Be Kind to Yourself – You’re Your Own Best Friend

be kind to yourself best friend

When the going gets tough, be kind to yourself

Is it me or are more people reaching burn out, tired all the time, getting sicker or throwing their hands up in the air in exasperation, disillusionment and despair?

I have a variety of friends and connections who are all showing worrying signs of getting to the end of their tethers in their various job occupations.

Thankfully, being self-employed and due to my PTSD rich in CBT practices, I seem to be avoiding the general malaise (a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or unease whose exact cause is difficult to identify). However, I am being called upon more frequently to act as friend and confidante and help where I can in shoring up their drooping ability to cope.

The biggest and best piece of advice I can offer is “Be Kind to Yourself”.

We all suffer from work related off days, bad days, periods of frustration, anger, resentment, wondering what it’s all about and these can run into weeks, months if not years. Changing your self narrative about these periods is the best way to cope and surmount them.

Being kind to yourself starts from within your brain. Your inner chatter should be asked and answered with the kindness that an outside friend would show you if you were offloading your worries and concerns to them. Your rational ‘friend’ voice lives within your subconscious so has to be asked directly to come forward and help.

The simplest way of doing this is to sit down in a quiet place and voice out loud your problem. Then imagine that it wasn’t you who vocalised at all. Imagine a friend in front of you who has just stated your problem as theirs. (no, this is not schizophrenic behaviour)

Be kind to yourself- what advice would you give a friend?

Consider what you would say to that friend. Would you be as hard on them as you are being on yourself?

Would you not offer them words of encouragement and support?

What would those words look and sound like?

Would you make suggestions as to where they could look for help?

Might you come up with ideas as to how they might improve their situation?

Might you not say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself, be kind to yourself?”

I always record myself when I’m being my own best friend and jot my replies down afterwards. Then I, quite literally, sit down again and give myself a good talking to but using my jotted down replies and vocalising them in the kindly tone I would use with a friend. It’s important to say them out loud as I think it embeds better in your mind and somehow hearing the advice seems to be more believable and convincing than just the written word.

The power of our brains cannot and should not be underestimated, especially in these stressful, uncertain and unsettled times. We all need to learn how to harness this power, so it benefits us rather than harm us and becoming your own best friend is just one step towards doing so. The next time stress wells up inside you, remember, be kind to yourself and give yourself a friendly talking to.

Celebrating success, however small, is good for your health

celebrating success

We are very good at running ourselves down or being critical of our achievements however, how much effort do we put into celebrating success however small?

If, like me, you lean towards perfectionist tendencies, then you can be very hard on yourself.  Though you may allow yourself a fleeting sense of accomplishment it is not long before you are wondering what you could have done differently or what you could improve on to make it even better the next time around. Why are we so reluctant to enjoy celebrating success?

Celebrating success doesn’t mean ignoring improvements

Being analytical after the event is not altogether a bad thing.  There is no such thing as perfection and things can always be improved upon but maybe we should learn to relax more and take more time to celebrate, revel in and enjoy our wins.

I was reminded of this recently.  For the past 18 years I have had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which whilst understandable is a right, royal pain in the bum.  One of the facets of PTSD is depression episodes where I cannot function, move, talk or operate in any way.  Over the years my psychologist and I have worked hard on getting these episodes down from every other week, to once a month, to every 3 months and then thought we had plateaued at every 6 months.  I had come to accept this was just the way of my new life and have tried to look at the positive side – that it may happen twice a year but that left me with 50 weeks of the year when I was fine.

This year has been different.  I have just celebrated the fact that it has been a whole year since my last depression episode.

Believe me this is a huge milestone for me.  To have successfully negotiated the trigger points, allowed myself to rest when symptoms were beginning to emerge and just generally being kinder to myself by being aware of my own welfare are new habits that seem to have worked and I will continue to implement.

To mark this ‘first’ I took time out with some friends who have been with me and supported me ever since the train crash, and we had a barbecue with a few libations along the way.  It was truly enjoyable and I relaxed properly and revelled in the success for the first time I can remember.

Celebrating success is an opportunity to share the positive

Since then I have acknowledged how much nicer it was to celebrate this small victory in my health than to worry about the ‘when’ of depression hitting again.  Unfortunately I know that there is a strong likelihood it will rear its ugly head at some point but I’ll not concern myself with it until it does.

With this acknowledgement comes the determination to make sure I apply the same sense of joy with every future success I have, however small or trivial.  I have also decided, because it is such a nice feeling and one I personally would like more of, I will also take genuine joy in the successes of those around me too. Celebrating success need not be limited to my own triumphs.

Why not join me.  Start with yourself – relax, revel and allow yourself to truly celebrate your wins.  Then celebrate the wins of others.  Believe me, if I know or am connected with you, I’ll be doing so on your behalf.

Acknowledge Your Feelings and work with them

trivialise feelings important quote

I am always a little dismayed when people come up to me at an event and relate a trial or tribulation story of their own to me, though perhaps not for the reasons you may think.  Without exception somewhere during their recounting they will say “of course this is nothing compared to what you have been through”. They feel as if somehow, they need to trivialise feelings they have about their own challenges.

Firstly, I would like to say here and now that I am always flattered that someone feels comfortable enough to talk to me about their troubles.  I may not be able to help directly, though I may be able to suggest places/people who can. However, perhaps just being able to share their concerns or woes with a person who is not directly connected with them or their lives is of some comfort.  The first step, I always feel, to them finding the help they need and, as I’ve talked about before, I always like to give them my undivided attention as I recognise what a brave step they are taking.

However, that phrase “of course this is nothing compared to what you have been through” is something I wish would disappear. Why do people trivialise feelings that are important to them?

trivialise feelings

When you trivialise feelings through comparison

It is so easy to compare ourselves to other people and then use that comparison to trivialise what we are experiencing.  Stop it.  Each of us is special, unique and important in our own lives.  Our thoughts and feelings are just as valid as anyone else’s and you should never be made to feel that you should apologise for who you are or what you are going through. To you it is important and that is all that matters. The only difference between what you are facing and what I did is that they are exactly that, different experiences, neither being more or less than the other.

No wonder that so many people feel their troubles are something that should be hidden from others or they think that everyone else is such a “sorted out” person and they are alone in being a mess.  It’s the old imposter syndrome showing itself again which should be banished from our thinking. In my experience, that “sorted out” person has plenty of issues they are dealing with. It’s just they may be better at hiding them than you.

That’s not to say that there won’t be days when you feel more, or less, confident, feel more, or less, able to tackle challenges standing in your way. The trick is to pick your time to confront them, keeping to the times when you do feel strong, able and confident.

Acknowledge rather than trivialise feelings

I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish half the things I have if I hadn’t learnt this early on.  Even now there are some days when I am a bit wishy-washy.  I recognise the days when I am a little indecisive or don’t feel sure of my ground and on these particular days I simply defer making any important or big decisions and always leave myself wriggle room so I can re-group and work on my confidence to get my equilibrium back.  The last thing I do is trivialise these feelings; they are an important indicator of my ability to manage my workload and cope without burnout.

One of my favourite films is called The Help.  In it a maid called Aibileen is seen talking to her young charge and says “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”.  Even if you don’t truly believe the first two believe the last as it is so true for each and every one of us.  So, rather than trivialise those feelings, acknowledge them, work with them and don’t go comparing yourself to others. You are unique and important.