As a Registered Nurse and Psychotherapist, I find clients are often very self-critical, hard on themselves and play the ‘should’ blame game. I ‘should’ have done more, I ‘should’ know better, I ‘should’ have known this. We all do it. Unfortunately, for clients who struggle with mental health issues this negative inner critic can result in low self-esteem, depression, guilt and shame.
Not too long ago a client shared an issue with me in which she was berating herself over an event she experienced. After we talked about it, I suggested that she show herself more grace and kindness. Exasperated, she asked, “How do I do that?” Many of my clients ask the same question. In my experience as an RN Psychotherapist, I find the following suggestions helpful and especially so in the world we are living in.
How to Be Kind to Yourself
We all make mistakes. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. It is okay to make mistakes. It is okay to not have a good day. You deserve it. Give yourself grace and kindness. Permit and allow yourself to let it go.
Take Care of Yourself – Be a Friend
One of the best ways to show yourself kindness is to take care of yourself. Be a friend to yourself. Get enough sleep, take brief naps, eat healthy and exercise. Choose a healthy way to release stress. Watch a funny show or movie on Netflix.
Acknowledge yourself when you have completed a project or created something. You deserve to praise yourself. When you achieve something give yourself a moment to be proud of what you have done. A question I often ask my clients is, “What are you most proud of?” You might want to write it down in a journal.
Be kind to yourself by soothing yourself. Here are some ideas:
- Take a bath
- Light a scented candle
- Play some calm or fun music
- Curl up on the couch with a book and a blanket
Tame Your Inner-Critic
Allow yourself ten minutes a day to be aware of the negative thoughts then put them in a mental “box”. Replace the negative self-talk with an inner positive dialogue and write in down in a journal book.
Choose a journal book that you like and on a daily basis write down affirmations. Here are some examples:
- “I am worthy”
- “I am a good person”
- “I am enough”
- “I deserve to be happy”
Keep Your Dreams and Goals Alive
The pandemic will end. Organize your dreams and form them as goals. Create a plan for achieving those goals. This is another great way to use a journal book.
Keep Perfectionism In Check
Accept and love yourself for the good, the bad and everything in between. This is the best way to be kind to yourself.
Declutter and Organize
You deserve it. Clean out that messy closet that’s been annoying you or organize your dresser drawers simply to feel more organized in a disorganized world during the epidemic. Some people feel better when they can keep busy and have something to show for their time and work.
Go for a walk, breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the world around you. Being outside can be a great stress reliever.
Make Sure to Breathe
Try it. Take a deep breath, and hold it momentarily. Then, slowly exhale following your breath. Taking three deep breaths when you are being negative, hard on yourself and stressing out.
Where are you right now? Try being mindful. Be aware of the things around you. The smell of your freshly brewed coffee or the sound of birds chirping outside. Take a moment to be fully present. Anything can be a chance to be mindful.
Feel Your Emotions
Check in with yourself. If you are sad, feel the sadness. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Try gratitude. It’s an attitude. What are the simple things in life you are grateful for?
Make Time for Yourself
Be kind to yourself by giving yourself some “me time” each day. Every day carve out some time for yourself and do something that brings you joy and makes you smile. Draw or sketch, colour with your kids (who doesn’t love the smell of a Crayola crayon), journal, write a poem, play that guitar that’s been sitting around. Do something you love to do. Make time for rest, relaxation and fun. Take an hour out of your day or even ten minutes. Schedule it in your calendar so you get a notification.
Here’s some prompts to start out:
- What is in your control? What is not in your control?
- What do you want to let go of? How will you feel when you let go of this?
- What are you hanging on to tightly? Why do you think you are doing this?
- How do I change or let go of the things that are not working for me?
Working with clients who struggle with mental health and substance abuse I find the biggest obstacle to mental wellness is asking for help. You are not weak if you ask for help – it is a sign you are strong. If you are struggling during the pandemic, there is no need to do it alone because you don’t want to burden family or friends. Reach out and call or text a friend who is a good listener. Therapy is also a great resource.
During this unprecedented time, we all need to be a caring friend to ourselves. Make sure to talk to yourself in a kind way. Find the grace and kindness inside you.