Mental Illness and Living One Day at a Time

November 8, 2023 Mahevash Shaikh

"Live one day at a time" is one of my mantras in life. As an individual diagnosed with mental illness (double depression and generalized anxiety disorder), it is harder for me than people without mental illness to live by this mantra. Here's why living one day at a time is hard for people with mental illness.

Why Is It Difficult to Live One Day at a Time?

What does it mean to live one day at a time? Simply put, it means living in the present instead of replaying past events or worrying about the future. The website A Conscious Rethink best explains its importance as follows: 

"What we think of as the past is, in fact, our memories of the past, which our brains can, and do, select, alter, and skew. The past itself cannot be changed, much as we might try. The future is completely intangible and, unless you're a believer in fate, is as yet completely undecided. It can only be shaped by the things you do every day and the decisions you make in the present. Even then, you can never be quite sure what's coming your way. Essentially, the only thing you have any influence over is today so, logically, the present is the only thing you should spend your time worrying about."1

The nature of anxiety is such that it stops you from living in the present. It tends to drag you back to the past, replaying past events in your mind. It also makes you stress about the future by compelling you to imagine worst-case scenarios that may or may not ever come true. As for depression, it makes me either fixate on past mistakes or feel apathetic about my life

Why I Live One Day at a Time Despite Mental Illness

There are days when I question my philosophy and wonder if I should focus on future planning. I feel as if taking each day as it comes is a flippant way to go through life. But then I remind myself that I am letting society's invalidation of mental health conditions get to me. Living one day at a time has proved to be a healthy coping mechanism for my mental illnesses. Until I find something just as effective, I will continue to live in this way. And for the record, even though I do take each day as it comes, I have a blurry idea of what I want my future to look like. Now, if only I could find a way to zoom in on that blurry picture.


  1. Uniacke, K. (2021, January 18). Why It’s Vital You Live One Day At A Time (+ How To Do It). A Conscious Rethink.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2023, November 8). Mental Illness and Living One Day at a Time, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

March, 27 2024 at 4:46 pm

thank you for making the effort to write about this with such honesty and insight . You may be ill but you sound more genuine and likeable than most of the superficial actors we meet everyday . I too have a similar ongoing battle involving much suffering despite perhaps appearing to others as "normal ". I am 60 in 2 weeks and poor mental health ..particularly depression and anxiety took away my ability to lead a normal life no matter how hard I tried . I became an alcoholic for perhaps 30 yrs ..trying to self medicate the feelings away . That almost killed me 7 years ago ..the last time I had a drink . I have no means of escape now but for several decades have believed buddhism offers great healing for us folk . Compassion , wisdom , peace and of course life in the present moment , moment by moment ,..... ...all the things I have yearned for all my life . Good luck and much love from Devon in the UK .

April, 23 2024 at 1:28 am

Hi Devon,
Thank you for your kind words. I am sorry to hear of your struggles and wish you peace, good health, and contentment. Please take care of yourself.
PS I hope you had a wonderful birthday.

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