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On Being Kind: a quick guide to showing yourself compassion

Simran reflects on some ways she’s learned to look after her mental health, and shares them with you

Content warning: self-harm

Whilst feminist writer Caitlin Moran has been criticised for her lack of intersectional focus, her metaphor of being your own baby shared in an open letterprovides an enlightening perspective on caring for yourself:

Pretend you are your own baby. You would never cut that baby, or starve it, or overfeed it until it cried in pain, or tell it it was worthless. Sometimes, girls have to be mothers to themselves. Your body wants to live – that’s all and everything it was born to do. Let it do that, in the safety you provide it. Protect it. That is your biggest job. To protect your skin, and heart.

Loving yourself, particularly if you’re going through a difficult time, is not something that always occurs naturally. I believe that self-care means to give yourself room to evaluate situations and make changes to prevent negative feelings in the future. It also means to appreciate that as a human, you will mess up from time to time, but it’s a case of making space to learn and implement coping mechanisms. In this piece, I’ve rounded up a few things to keep in mind when life proves that little bit more difficult.

It’s fine to have an off day

Being miserable can feel like prison. Even with the best will in the world, sadness can manifest itself in destructive behaviour towards others as well as yourself. My own low mood creates negative energy and manifests itself through passive aggression. I have to remove myself from others and the digital world in order to recover and avoid hurting my loved ones. During times like these, I must remind myself that it’s actually okay to be bitter and feel hatred for the world. Bad thoughts and attitudes towards others are an intrinsically human feature which demand a safe space for reflection.

Ruminating on perceived weaknesses and is much easier than championing your strengths

An aspect of self-care is to appreciate your strengths that have been forgotten. After all, ruminating on perceived weaknesses and is much easier than championing your strengths. Social media acts a catalyst for strengths to be appreciated only a conditional basis – in comparison to those of others.

My advice on a low mood day? DITCH THE PHONE AND LAPTOP. Put them under your bed. Lock them away. Allow for a drawer to be their temporary home so you can focus on yourself and yourself only.  When you need space, it is not selfish to position yourself as the centre of the world. Take it as an exercise in learning to not feel guilt. Consider writing about how you’re feeling.  Spend some time alone in a park or garden (if the weather permits it) and take some time to appreciate the feel of grass on your toes. Appreciate what it means to be alone in that moment of time and bask in its calmness.

Don’t underestimate the therapeutic power of a list

Lists are brilliant. Making a list can be a powerful tool in helping you appreciate what you have as opposed to ruminating on what you don’t have. As cliché as that is, it’s pretty hard to put that into practice at times – especially when you’ve been conditioned to compare your life to others’. I find that seeing others in strong social circles can be a trigger for my own self-hatred and bitterness and I find making a list a helpful way to help break away from negative feelings.

Painting an overall bleak picture of reality is so easy. Making a note to remind yourself of what makes life worth living and the positive affects you have on others, can be a refreshing and powerful experience.

Surround yourself with wholesome literature

Reading can be a saviour during difficult times, but taking time out to enjoy a book is easily said than done. It’s easy to feel guilty as you ponder whether you should be going through some flash cards for an exam instead. But investing time in reading is invaluable, and the words of others can be great source of comfort. This is particularly the case when experiences are relatable. Many have documented their own mental health struggles and coping mechanisms in zines and online blogs. Online platform gal-dem, have #SelfcareSundays: space for ‘promoting love, positivity and good vibes.’

Refrain from alcohol

I can’t help but wince as I reflect on my own experiences with alcohol. When it came to getting trollied at the expense of my wellbeing, I excelled.  I jumped at the chance of a night out when it coincided with when my self-esteem was practically non-existent. Unhealthy amounts of wine would be consumed for nights outs that ended in tears and contemplation of self-harm.

When alcohol acts as a pathway for distress and self-loathing, to be responsible is to be kind

Recognising this, I began to stop drinking when I’d just entered the tipsy phase. Still having your cognitive faculties intact when others around you had lost theirs is difficult, but you learn to appreciate the silliness of it all.  When alcohol acts as a pathway for distress and self-loathing, to be responsible is to be kind. Make limiting the amount you drink a goal and learn to identify the point where you can drink without becoming self-destructive. If you are (understandably) one of those who feel uncomfortable not drinking on a night out, do not give in to feeling guilty for saying no to going out in the first place. Maybe arrange a day trip with those you were supposed to be with to compensate for missed time. Your friends owe it to you to be supportive.

Ditch the diet and don’t feel bad about it

Easier said than done, but it’s important to reflect on how diet culture can be toxic. We live in a time where certain foods are paired with a side of guilt. It’s so deeply embedded in some that in order to love yourself (via staying away from carbs and sugar), you must hate yourself for consuming them. On a bad day, stay away from diet culture. Get some squirty cream. Have a hot chocolate. Order yourself a 14-inch pizza courtesy of Dominoes and most importantly, DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT IT. An article published in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science stated:

There appears to be a link between physical and social warmth (Williams and Bargh, 2008). As such, one could imagine that those who are feeling lonely might well benefit, psychologically-speaking, from holding something warm in their hands (think only of a warming mug of chicken soup, or a comforting cup of tea). Similarly, olfactory cues can also deliver a powerful emotional lift, having been shown to help aid relaxation.

Now how’s that for an excuse to get stuck in.

How do you look after yourself? Leave your thoughts in the comments.