As Valentine’s Day approaches, your thoughts might be turning to love. You might give a card and a present to your other half, or do something nice for them, and while this is great, how often do you show yourself love and kindness? When your partner, or a family member or friend is struggling with work or their health, or they’ve just had a bad day, how do you treat them? Do you listen to them, give them a hug, or offer to help?
What about when you’re having problems?
I’m willing to bet that you’re nowhere near as compassionate to yourself as you are with others. Maybe you beat yourself up for being miserable if you’re feeling low, or tell yourself that you’re incompetent if things aren’t going well at work. We’d never say these things to loved ones, but many of us tell ourselves these things, every single day.
The importance of self-compassion
Being compassionate to yourself means that you acknowledge your feelings, soothe yourself, and work out what you can do to make yourself feel better.
Instead of beating yourself up about something that went wrong at work, just admit that you were having a bad day, and you did the best you could. Maybe then you could unwind in a nice bath or go for a walk to clear your head and rid yourself of any feelings of frustration or anxiety (both better options than turning things over and over in your mind.)
Being kinder to yourself usually also leads to better self-care. If you truly love yourself, you’ll do the things that are good for you, like getting enough sleep, eating well, taking regular exercise, and making time to do the things you enjoy; all things that improve your mental as well as your physical health.
How to be kinder to yourself
Sometimes it feels like self-care or self-compassion is a bit self-indulgent. But true self-care is not about having a big slice of chocolate cake or treating yourself to a spa day. Sometimes, it’s simply about asking yourself, ‘what do I really need?’ Here’s how to be kinder to yourself.
Go back to basics
Self-care is often about getting the basics right, whether it’s making sure you get enough sleep, drink enough water, exercise, or eat a balanced diet. These are all basic needs, but they can often fall by the wayside without us noticing.
Watch how you talk to yourself
If your first instinct is to criticise or chastise yourself when something goes wrong, try and catch yourself doing it, then reword it to make it more empathetic and positive. For example, think about what you would say to a friend if they came to you and said they’d had a bad day. Would you dismiss their feelings and tell them they’re always moaning? No, you wouldn’t, so why would you say this to yourself? Instead, tell yourself you’ve had a bad day today and tomorrow is a fresh start. Everyone has bad days.
Allow yourself to feel how you feel
Most of us are conditioned to believe that feeling angry, sad, and frustrated is bad and that to feel these things means that we must be bad people. No, you’re not a bad person, you’re human. Allow yourself to experience your emotions fully rather than judging or burying them.
Realise that a setback doesn’t mean you’re a failure
Have your ever tried something, realised you weren’t good at it and ruled out the possibility of ever doing it again? Failing at things and being less than perfect is a normal part of life. We are good at things that other people aren’t good at and vice versa. Learn to view mistakes and setbacks as a learning experience rather than as a reason to beat yourself up.
Be proactive when you’ve got a problem
When you have a problem, you’ll feel more empowered if you acknowledge that there’s a problem then proactively brainstorm ways to solve it. Worrying and ruminating don’t solve problems, all they do is make you feel more anxious and less capable.
Remove the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary
A huge source of stress for many of us is reconciling how our lives actually are, with how we think they ‘should’ be. Accepting how things are doesn’t mean settling for less, but it does bring us into the present moment, so we can see what we actually have the power to change.
When it’s hard to be kind to yourself
We all can be hard on ourselves at times, but for someone with a mental health problem, it can be the norm. Illnesses like depression can make you feel unworthy, and anxiety and other mental health issues can leave people wishing they were ‘normal.’
But we can help ourselves and others with a little understanding. The key to understanding is education, and our Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health Awareness courses can help you understand more about common mental health conditions, self-care, and how to help others who might be unwell.
Would you like to know more about our mental health courses?
You can register your interest by using the form on our contact page. The course tutor will then get in touch with you to discuss your needs. If you’d like any more information on any of our courses, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07917062257.