We often talk about ‘being kind to ourselves’; but when depression has us in its grasp, it can feel hard to like ourselves enough to carry out basic self-care, never mind to show ourselves kindness. It’s even harder to practice self-kindness when we can’t think where we could start or when it feels like an alien habit, so here are a few ideas to get us going.
Upgrade Tatty Items
If we went to our sock drawer right now and counted how many of them had holes in, how many would there be? Sometimes old items can bring us some comfort. We all have that one jumper that’s practically threadbare, but which never fails to give us a hug on a not-so-good day. However, there are other items which, within the remits of our budget, we can upgrade. For example, if we have a bag that’s reached the stage where pens are beginning to fall out of the holes in the bottom, it’s probably time for an upgrade.
If we’re worried about the environment, we can often recycle old items. Even if our councils don’t accept as many things for recycling as we’d like, many tips and supermarkets now have recycling bins for lots of things including old clothes and shoes.
Work On Boundaries
Often we compromise our boundaries in order to please others or to help them feel more comfortable. We frequently say ‘yes’ when we really want to say ‘no’. There are times when we change plans that we really wanted to work out, in order to suit someone else. Sometimes we might spend time around people who drain us, even though we don’t want to.
When we’re tired, we’re allowed to rest. We might have big Friday night plans to sit in our comfies and watch TV, and we’re allowed to do so – even if someone invites us to go out. If there is someone in our life who exhausts us, we’re allowed to spend less time with them. We don’t have to work more hours than we’re paid to work, even if our colleague asks us really nicely.
We’re not responsible for anyone else’s happiness, and our needs are just as important as anyone else’s.
Ask For, And Accept Help
It can be incredibly difficult to ask for help when we need it and to accept help when people offer it.
People love to help one another. If a friend asks us to give them a hand with something, we often feel honoured, or at the very least, pleased that they felt able to ask us. It’s the same for other people, and when someone doesn’t feel able to help us out with something, they will often say so. There is absolutely no harm in asking.
Furthermore, people don’t normally offer to help unless they want to. We’re allowed to accept this help. There is no need to feel like we have to ‘protect’ people by refusing their help. We aren’t responsible for their time-management, or for their wellbeing. If someone has offered to help us – then they clearly feel they have capacity to do so. It’s not ‘weak’ to ask for or accept help, either, we all need help from time to time.
When we have depression, we often have really low self-esteem and can feel incredibly worthless. It can mean that we might feel as though we are undeserving of anything much at all. We all have little things that we enjoy, but we will often tell ourselves that we’re ‘not worthy’ of them or ‘don’t deserve’ them.
We are worthy, and we do deserve kindness. Treating ourselves to some of these little things can be a good way to show ourselves some compassion.
Treating ourselves doesn’t have to cost the earth. It could mean giving ourselves an extra five minutes on a morning to enjoy our first hot drink of the day. We might buy ourselves a magazine. It could mean asking our family if they’ll watch our favourite film with us. Perhaps we could take the scenic route home from work, instead of the ‘traffic jam’ route that’s ten minutes faster. There are lots of different ways that we can treat ourselves without it having to be costly to do so.
Take Time Out
Nobody can keep going at full speed without a break forever. We’re no different, but for some reason, we often feel the need to prove our worth by being busy all the time.
We’re allowed time out. Breaks and downtime are essential, and taking the breaks we need can often increase our productivity because they allow us to carry out our best work when we aren’t super-tired.
Annual leave is there to be taken. We don’t have to cram our annual leave with a million activities and holidays, either. If we want to, we can just have some quiet time. Weekends and evenings can be spent in our PJs in front of the TV if that’s what we want to do.
Upgrade Your Space
There is often a place where we spend a lot of our time. For some of us, it might be our office or desk at work or home, others might find that they spend a lot of their time in our lounge, kitchen, or bedroom.
Wherever it is, making that space a nice place to be can help us to feel settled and comfortable.
Whether that’s a declutter, or an all-out redecoration. Even moving furniture around can make a room feel different. We could pop up some photos or pictures that we like, buy a mug that perfectly fits our hand for those hot drinks that keep us going, invest in a really snuggly blanket, or just keep our space clean and tidy.
Compassion Over Criticism
Everybody makes mistakes. We can’t go through life without them.
Often when we make mistakes, we beat ourselves up. We tell ourselves that we ‘should have known/done better’.
We’re allowed to make mistakes – we’re not superhuman. Mistakes can help us to learn and make progress, and criticising ourselves when we make a mistake doesn’t achieve anything except to make feel us even more rubbish than we already do. Treating ourselves with kindness can help us to see where we went wrong, and to grow and improve from the mistakes we make.
Listen To Your Body
Our bodies have an amazing way of telling us what we need. When we need food, our stomach grumbles, when we need sleep, we yawn, and when we need to stick a jumper on, we get goosebumps.
Sometimes we have to ignore these signals – for example, there isn’t always food available when we’re hungry.
However, we often choose to ignore our bodies at times when we don’t have to. We might push ourselves to keep doing things that aren’t urgent, no matter how tired we are. Sometimes, we push ourselves so far that we become poorly.
Our bodies are smart. They tell us what we need. We need to try and listen to them as much as we can, even if it means cancelling things to rest every now and again.
Let Yourself Have Fun
Having fun can give us a break from the seriousness of life and help to lift our mood. Unfortunately, when we have depression, it can be difficult to have fun. We often struggle to enjoy things, and when we’re so hard on ourselves and our energy levels are low, we often don’t prioritise having fun; it can feel frivolous and we can feel unworthy.
Fun is an important part of life! It can help us to blow off some steam. It can help us to show some self-compassion and give ourselves a bit of a break.
Recognise Your Achievements (No Matter How Small)
When we have depression, we often have achievements that others don’t always recognise. There are things that can be really difficult for us, such as getting dressed, or cooking for ourselves, that others people seem to be able to ‘just do’. We’re allowed to recognise those things as the achievements they are. Being kind to ourselves isn’t just about doing things, it’s also about recognising, and being proud of ourselves, for the things we’ve done.
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