isn’t something you’re SUPPOSED to do, but just a reminder to do the things in life that make you feel those things. Good feelings! I think we RA patients often struggle with feeling like we’re not getting enough done in life and we’re not being “productive” enough or conforming to what society expects of us. It’s ok to have your own and different “to-something” list. I guess that’s what I was trying to say in the article. That’s how I feel, anyway. 🙂

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    11 months ago

    Excellent ideas!! As we face this illness, we learn to adapt. My to-do lists are only allowed to have 3 items. 2 are items I know I can accomplish, and 1 item that will stretch me a little bit. This has helped me be more realistic, and ask for help when needed. On flare days, there is only 1 item on the list: get from the bed to the bathroom and back safely! I will start using the to-feel list. Thanks!


  • Indigo2
    11 months ago


  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    11 months ago

    Great responses, Indigo2! – Alesandra ( Team)

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