be kind to yourself

Be Kind to Yourself by Changing 15 Minutes of Your Day: Tips for When Life is Tough

The theme this month is When Life is Tough, and I’ve shared with you my top 7 tips for what to do when life gets tough.

  1. Stop Asking Why
  2. Hang On

You can read more about these two here

  1. Be Kind to Yourself
  2. Change 15 Minutes of Your Day
  3. Stop Thinking You are the Only One
  4. Look for the Lessons
  5. Make a Gratitude List

Today I’m expanding on tips 3 & 4: Be Kind to Yourself and Change 15 Minutes of Your Day. 

Be Kind to Yourself

Sometimes being kind to ourselves is vastly harder than being kind to others.  Isn’t that strange?!  

Maybe it’s easier because we can accept that we don’t know all the ins and outs of what someone else is going through.  We can choose to assume positive intent, because we can’t really read their mind and know their intent.  We can assume they are doing their best, because how can we possibly know what their best is?  We may experience social repercussions for not being kind to someone else- we may lose a friendship, make things awkward at work or school, or be labeled by others as unkind person to avoid. 

But when we try to be kind to ourselves, we know exactly what our intent is.  We know exactly what it means to do our best and how we failed.  And no matter how mean a person is to themselves, their self is not going anywhere.  

At least, we think we know all of these things about ourselves and we think we won’t experience any repercussions from being unkind to ourselves…

…but is that true? 

I recently spoke with a friend who had gone through a divorce, and she was beating herself up for staying so long with a man who ended up hurting her children.  Hurting her children was the last straw, but she wondered why she didn’t leave sooner when her ex-husband clearly had many issues that had caused deep, painful rifts in their relationship over many years.  She blamed herself for not preventing her ex from hurting her children, for not leaving and protecting them, and for not seeing things that were right in front of her eyes.  

It’s easy as a friend to have kindness and say “You couldn’t have known the depths of his depravity,” or “You did the best you could,” or “But you DID leave in the end and that’s what matters.” 

But all my friend could see for a time was that she had failed to protect her children.  She blamed her choice to stay with him on her fear of the embarrassment it would cause to admit that the relationship had failed, and to admit to others that maybe she didn’t know everything about having a healthy marriage.  

She was sure that she knew her intent: to avoid embarrassment. 

She was sure that she knew she hadn’t done her best.  She was sure she could have predicted the future if she had just paid attention to the signs. 

She was sure that speaking these words to herself was just accepting the reality of what she had done, and that it was ok to say things to herself she’d never say to anyone else, because she knew the truth about herself. 

Her therapist kept asking some deep questions until she realized those thoughts were only the surface level of the truth.  The real truth was that she had stayed because of hope.  She had hope that things would get better.  She had hope her ex husband would change.  She had hope that the life she imagined would become reality, and she grasped onto every good moment as proof that she had a reason to continue to hope.  

Compassion

Having compassion for herself meant embracing that the core reason she made every choice she made is because she is a hopeful person.  And while it was true that she was afraid of embarrassment, she could then accept that we all have areas in which we need to grow, and she could move forward with that growth without shame.   

Her first unkind thoughts about her self were not the whole truth, and by focusing on those, she was keeping herself trapped.  She was able to free up more mental and emotional energy for the kids she so deeply loves by being kind to herself. 

With that said, not every situation is going to require you to go to therapy and reflect deeply on the core of who you are in order to be kind to yourself.  

Sometimes it’s as simple as asking, “Would I say this to someone I love?” when we’re thinking an unkind thought about ourselves.  If the answer is no, reframe the thought to something more positive and then do something kind for yourself. 

This can start with simply…. 

Being Kind to Yourself by Changing 15 Minutes a Day

Choose a time every day and set a timer.  Set aside that time for you, and doing something that brings you joy.  Here are some ideas: 

  • Go for a walk
  • Take a long, relaxing shower or bath
  • Put on a guided meditation
  • Take a power nap
  • Buy something just for you that will bring joy when you see or use it.
  • Make a list of 10 positive things about yourself
  • Make a list of 10 things you are grateful to yourself for doing/being/saying/believing. 
  • Eat something your body is craving
  • Drink a big glass of water or cup of tea
  • Call a friend who will lift you up
  • Give everyone in your family a big, long bear hug
  • Stretch

Whatever you choose, instead of doing it with the attitude of “This is good for me so I guess I should make myself do it,” try to tune into your body and your heart and ask “What would feel really good and uplifting in this moment?” 

Your Turn to Be Kind to Yourself

Right now, pick the top 3 ideas off this list or other ideas you have, pick a time that will generally work every day, set a timer, and make a note of those ideas somewhere easy to find when the timer goes off. 

Remember the ideas are just that- ideas.  Treat it like an experiment.  If you try one and it doesn’t feel great, do a different one the next day. Maybe you’ll do the same thing for a month and then it will start to feel stale.  That’s ok, your body is just telling you it needs something different now.  Go with the flow, stay in tune with what feels good, but make it a consistent practice, and you’ll likely see your ability to be kind to yourself grow greater and greater over time. 

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