Given the topic of my previous post, I thought I’d bring back something I wrote about several months ago about putting on your oxygen mask first. We each have to take care of ourselves or we can’t take care of anyone or anything else.
With that in mind, I that this week I would write about self-compassion and self-care. Most people that I know are far harder on themselves than anyone else. They judge their looks, their abilities, and their accomplishments through a harsher lens than others do or than they judge other people.
While I believe that we should be pushing ourselves to be the best that we, as individuals, can be, that doesn’t mean beating ourselves up for every mistake or for every day that we don’t have the gumption to be “amazing”. We all have “bad days”. Sometimes it’s because of what’s going on in our own heads, sometimes it’s because of events going on around us, and often it’s a combination of both. They happen and instead of beating ourselves up and allowing guilt or self-hatred to wash over and drown us, we have to allow ourselves time for self-compassion, being far more accepting of the fact that we’re not perfect and nobody really expects us to be, and engage in some self-care.
Now, I recognize that sometimes we just have to get shit done. The kids need to be fed, the laundry needs to get done, the bills have to be paid. I also get that most of us can’t walk away from whatever is causing us stress in life and go to a spa, for example, but there are absolutely things that we can do.
Below is a list of some ideas of things that I’ve done, but first, I’d like to make a confession. I’m terrible about practicing self-compassion and self-care. I’ve often given into the dumbass idea of “no pain, no gain” and the equally stupid “suck it up, it’s not that bad” when it comes to myself while being far more compassionate toward others. As a result, I pay the price. I think that “no pain, no gain” in terms of working out without compensating with a lot more water resulted my kidney stone. I know that “no pain, no gain” and “suck it up, it’s not that bad” have more than once led me to ignore mounting stress and dealing with things I should deal with to the point of pushing me into bouts of depression. Please, do as I say, do as what I’m trying to do, not what I have unfortunately done too many times.
Here are some suggestions that are all easy and free:
- Read something that makes you laugh. Don’t read something for work or something that you think will “make you a better person”. Read something that will make you laugh out loud. You can do this on the bus, in a coffee shop, or in bed before you go to sleep. Don’t watch something. The flickering screen right before bed will mess with your sleep.
- Sleep as much as your body tells you to. Listen to it. Oh, and it doesn’t want you looking at that flickering screen right before bed. Which reminds me, it absolutely floors me the number of people who post to social media in the middle of the night about not being able to sleep. Put the damn device down. It’s not helping you sleep!
- Take a shower or a bath. You’ll feel better clean, it will help you relax, and being clean helps you to better fake having yourself together even if you’re not really feeling all that together.
- Get outside. Go for a walk. I love doing this, but I’m not always good at it. I do go for a walk every day that I’m at work, but in the winter that really has to be indoors (it’s not abnormal for the windchill to be around -40 in January and February).
- Hang around people who love you because of who you are, not despite who you are. You’ll know them. They’re the ones who smile genuinely when they see you and call you or send you a card just because they were thinking of you.
- Meditate. Sigh. My wife is constantly telling me this, and I always seem to have an excuse. I am far more relaxed when I take even just 10 minutes a day to do this. I haven’t been and I feel it in the jaw pain I’ve been experiencing from how much I’ve been clenching it.
- Hug your kids. Make sure this is okay with them, and if so, you’ll both feel better.
Eat healthy and drink plenty of water, but don’t berate yourself for the occasional treat. Confession, I’m writing this on Friday night and I just had a handful of Smarties.
- Avoid alcohol. While a glass of wine can be relaxing, if you’re “feeling a bit blue” or experiencing depression, drinking alcohol is a bad idea. It’s a depressant, plus there is evidence that it leads to less than good sleep. Drink herbal tea or club soda if you want the fizz of a beer.
- If you have a dog, go outside for 10 minutes without them, then go back in. They’ll be happy to see you. Then, make them even happier by putting a leash on them and taking them for that walk outside that I mentioned in my fourth point.
- Journal. It’s a great way to just let all of the thoughts, emotions, fears, and frustrations out when you don’t have someone right there who can hear it right now, or you’re feeling too vulnerable to go there.
There you go. Those are just a few easy ways of taking care of yourself. Try to do, three or four of these every day. Do the best that you can on that day. Learn from any mistakes and don’t judge yourself any more than you would judge that friend or family member who is having a hard time.