Experts say that being kind and soft towards ourselves can go a long way in keeping ourselves healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. We are often taught that we need to extend kindness and compassion towards others, but it is just as important for us to practice empathy and compassion towards ourselves. A 2019 study found that being kind to yourself has multiple physical and mental benefits, such as a more steady nervous system and, potentially, more manageable depression levels. If 2021 is the year that you want to be healthy in holistic ways, here are some steps you can take to treat yourself with compassion and kindness.
Eliminate negative self-talk.
Multiple studies have shown the effects of negative self-talk on people who struggle with depression. Negative self-talk can cause people to feel defeated in every way and thus let failure get in the way of reaching their goals. It can cause sufferers to give up on trying and can negatively impact one’s relationships. To combat this cycle, here are some things you can watch out for:
- Watch out for cognitive distortions, which are thought patterns that teach people to view reality in a distorted and often harmful way. Some examples include, “They rejected me. I am unlovable and not worthy of love.” “I failed the driver’s test. I am a hopeless failure.” These thought patterns can help increase anxiety, cause relationship breakdowns, and even worsen symptoms of depression.
- Tackle negative thought patterns as soon as they start by identifying these troublesome thoughts and learning to re-frame the situation. Just because one bad thing happened, it doesn’t mean that nothing will go right.
- Removing negative self-talk is not the only solution; you need to replace it with good things. After you have re-framed the situation, learn to speak to yourself oppositely: “I am worthy of love.” “This experience of failure will teach me a lesson that I can bring with me to the next chapter.”
Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms.
When we’re in pain, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, we tend to reach for things that can comfort or distract us. While there’s nothing wrong with self-soothing, we need to find coping mechanisms that are healthy and productive for us or, at the very least, won’t harm us. Some examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms include:
- Heavy drinking
- Binge eating
- Shutting other people out
- Choosing unhealthy snacks
Let 2021 be the year when you reach for healthier and productive food and activities when you find yourself hurting. Some examples include some art therapy, spending time with people you love and you know love you, going for a run, practicing meditation, consuming nutritious food, and doing a round of yoga or pilates.
Set some boundaries.
Another act of kindness towards ourselves is never knowing our limits and boundaries. We work ourselves to the bone, and we never allow ourselves and space and time to rest. Overworking can lead to burnout, which can lead to a host of physical and mental health issues. Some have reported fatigue and even abdominal pain, which means that stress can manifest itself into physical pain. To combat overworking, listen to your body. Listen to it when it says it’s hungry or sleepy. If you find that your breathing gets uneven due to work-related anxiety, step away from your workstation for a while.
Being kind to ourselves also means learning how to set boundaries with others. Setting boundaries with others and being kind to them are not opposing ideas; in fact, setting these boundaries may be the kindest thing you do for them. Learning how to say “no” is a crucial part of caring for yourself and maintaining a healthy distance between you and other people who might want to take advantage of you.
Go to the doctor when you feel sick.
One of the biggest ways we can be unkind to ourselves is by ignoring our needs. If you find that your symptoms are getting more difficult to manage, don’t hesitate to visit your primary care provider. If you need specialized medical help, like going to a psychiatric ward or an eating disorder recovery center, consulting with your physician is the only way to get it. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help; experts exist to help those who need it the most. The process of healing may be tough, but you are worth the long road to recovery.
Because the past year has been tough, we might be unaware of all the ways we have been hard on ourselves. This 2021, resolve to care for your body, mind, and heart—your health is more than worth it.