“Be kind” is a popular mantra these days, but when it comes to being kind to ourselves, most of us are seriously lagging. Being kind to ourselves is perhaps the most important form of another buzz word these days – self-care. There are a million excuses and reasons for why we as humans engage in behaviors and habits that hurt ourselves, but we can just as easily choose thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are supportive, loving, and kind.
Perhaps this year more than ever, being kind to each other - and most of all ourselves - is important. It goes without saying we have all experienced higher levels of stress this year. Chronic stress can result in feelings that life is imbalanced, that you don’t have the personal ability to impact your life, having a persistent negative mood, and having overall feelings of low self-esteem.
Self-care is one of the ways to counteract challenging life situations and events. It’s a buzzword, but what does it really mean? Positive self-care is the foundation to being kind and compassionate with ourselves and others.
When we are stressed, we commonly choose to eat too much or not enough, smoke, drink too much, isolate from others, not exercise, procrastinate, or avoid things. These habits accompany emotions such as being consistently angry or sad, feeling like no one cares about us or that we don’t have enough, or feeling inadequate. This can be debilitating and can lead to bigger issues of mood disturbances and developing low self-confidence and self-esteem.
Practicing kindness towards yourself means getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, spending money wisely, taking breaks, and expressing love and thoughtfulness. Emotionally, you identify and express gratitude towards life, others, and yourself, you feel appreciation and are interested in things. When you practice positive self-care with your thoughts, you can identify your strengths and things you like about yourself and your life and feel a sense of control and confidence in your ability to overcome adversity. Even when you note things you don’t like about yourself, you embrace those as part of being human. You can maintain the belief that it’s okay for you to still be enough and lovable even if you are not perfect.
If you have been mean to yourself lately, you can create dramatic changes in your approach and resulting outcomes in your life with a shift in attitude. Scientific studies tell us that the brain is a highly trainable organ and if we practice habits of self-care daily, we can have an inner edge on our psychological well-being. By not engaging in the mean habits that don’t work and increasing our engagement in habits that are supportive and loving, we can achieve a greater sense of balance and happiness in our lives. Right now, we need as much of that as we can get.
Sarah Lloyd is a licensed clinical professional counselor and co-owner of the Geneva-based Action Consulting and Therapy.