I was MIA during this year’s mental health awareness week. Originally I’d planned to get involved, but in the end, I stayed put.
Exhausted after finishing the edit on my second book, I decided to be kind to my brain and take a week off. Ironic, seeing as ‘kindness’ was the MHAW 2020 theme.
What the f**k is kindness anyway? ‘The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.’ It seems like such a flowery word to me, like ‘nice’.
A trait that’s attributed to employees who don’t assert themselves at work. “Oh, she’s really kind but…” Or a conciliation prize for someone we don’t find attractive, but neither do we wish to offend, “that’s so kind of you, but..”
It’s something we associate with maternal figures, grandparents, and nursery teachers. Watery and innocuous, kindness is easy.
Except, it isn’t is it…? Maybe if it were then I could bring myself to let a stranger have the last seat on the tube, rather than darting for it like a crazed squirrel! Maybe I wouldn’t hurt those closest to me during arguments, with harsh words that didn’t need to be said… and maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t have ended up in the hospital last year, after months of self-abuse.
Being kind as it turns out is really f**king hard!
Be kind to YOU
For the sake of the word count, I’m going to focus on self-kindness.
I can’t help but feel irked when I come across gifs/posts on social media, encouraging me to ‘be kind to yourself’ (often written in pastel colours, with a beach in the background). Not because I don’t appreciate the message, but because I’m perplexed by it. How the f**k do I do that! It’s although the world assumes being kind to myself comes naturally when the complete opposite is true.
I know how to punish myself, I’ve been doing that for decades. Endless self-criticism, overworking to the point of exhaustion, slamming my fingers in a drawer when I make a mistake. Yep, no worries, all covered.
But I had no idea where to start with the K word, except maybe have a bath and light some candles, (which I do love).
In the end I cracked it by accepting that I could ‘fake it’ initially. The urge to be kind might not be present, but I could still go through the motions. Sort of like taking care of a kid that you hate, (I imagine).
Top Tips For Self Kindness
- Think of ‘kindness’ as being a separate entity. Self-criticism will always take center stage, purely because it’s louder and that’s ok. Let it rant for a bit without interruption. Then sit back and let the emotions associated with the rant wash over you, DON’T try and rationalise them.
Now take a deep breath and literally play the role of the ‘kindness entity’ in your head. (Sometimes I even talk out loud). E.g.
Critic: What a stupid bitch, I can’t believe you forgot about that phonecall. You’re an idiot and everybody knows it.
**WAIT** Sit with the emotions for a minute.
Kindness: Oh well, that was unfortunate, but you have been under a lot of stress recently. Your workload is heavy, so things will slip through the net now and again. It’s all good. You work so hard. Just apologise and re-schedule.
It takes practice, but it does work. The negative emotions dissipate much faster when I use this technique.
- Make a list of the things that a human needs to survive, (bear with me). Even better, think of what a child needs. E.g. Food, water, sleep, cleanliness, affection, exercise, social interaction.
Then literally tick off each point as you go each day. Viewing myself as something separate that I must care for keeps me in line. Decent food, for example, isn’t a luxury it’s a necessity, and cuddles give me a much-needed oxytocin boost!
- “Feel guilty, but do it anyway.” We all have something that’s a comfort to us. Mine, for instance, is sleep. F**K mindfulness, I want my bed. Sleep sorts me out and heals me better than anything. Sometimes I don’t even need the sleep, I just like lying in bed reading or drinking tea.
Unfortunately, staying in bed is often associated with being ‘lazy,’ and in some cases, this might be true. But f**k that I’m an adult now and I know what I need! I don’t want to go for a 10K run, I want to binge-watch Netflix in bed.
So that’s what I do once a week. I still feel the guilt, but like criticism, I let it wash over me. Then I stay put…. and you what? It feels GLORIOUS!
Faking it with actions, (rather than expecting to feel genuine compassion), was a good start. It helped me to form some new, healthy habits.
I might not be able to stop my brain from calling me a dick, but I can balance it out with some basic and pre-organised kindness.
When I figure out how I can phrase this as an inspirational Instagram post I’ll let you know…