For some of us, eating ice-cream is the go-to strategy for being kind to ourselves. Alice Boyes suggests ten better options.
1. Nurture your dreams
Being kind to yourself involves allowing yourself to pursue the things you yearn for. Comedian Bill Cosby gives some of the best advice I’ve heard about this: “Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.”
One of the most important strategies for dream pursuit is to surround yourself with a community of people who are already doing whatever it is you want to do. Given New Zealand is such a small country, in many cases you’ll need to find this community online. However you do it, you need to find your tribe – the people who are like you and want the same things as you.
2. Acknowledge you’re doing the best you can
Self-critical people tend to always think they could be trying harder than they already are. There’s no such thing as giving 110 percent. Acknowledge you’re already trying your best.
3. Admire your own skills
People are frequently dismissive of their skills. Ask yourself what skills you have that you think of as not very special – such as courage, tenacity or resourcefulness?
4. Take regular breaks
Do you stop work for lunch or do you work through and eat at your desk? Whether you work in an office or at home, you can benefit from taking short morning and afternoon tea breaks.
If you are really pushed for time then micro breaks are a good place to start – such as taking a few slow, mindful breaths each time you go to the bathroom.
5. Forgive yourself for your past mistakes
Everybody makes mistakes. If you’re still beating yourself up about things from the past, it’s time to forgive yourself and move on.
6. Recognise strengths within areas of weakness
For example, social skills may not be your most shining domain, but think about whether there are some social skills you’re quite good at, such as negotiating, talking on the phone or reliably responding to email.
You’re more likely to try to improve if you can convince yourself that it’s possible. If you write off major skillsets as things you’re simply not good at, this will hold you back.
7. Allow yourself to change your mind on occasion
Self-critical people often pride themselves on being conscientious and dependable. This is great, but it’s also important you allow yourself the flexibility to change your mind.
It’s unreasonable to expect you’ll be able to make perfect decisions at all times.
8. Physical touch
Physical touch stimulates oxytocin and creates a calming effect. Allow yourself to pause and enjoy moments of physical touch during the day. Even stroking your own arm can help!
9. Take a multivitamin and mineral supplement when you’re stressed
Research from the University of Canterbury confirms a body of other research showing that taking a supplement can help people cope better with periods of stress.
10. Ask for what you want
It takes courage to ask for what you want, but if you practice doing it you’ll quickly become more comfortable. (Note that ‘more comfortable’ doesn’t mean you’ll always feel comfortable!)
For example, once you’re involved in a community of people who are pursuing the same dreams as you, ask the questions you want answers to rather than being too afraid to speak up. Likewise, if you’re dealing with a service provider, ask for what you want. Risk the potential embarrassment of them saying no or of no one responding to your question.
As with pursuing the things you yearn for, a key aspect of asking for what you want is learning not to bury your own wants and needs due to fear.
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