- Pamela Newman, LCSW-C
Be Kind to You in 2022
Let’s face it, the past two years have been challenging for all of us. With Omicron surging, the sense of relief and glimmer of hope many of us may have been starting to feel are quickly diminishing. Many are again cancelling, adapting or pushing back events they had been planning for some time. Others may be, once again, juggling work and/or childcare while sick and/or are feeling anxious about the possibilities of virtual learning again and others may be concerned about continuing to send their kids to school or daycare with the increased risk of exposure.
With everything we are experiencing, I invite you to try to “Be Kind to You in 2022.”
When we are in a constant state of stress or overwhelm, taking care of ourselves often takes a back seat. It only takes a few moments to be kind to ourselves. Here are some ways that you can practice being kind to yourself:
Let go of the tension: Pause. Deep breath. Scan your body for any tension. Roll your shoulders, shake out your arms, relax your jaw or neck.
Go easy on yourself: Remember that we are all STILL grieving. Grief is not linear and there is no one “proper” way to grieve. We all experience grief in a different way. Some of us are still reeling from 2020, others are facing impending losses. When considering how you are coping, it can be helpful to identify any feelings of grief we may be experiencing.
Consider how you speak to yourself: Are you constantly putting yourself down? Getting upset with yourself? Blaming or shaming yourself? We are often much more critical of ourselves than we would be of anyone else. In her book, Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff, PhD discusses how self-compassion can be a “major protective factor for anxiety and depression… research shows that self-compassionate people tend to experience fewer negative emotions such as fear, irritability, hostility or distress than those who lack self-compassion.” When we take a moment to be aware of how we are talking to ourselves, we can then determine how our thoughts are impacting us and work to shift them.
Set a timer and allow yourself to mindfully identify your feelings: Many of us try to push our feelings away because it’s too difficult or overwhelming to attend to them. Sometimes we push feelings away because we believe it’s the only way we can get anything done. By allowing ourselves to feel our feelings and acknowledge them, they lose some of their intensity and power over us. Kristin Neff, PhD also goes on to explain that “mindfulness allows us to see that our negative emotions are just that, thoughts and emotions, not necessarily reality. They are therefore given less weight. They are observed but not necessarily believed.” Try giving yourself time every day to feel what you are feeling and give your emotions the attention they need. Be an outside observer or detective of what you are experiencing. You can do this by writing your feelings out or simply trying to recognize what you are feeling without judgment.
Cut yourself some slack: You are human, you are allowed to make mistakes, you are allowed to take breaks, you are allowed to ask for help. You are also allowed to prioritize yourself and do nice things for yourself. You can’t run on an empty tank. Know that recharging yourself is not optional.
Take time to process: When you take time to care for yourself or prioritize yourself, what is that like for you? Are you able to enjoy it or do you feel guilty or that you should be doing something more “productive”? Many of us measure our worth through our productivity. This is often where I remind clients to “put on your mask before assisting others.” If you are unable to breathe, it’s impossible to help anyone else.
You do you: Check in with yourself. See what is working and what is not. Practice being flexible rather than being rigid about the day-to-day. Kristin Neff continues to explain that “the more we resist the fact of what is happening right now, the more we suffer… when you fight against the fact that pain is arising in your conscious experience, you are piling on feelings of anger, frustration and stress on top of the pain. This only exacerbates your suffering… Pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional.”
I hope you will experiment with these strategies and discover what works for you. Even if you choose to do none of these things, you did read this article, and that’s something!
Wishing you kindness in the New Year.