Social media posts about #SelfCare are trendy these days, but what does “self-care” really mean? The things that qualify as being kind to yourself may differ from person to person, but components include being less pessimistic and speaking gently to yourself. Researchers find that when people practice self-compassion, they are less likely to grapple with depression or anxiety. It doesn’t necessarily mean they never feel depressed or anxious—rather, self-compassion helps people cope with issues in a healthier way. And, as you’d imagine, people who don’t experience crippling bouts of depression or anxiety are generally more satisfied with their lives and relationships.
But self-care isn’t always easy, especially for people in caregiving roles. Being kind to yourself is a learned skill for most people. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Think of yourself in the third person. What would you say to a friend or family member who feels what you’re feeling right now? What would you do for them? Try to treat yourself with the same care that you’d give to a loved one.
2. Be aware of how you talk to yourself. Your inner critic is likely to be more negative than another person would be about a situation, and there’s a good chance that internal criticism isn’t even accurate. If you can isolate your inner critic’s voice, you’re better able to analyze the truth of what it’s saying. A therapist may be able to help you recognize inner criticism.
3. Learn grounding techniques. When you feel yourself starting to spiral, try to shift your focus to your physical environment. Pay attention to the surface you’re standing on or how the breeze feels on your face and do some deep breathing exercises.
4. Keep gratitude notes. Focusing on one thing every day that you’re thankful for can be a powerful way to alter your mood. The notes don’t have to be in fancy journals, either—open the notes app on your phone and jot down a line or two.
It may take time to make self-care a part of your daily routine. Once you start to feel the benefits of being kind to yourself, though, you have a better chance of it becoming a healthy habit.
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