Being Kind to Yourself During Hard Times

Written by on April 29, 2020 in Self-Care


Let’s be honest. The idea of being kind to yourself is little more than an excuse for laziness and lack of self-discipline. You can’t be soft on yourself and expect to survive in this world.

Sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it?

And yet, whether by intent or default, most of us fall well short of treating ourselves with anywhere near the level of kindness that we do others.

For some it’s not a matter of withholding self-kindness, it’s simply that it boosts their sense of worth to always put others first.

But I believe that most of us simply never learned what it means to be kind to ourselves.

What It Means to Be Kind to Yourself

The textbook definition of kindness is to be friendly, generous, and considerate.

For our purposes, a more relatable way to imagine what it means would be to treat you as you would your best friend.

Someone who:

  • Believes in you.
  • Makes time for you.
  • Treats you with respect.
  • Values you for who you are.
  • Stands by you in good times and bad.
  • Forgives you for your mistakes and imperfections.
  • Encourages you to pursue dreams and goals.
  • Celebrates your accomplishments.

Try to think of it this way, you are the only person who will be with you in this life from your first breath until your last.

You are the only one who knows the real you, your deepest fears, and greatest desires. No one else truly understands the pain you feel when you doubt your worth or experience failure or your heart is broken.

And no matter how many others offer encouragement when you are going through hard times, it’s you that suffers through the sleepless nights and must ultimately muster the courage to keep going.

You have one body, one mind, and one life to live.

Treating yourself with kindness doesn’t make you selfish or imply that you believe your needs are more important than those of others.

It is simply acknowledging that you have needs and they also matter.

You matter.

Some people believe kindness is the same as indulgence and are afraid that if they are kind to themselves, they will stop doing what they need to do push through a problem.

~ Snehal Kumar, Ph.D

Why it Matters More Than Ever

Many of us have already endured isolation for weeks with no immediate end in sight, so it’s important to understand that during times of prolonged disruption it is normal to experience loneliness, boredom, intense emotions, loss of energy, and difficulty concentrating or even making simple decisions.

Chances are you’re low on energy and irritable, at the same time your body is on high alert as every ache represents a threat, and every cough sounds an alarm.

Your concerns are valid, your worries real, and yet you probably feel guilty for voicing them because others have it so much worse.

Regardless of your circumstances, you are far from helpless.

The way you choose to make this journey, and your ability to come out stronger than ever, is up to you.

That is your power.

3 Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself Now

There are many ways you can practice self-kindness and compassion, but here are 3 areas you can begin focusing on that can make a positive difference almost immediately.

Be Patient with Yourself

At the risk of stating the obvious, chances are your patience level is already stretched beyond reason, but what I’d like you to consider is that there are two types of patience – passive and active – and there is a huge difference between the two.

Passive patience tends to be the go-to response when people are faced with a situation that is (or feels) beyond their control.

It’s that little voice in your head that says “You have no choice but to wait it out or give up.”

For relevant examples of passive patience simply check the feed on your favorite social media channel for people passing time during these days of social isolation by binging on food, alcohol, or reruns, obsessively following the latest news or joking about how long it’s been since they changed their clothes.

In the beginning, this may feel like fun, treating yourself to a rebellion against the drudge of daily routine.

The problem is that over time it can become oppressive, amplifying the feeling of powerlessness, and leaving you bored out of your mind.

Active patience is understanding that even though there are things out of your control, life will go on.

This is not about pressuring you to be productive, just the opposite. It’s finding ways to make conscious, meaningful use of your time and energy.

Beyond the basics of taking care of yourself, what this looks like will be different for each of us, but it could be as simple as investing the time to get to know yourself through journaling or practicing mindfulness.

You could start a garden, learn a new skill, write the story of your journey through a global pandemic, or find a creative way to lend a helping hand to others.

It’s still possible to work toward goals that matter to you, you’ll just have to take it slower, maybe a lot slower, but progress is progress.

Just be gentle and remind yourself with each new day that even the smallest step forward is something to celebrate.

Care for Your Emotional Health

It’s normal to feel more emotional when you’re going through a period of disruption and uncertainty.

It’s okay to feel sad, frustrated, and angry.

But there is something else we need to acknowledge, an underlying sense of grief that goes beyond the tragic loss of so many lives.

We’ve also lost the sense of certainty that used to come with so many of the things in life that we took for granted and it’s hard to get your arms around what that means, even harder to express it.

So, give yourself permission to feel all your messy, goopy emotions, and then release them – go ahead and let go for a few minutes, cry, laugh, be angry, and frustrated.

Do it for yourself, do it as often as you need to.

And then take a few deep calming breaths; acknowledge that yes, parts of life well and truly suck right now, but you are going to get through this, you will be okay.

Maybe even better than okay.

Make Self-Care a Priority

One of my ongoing missions here at Emotionally Resilient Living is to challenge readers to redefine self-care from a variety of quick fixes aimed at soothing frayed nerves and self-pampering to a way of living that promotes long-term well-being.

When you approach self-care in this way, as a lifestyle choice, it improves your overall health, builds resilience, and puts you in a much stronger place to be able to handle whatever challenges may come your way.

Boost Your Boundaries

Beyond the basics of taking care of your physical and emotional needs, one of the most important things you can do right now is to get serious about personal boundaries.  

That means avoiding or limiting exposure to toxic situations and people that unnecessarily add to your stress level.

Yes, keep up with the news, but don’t get sucked into the endless speculation on what could, maybe, possibly, might happen.

Then there are relationships. We all have at least one of those people in our lives, you know who I mean.

The drama queen, the chronic nitpicker, or “the sky is falling” catastrophizer. These are people you normally tolerate because (for whatever reason) you value the relationship, or you happen to be related to them.

You don’t have to cut them out of your life, but you can minimize your exposure to them, even when it’s just by telephone or text.

Pay Attention to What You Say to Yourself

It’s not just other people and situations that can stretch your nerves, your internal narrative (self-talk) can also be a source of strain.

You may not be consciously aware of the things you’re saying to yourself throughout the day, but that ongoing chatter affects your attitudes, behavior, and decision making.

And if you give your mind an inch of negativity and worry, I promise you, it will gladly take a mile.

But this isn’t just about trying to avoid negative thoughts.

Studies have shown that learning to manage self-talk can help to regulate emotions, which reduces stress and anxiety. It can also help you to make better decisions, work through difficult situations, and improve concentration.

Permit Yourself to Feel Good

When the whole world is in turmoil and the news is filled with suffering and hardship, it’s easy to feel guilt or even shame if you find yourself being happy about something.

Sometimes, even smiling can make you feel like a jerk.

But research has shown the ability to lighten up during hard times reduces stress and helps to open your mind to find solutions and regain mental and emotional balance.

No matter what the circumstance, if you can find something that gives you joy and hope for the future, it will help you to come through the storm stronger than ever.

Closing Thoughts

This time of physical distancing and isolation doesn’t have to be painful.

It presents you with an invaluable opportunity to honor our shared humanity by learning to be more compassionate and finding ways to ease the burden of those in the eye of the storm.

This is your chance to learn what it means to be kind to yourself and finally begin to appreciate all the fabulously quirky bits and pieces that make you the one-of-a-kind person that you are.

We may all be going through this together, but the quality and course of the journey will naturally be unique to each of us.

The one thing we have in common is that it will be up to each of us to choose the way we respond to the challenges we face.

It will not be easy for anyone. But in these difficult times, I hope that you will let the path you choose to follow lead you to a future that you can be proud of.

Related reading:
Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here.

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