Mental Health Awareness Week is upon us, and given the current climate, this year’s theme feels extremely fitting…kindness.
Amid the turbulence and challenges, there have been so many uplifting stories of community spirit and generosity. Over the last few weeks, we have seen that kindness can triumph in the era of social distancing and that even apart, we have come together to offer one another love, support and hope.
But how exactly are we showing up for ourselves? Are you supporting yourself the same way you are encouraging those around you? As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup; to truly help others, we need to help ourselves first.
Accept and respect your feelings.
The first step in being kind to yourself is to consciously acknowledge, accept and respect the way you are feeling. Doing this alone can be a tremendous help; when we recognise our thoughts and emotions, we can better navigate through them.
It can be extremely beneficial to label what we are experiencing and allow ourselves to sit with that for a bit. Attributing a name to the emotions we are feeling – be that sadness, anxiety, loneliness or something else – can make it seem less daunting. It’s okay to feel sad sometimes. When we acknowledge the hurdle we’re up against, we are in a better position to seek the help and support we need, even if it’s from within ourselves.
Take the time to find what makes you happy.
It could be baking, reading, practising yoga, calling a friend, or even knitting – whatever it is, take this time to experiment and figure out what makes YOU happy. Delve into new creative pursuits and find some hobbies that truly suit you. Many of us are so consumed by work, family and countless other commitments that we can lose sight of the little things that make us happy. We’re often too busy being busy, and concerned with what those around us are doing, to figure out what brings us genuine joy.
Here’s a challenge: try writing a list of things that you enjoy doing. Then, whenever you’re stuck in a rut, or perhaps feeling low, you can turn to that list and pick something you think is achievable. Take the time to cultivate a variety of activities – that way, you will have more choice to suit how you are feeling on different days. One day that could mean curling up with a good book at home, while on another it could mean venturing outside for a run in the park.
Be your own best friend.
Many of us are indeed our own worst critics – and we are also the last people to take our own advice. But why is that? The reality is that we don’t treat ourselves with the same kindness and respect that we so readily show to our nearest and dearest.
When it comes to others, we are often more forgiving, nurturing and empathetic; this comes down to the advice we offer, the way we treat other people’s emotions and even the way we talk to those around us compared with how we speak to ourselves.
Being our own best friend and advocate can certainly feel like a challenge, but achieving this is incredibly rewarding. The next time you feel low, anxious, stressed – you name it – try advising yourself the way you would your best friend or loved one. Show yourself empathy and kindness instead of reprimanding yourself and sinking into feelings of guilt and shame.
Whatever you, and however you do it, do it with kindness. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
If you believe that you or someone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, please consult the NHS website for a full list of resources and support.