“What Can I Do Today That Feels Like it has an Element of Achievement to It”

Heather Nowlin
2 min readNov 22, 2023
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

The past three years seem like a drug-fueled dream.

We’re all still dealing with the trauma and after-effects of a global pandemic and massive social and political upheaval. Inflation is a juggernaut, politics are a joke, people are angry and unpredictable. We’re still not sure if we can relax.

And somewhere in the middle of all the supply chain weirdness, the vaccination anxiety, and the crumbling of democracy, my mom and her Alzheimer’s diagnosis moved in with us.

Burnt out? Like all of us, I’d say yeah.

I learned recently about surge capacity. “Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.”

And it’s not meant to be long-term.

It feels incredibly hard to achieve anything these days. To keep up. To further a career, to take care of one’s body, or to work towards personal goals.

But, capacity changes.

So, what is one thing that I can do each day to make myself feel as if I’ve still crept toward achievement? Something that has an element of progress to it?

Even if that’s only going for a walk instead of watching three movies in a row.

Even if it’s jumping on Medium and cranking out a vague, self-serving essay.

Even if it’s taking a shower, getting dressed, and not eating the whole bag of chips.

Success looks different because circumstances are different. For everyone, from day to day — every single day comes with its own set of obstacles. And that affects our capacity for success, and for coping with ongoing challenges.



Heather Nowlin

Favorite topics: politics, mental health, travel, business/the office, humans, dogs, empathy, pop culture, movies, books, TV, plays, theatre.