Being kind to yourself all day every day isn’t easy at the best of times, so it can be a lot harder when you’re stuck indoors most days with only yourself as company.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week as I’m writing this, and this year the theme is kindness. Something that we all need to be showing now more than ever, to loved ones, strangers and ourselves.
I’m someone that puts the needs of others before my own, and will go the extra mile to ensure that the people in my life are treated well and happy before myself. I don’t practice what I preach a lot of the time but I know that it’s a process.
In this post, I want to focus on how to be kind to yourself, especially when a lot of us are still in lockdown. Which seems to be getting harder to cope with as it goes on, anyone else feeling that way?
So here are some things I’ve been trying to do to show kindness and compassion to myself when it seems quite difficult. I hope it inspires you to be a little bit more kind to yourself too.
Listen to your mind and body
Sometimes, you might wake up and just think to yourself “not today”. Maybe you’d planned to go for a run, get a lot of work done, or just wanted to embrace the day with a smile. You have to listen to your body and accept that some days you just can’t get on with things as planned.
This last week or so, I’ve woken up pretty much every day and just thought “I can’t do this much longer” because I miss normal life. So on those days I’ve accepted that my to-do list won’t be full of ticks, and I’ve just challenged myself to get through that day and hope tomorrow is better.
Next time you wake up and feel mentally or physically unable to do something, don’t sweat it. Your mind and body know what you need so listen to them. (Apart from if you’re like me and have been making excuses for not exercising properly for 4 weeks now).
Take a day off
I’ve struggled with poor mental health in the past, and definitely since working full-time too. However, I’ve never been able to bring myself to take a day off sick due to my mental health even thought I have really wanted to.
We are all human, and sometimes need to just take a step back from things. While taking days off work for physical health reasons more common, there is still a stigma around doing the same for mental health.
With your work, it may come down to company policy on how you approach taking a day off sick for your mental health. However it’s important to realise that sick leave for mental health reasons is sometimes just as needed as physical health. It is completely okay to just set your university or school work aside too and come back to it when you’re feeling better.
As I write this section, I have actually just spent half of my day off sick due to my mental health. I had just been feeling that the anxiety around coronavirus and the impact it’s had on my day-to-day life, paired with the stress of work, has just gotten too much. I feel a whole lot better for doing it, even though it has just been half a day, as it’s just shown me that I have the ability to say “okay things have got too much and I need some time for me”.
Don’t put pressure on yourself
At the start, a tweet was doing the rounds that said if you don’t come out of this with a new skill or business idea, you’ve wasted an opportunity. In my opinion, that was the most damaging thing that anyone could read at the time. This is not a productivity competition, it’s a horrible situation.
People may have found themselves with a lot of free time, but that time should be spent doing anything and everything to ensure that their mental and physical health stay protected.
For those of you that might be feeling more productive than ever, remember to check in with yourself and make sure you’re taking breaks and aren’t overworked. Here’s some advice I wrote previously on unwinding after the working day and how to switch off an overly productive brain.
Get to know yourself and what you love
Learning to love yourself and your own company is a really difficult thing. You shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t like being alone with yourself or if you don’t love what you’re all about as a young adult, as long as you take the steps to fix that.
Try to spend a bit of time each day just by yourself, sat quietly with no distractions. If your brain starts to overthink, try to understand what could be done to resolve that and make some mantras to repeat to yourself daily. See what sorts of activities you think about – maybe you’d like to put some music on to fill the silence, want to go for a bike ride or fancy reading a book.
Observe what sorts of things arise when you’re not distracted and try to understand the types of activities and hobbies you enjoy. That way, when you’re feeling a bit down or lonely, you have things to switch your attention to that can make you feel better about yourself.
Know that it’s okay to feel sad or cry
We’re in a horrible situation at the minute, and sadly don’t seem to have an end date in sight. It is so important that you are kind to yourself when you’re feeling upset at the minute or just ever, generally.
It doesn’t matter if your friend is out of a job at the minute, you’re allowed to be upset that your work is stressing you out. It’s okay to be upset if a job you set your heart on didn’t work out. You’re allowed to feel sad that your holiday got cancelled.
Don’t ever compare what you’re experiencing to whether someone else might have it ‘worse’. You can only experience and embrace the feelings that you have, so treat yourself kindly when you don’t feel one hundred percent.
As I’ve already said, learning to love yourself and all of the emotions that come with being you is a process. It takes time and a lot of setbacks, but it’s such an important thing to learn as a young adult.
I’m still learning, and feel that writing this post has allowed me to understand what I need to do every day to be kind to myself.
I hope that everyone is treating themselves with the same copious amounts of love and care that they show to everyone around them. It isn’t easy at the minute and you have every right to feel sad, just don’t make it worse by being mean to yourself.
For anyone that needs to talk to a professional about their mental health or situation, please visit the NHS to find mental health helplines.