It is incredible how we are able to do so much for others these days, but do little for ourselves without negotiating whether or not we deserve it, or without feeling guilty after having done it.
While writing this blog on the concept of being kinder to one’s self, I thought it would be hypocritical not to practice some self care so I write to you now from a beautiful shady cafe in the Adelaide Hills while sipping coffee, eating a delicious breakfast and not feeling guilty about taking this time out for myself. Yes I could have sat at home in front of my laptop writing my draft in between putting another load of washing on and filling the dishwasher, but I have made the conscious choice not to and followed through with it.
Having a lack of self compassion and self care is an issue I often encounter with clients, particularly those experiencing symptoms of anxiety or low mood. This can generate from feelings of low self-worth, framing activities carried out for personal pleasure as ‘indulgent’ and feeling guilty for even considering them, a lack of motivation to do anything let alone something nice for one’s self stemming from low-mood, or feeling like it would be a waste of time or money to do something nice for one’s self, or that it won’t change how they feel anyway.
When we are under stress however, it is so important to look after ourselves both physically and mentally,so to reduce the threat of burnout, exacerbating mental health issues, illness, or fatigue.
Interestingly, we talk about the importance of taking care of ourselves to others all the time. When was the last time you told someone you care about to ‘take it easy,’ or maybe to ‘have a holiday,’ or not to worry and ‘don’t beat yourself up about it,” when going through a rough or stressful period or perhaps suffering from depression and anxiety? Now notice…when was the last time I said this to myself and followed through with taking this important advice?…It has been a long time hasn’t it?
Self care and self compassion is something we can work into our every day lives and practice not only when going through a tough or demanding period, but also when things are going well for us. And the key to self care is to keep it consistent, so that when we do encounter a rough patch, we are better prepared to deal with it as our physical and mental energies have not yet been depleted.
8 Ways to Increase Your Happiness and Improve Your Stress Levels by Practicing Self Compassion and Self Care
- Think of something you really enjoyed when you were younger…maybe from childhood? This could be swimming at the pool, going out for cake and coffee, painting, or go-kart racing etc. Now make a commitment to yourself, to do this activity sometime over the next week.
- Book yourself in for a massage, to get your nails done, for a session with a personal trainer, or something else that you find enjoyable…..just because.
- Notice the negative or unfriendly thoughts you may have about yourself from time to time and say them out loud as if you were saying them to a friend or loved one…Sounds cruel doesn’t it! If you wouldn’t say this to another, then notice how unkind you are being to yourself and make the conscious effort not to engage with this thought anymore. An easy way to take the power away from a thought like this is to write it down on a scrappy piece of paper, take a moment to look at it, then throw it in the bin.
- Make time to go outside for a walk, a run, kicking a ball around with the kids or making time to enjoy a sunrise or sunset. Getting in touch with nature and fresh air is so good for our body and our soul and creates a greater sense of calmness and connectedness.
- Move your body. Not all self compassion and kindness necessarily stems from participating in ‘fun’ activities. it is important to take care of our bodies and through exercise, we strengthen our immune system, keep our bodies healthy, regulate our mood by increasing endorphins, and release stress and frustration by using the energy generated by uncomfortable emotions, in a positive way.
- Ensure that you are open with and tell others when you need a hand, and accept help when it is offered. You actually don’t have to manage everything on your own, and those who love us are usually happy to feel needed and help us.
- Prioritise organising a catch up with friends you haven’t been able to see for a while due to busy schedules, and whose company you really enjoy. It is important that we not only have social contact, but also quality social contact. There is something so loving and comforting about catching up with a friend you have know for years. Remember to be wary of those however, who are energy zappers….those friends who need and take a lot from us but do not give back.
- Learn to say no. Sometimes being kind to ourselves means taking a step back and not over committing our time and energy. Be open with family, friends, and work about your limits, as well as your own needs
Alyce Mayman, Psychotherapist
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