Wednesday, 20 May 2020

10 Ways I Was Kind to Myself This Week

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) is kindness. In a recent article I described sixteen ways we can bring more kindness into our lives, including being kind to ourselves. I’d like to share a few ways I’ve been kind to myself in the past week.

1. Boundary Work

Kindness isn’t always easy, whether it’s showing kindness to others, accepting it from others, or being kind to yourself. Kindness isn’t fluffy, soppy, or superficial. At its heart, kindness is about honesty, respect, and maintaining healthy boundaries. I’ve done a lot of work this week on my boundaries, to see which are truly important and protect me from harm, and which are walls my ego has erected to defend an inflated sense of self-worth. It’s tough work but I feel I’m making progress, with the help of friends I trust to be honest with me. That’s kindness in action, right there.

2. A Time to Celebrate

I’ve written elsewhere how important it is to recognise our successes and achievements. You may not think there’s much to celebrate at the moment, living as we are through the coronavirus pandemic. It might even feel inappropriate, but there has never been a greater need for celebration. My friend Vikki and I celebrated two years of friendship last week. Ordinarily, we might have met in person for drinks and a meal. That’s out of the question for now but we got together on a video call to drink a toast (or several!) to our friendship and to celebrate her success landing a new job.

3. A Trip Down Memory Lane

A few days ago I helped Fran select some of her favourite travel photos for a slide show evening she’s planning with friends. I don’t have any such plans myself but I treated myself by looking back over my photographs from the past few years. It brought back loads of memories — and a few tears!

4. Movie Night

Fran and I watch a lot of movies and dramas together on our Skype calls (NCIS is a real favourite). A few days ago she suggested Guardians of the Galaxy. To be honest, I wasn’t keen. It’s not something I’d normally watch. I was feeling really low that day and couldn’t think of anything else to suggest, so we put it on. It turned out to be exactly what I needed. The action and humour helped me forget what was going on with me for a while. We’re watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 now!

5. Reaching Out

When we are struggling it’s not always easy to reach out to someone for support. No matter how much we trust someone, it takes energy to open up and share what is going on for us — and handle the response. Keeping things inside isn’t always healthy, though, and I’m proud to say I let friends know I was struggling this week and allowed them to be there for me.

6. Treat Myself

If you asked how I like to treat myself I’d probably say spending time with friends, whether in person (in the dim and distant pre-coronavirus past!) or online. I’ve been more than blessed on that score this week, but when I was at the supermarket the other day I decided to indulge one of my guilty pleasures — and bought myself a loaf of olive bread. I’ve been known to eat an entire loaf of olive bread on my walk back from the store, but this time it did make it home intact! I ate some (okay maybe half) for my evening meal with a range of cheeses and a bottle of McEwan’s Champion ale. Now that’s what I call a treat!

7. Creative Journaling

I made time this week to do some creative work in my Traveler’s notebooks. I hand-stamped some stickers and completed a couple of pages to mark recent significant moments. I’ve also spent time in a number of Facebook groups for Traveler’s Notebook fans. Two of my favourites are Midori Traveler’s Notebook (genuine or bust) which is a private group, Cafe Journaling (public), and Midori Traveler’s Notebook Customization Group (private). These and similar groups are a delight to me. People share their notebooks, page spreads, and ideas with no hint of ego. There’s a wonderful sense of shared interest and passion, and a complete absence of argument or disagreement. It is an act of self-kindness to spend time browsing the content and gently connecting with like-minded folk all over the world.

8. Window Shopping

I haven’t indulged in any extravagant purchases since we entered lockdown but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been window shopping! A few times this week I set other concerns aside to continue my search for the perfect every day carry (EDC) bag! It’s very expensive (USD 249; approx GBP 205) and a little larger than I need, but my current crush is the Wotan Trooper bag (medium size). A man can dream!

9. Permission to Feel

A few years ago Fran and I took BrenĂ© Brown’s Daring Greatly online workshop. One of the first activities was to write one or more “permission slips” for the course. I wrote three, including one which has stood me in good stead ever since.

I give myself permission to fully experience whatever comes up during this time, knowing I am safe.

I copied it into my travel journal when I accompanied Fran (virtually) on her month-long trip to Mexico in 2018. You can read my account of that trip here. It helped me this past week to acknowledge all I was feeling — a mix of emotions including hurt, regret, inadequacy at work and as a friend, frustration, and anger (directed mostly at myself) — without self-judgment or self-pity getting in the way. It's an important stage in processing any strong emotions and is the first step in the four-step process Fran and I use a lot: “Feel it. Claim it. Love it. Let it go.” (I have written about that process several times including here.)

10. I Am Enough

I sometimes feel that I’m not a good enough friend, that I’m not supporting people as best I could, that I’m not being true to myself in my writing and blogging, that I’m always getting things wrong, and so on. An article I read this week — What It Means to Be Enough by Melissa Camara Wilkins — reminded me that it’s okay to be less than perfect.

You are enough does not mean that you have to be self-sufficient. It doesn’t mean that you don’t need anyone or anything else. It means you understand how much you do need, how small you are in this great grand universe — and that you don’t have to be even one inch bigger than that.

You are enough absolutely does not mean that you never need help. When you know you are enough, it’s easier to ask for help. It’s easier to admit your weaknesses. You know that your imperfections and your difficulties don’t reflect on your worth, because you are already enough, just as you are.

Taken together with several important conversations with friends this week, Melissa’s article (I urge you to read it all) helped me be kind to myself. It helped me see that I’m doing okay. I can and will work to improve, to learn, to grow. But right now, I am me. I am enough. And that’s all I ever need to be.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week (18–24 May 2020) is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all. It has been run by the Mental Health Foundation since 2001. There are lots of ways you can take part. Visit the official FAQ and Resources pages for details, and sign up for the email newsletter.

 

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