As Lockdown Eases Be Kind to yourself
THE BIG RESTART
Treating yourself with self-kindness, tolerance and forgiveness can have a big impact on your mental health
The coronavirus lockdown of 2020 means different things to different people. For many, lockdown has brought tragedy & heartbreak, stress & worry. For others, it’s been a disruptive blur at best. Frontline and key workers have never worked as hard, yet for others, it’s been a 3-month long holiday. Many welcomed the opportunity to clear calendars and opt out of the pressures of the outside world. Indeed, just as nature has had an opportunity to recharge and regenerate, so too for many lockdown has provided an opportunity to stop, to take stock, to review and to recalibrate.
A New Normal
Slowly we are getting somewhat used to what is for now “the new normal” with all the changes that brings.
No matter where you stood at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, inevitably the transition back to “normal” as lockdown eases will equally bring a sense of anxiety and panic. That fear of the unknown, how will life after lockdown look? How easy will it be to adjust? How can we ensure our safety? Why am I not happy about this? Will I have a job to return to?
Please be assured that these anxieties are normal and are being experienced by people all over the world in response to our transitioning environment.
Be Kind to Yourself
As with all things, we need to take one step at a time. Self-kindness, (also known as self-compassion) is a good starting point and an effective way you can help protect your own mental health during these times of transition. There is one person who will be with you every moment of your life – that’s you! So start with yourself. Being more loving to yourself can have a positive impact on your wellbeing.
Some of the benefits of self-kindness can include:
- Improved self-esteem
- More resilience
- Better connection
- Improved moods
- Less fear of failure
You may yourself feeling increasingly worried or anxious about resuming “normality”. You may have concerns about finances or employment, you may be grieving or otherwise going through a tough a time. Loving yourself may sound a little abstract and perhaps easier said than done. It is also hard if you are comparing yourself to others. However, whenever we are distressed, little bit of kindness to ourselves can make a huge difference.
So what is self-kindness..?
Self-kindness is the ability to turn understanding, acceptance, and love inward. Many people are able very easily to extend compassion and kindness towards others, yet find it difficult to extend that same compassion towards themselves. Self-kindness involves treating yourself the same way you would treat a friend who is having a hard time. Think about times when a friend made a mistake, felt inadequate, or faced a tough life challenge. Think about the kind words of encouragement and support you may have given and now apply that to yourself.
If we are mindful of our challenges and emotions, and respond to ourselves with compassion, kindness, and support in times of difficulty, things can start to feel easier. We can learn to embrace ourselves and our lives, despite inner and outer imperfections, and provide ourselves with the strength needed to get on with day-to-day life.
Simple acts of self-kindness
Self-kindness is not just something you do in your head. Doing practical stuff to care for yourself feels great and makes the thinking and feeling parts a lot easier. Being kind to yourself means supporting your mind and body. The top ways to do this are:
- Get active
- Get sleep
- Eat nutritiously
- Limit your use of alcohol and other drugs
- Connect to others who uplift you (or don’t connect when you don’t want to)
If you are going through a hard time, think of a person you can easily imagine being kind to e.g. child, a good friend, or a pet. If you were comforting them, it’s likely you would be:
It is possible to direct that same compassion to yourself too. Try comforting yourself like you would comfort someone you love. If someone who loved you was here right now, how would they help you? What would they to say? What would they do?
Use Kind Words towards yourself
The way we talk about ourselves in our heads can be harsh! In fact, we’re often meaner to ourselves than we ever would be to other people. That critical inner voice of our very own is nearly always our harshest critic.
We often place unreasonable demands on ourselves on what we must do and who we must be. As we emerge from lockdown, perhaps you’re putting yourself under unnecessary pressure? Perhaps you believe you have to get a particular job or maybe you feel you need to complete a list of chores before restrictions lift and if you don’t, you’ve wasted your time.
Time to take a step back or to the side. You are a human being and you’re worthy of love just as you are, regardless of whether you get that job or whether you have the tidiest garden or house. Don’t beat yourself up on any disappointments or mistakes. Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes but we need to see these as an opportunity to learn and improve.
If you find yourself listening to that nasty inner critic of yours, try replacing harsh words with kind words that build you up.
A good place to start is by writing a list of positive things about yourself and read or say them to yourself each morning/night. Thinking of positive things other people have told you might help you get started.
Another good idea is to write down things about yourself that you are grateful for. For example, “I’m grateful that I had much needed time off during the pandemic” rather than “I didn’t achieve anything productive during the pandemic”. Identifying the things you are grateful for can help reframe how you view and feel about a situation.
Resuming ‘normal life’ (for want of a better term) can seem daunting because it is daunting. This is the first time for everyone. Never before has there been such a global lockdown. The rollercoaster of moods during this pandemic is real for everyone. One minute you’re loving lockdown and the next you are suddenly weepy with anxiety wondering when this will all end… and now, just as things are easing and we may feel more settled, change is on the horizon again! But we need to remind ourselves, again, this won’t last forever either!
And we also need to remind ourselves that we have all adapted. What seemed unthinkable 3 months ago – queuing outside Lidl or wearing a mask to go shopping – is now accepted.
So take a moment to acknowledge how far you’ve come, how you have adapted, how you have coped, what challenges you have faced, how you have overcome them and what you have learned. You may surprise yourself.
For anyone in crisis, if you need help now, contact Samaritans (Freephone 116 123) and Pieta House (Freephone 1800 247 247). If you have self-harmed or injured yourself and require urgent medical attention now, please call 999 or 112 or visit your Accident & Emergency Department.
At the beginning of year, 3Ts set out to make 2020 a little kinder by promoting kindness in everyday life. We teamed up acclaimed Irish Artist Will St Leger to bring the message of kindness to life with a dedicated artwork in the heart of Dublin City.
Little did we realise the significance this message would have with the COVID-19 pandemic unknowingly just around the corner. One thing that the pandemic has emphasised is the power of kindness. To our essential workers, our family, our house mates, our neighbours, our friends, those who are cocooning and those who are experiencing a great deal of stress, anxiety, and depression during this time.
Let’s keep this message going and take the time to offer a kind word or a kind deed to others during our day. Offer support to those who need it, connect with those who may be lonely and most importantly, think about the impact your words can have on someone else.
Visit our Need Help section for full listing of crisis helplines, specialist support services, information, videos and self-help guides on a range of mental health topics.