Are you stuck in a cycle of self-criticism? Do you have constant negative, internal thoughts about yourself? Do you beat yourself up when you make mistakes? Having unrealistic expectations of yourself is a form of self-betrayal because you are setting yourself up for failure. This gets you stuck because you immediately cling to the idea that because you aren’t perfect, you are now a failure. Or, maybe you have negative expectations and think that things will always be bad no matter what you try, so why should you bother getting out of this rut? Dismiss the lie that life is screwed up. Every day is a new day, and it starts with the choices you make. It’s time to gently pull yourself out of the mud and shift your mindset. Here are some ways to be more gentle with yourself:
Give yourself credit
You don’t need to make a major achievement every day in order to give yourself credit. Celebrate the small things. Did you step out of your comfort zone at least once today? Acknowledge and appreciate yourself for that! It takes courage to leave your comfort zone, and it can be for something as small as taking a shower in the midst of your depression or leaving your house to go for a walk even though you were paralyzed with fear.
Take care of your body
When we feel negative about ourselves or about life in general, it becomes easy to slip into a cycle where we neglect ourselves. This is us subconsciously punishing ourselves. You make yourself more vulnerable when you don’t take care of yourself. At a minimum, make sure you are getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating three nutritious meals a day, and moving your body. When you’re depressed, eating three meals a day can seem daunting, especially when you are too fatigued to make a decision on what to eat. Set yourself up for success by buying nutritious frozen meals to keep stocked in your fridge. (Trader Joe’s has some good ones!)
Allow yourself to be in the present moment
Being in the past or the future is a sign that you are in your ego. In addition to that, when you are identifying with your thoughts, you can’t be in the present moment. Start by observing your thoughts, and realize that your thoughts aren’t all fact. Some of these thoughts stem from conditioned beliefs, or mental stories you tell yourself that may not even be true. To start freeing yourself from your identification with the mind, the past, and the future, allow yourself time every day to be still. “Observe the flow of your breath. Become aware of a silent but powerful sense of presence. There is one certain criterion by which you can measure your success in this practice: the degree of peace you feel within.” (Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now)
Learn how to be gentle with others
When we aren’t able to be gentle with ourselves, how can we be gentle with other people? Many times, when we experience frustration towards our loved ones, it’s because they remind us of something we aren’t able to accept within ourselves. Being gentle is important because it helps deescalate the situation. You can be more gentle with others by taking the time to respond rather than react, remaining calm, and learning to be more empathetic to other people.
Stop trying to control your life
Stressing excessively about your future won’t help you. You have no idea what will actually happen, and you have absolutely no control over the unknown. The fear stems from not knowing what will happen, and, and its root, whether or not you will die physically or mentally. Your ego is obsessed with clinging to these fears. It’s trying to keep you small by obsessing over things like poverty, aloneness, loss, and failure. Even if we aren’t experiencing these things in the present, the fear tricks us into ruminating about it, trying desperately to control our lives and prevent these awful things from happening to us. Being gentle with yourself requires you to catch yourself whenever you are obsessing about the future, trying to control what you cannot, or not practicing radical acceptance, which is a dialectical behavioral therapy skill. If you can change it, do so, but if you can’t, you must accept it. “By choosing to radically accept the things that are out of our control, we prevent ourselves from becoming stuck in unhappiness, bitterness, anger, and sadness and we can stop suffering.” (Andrew Harris, MS, LPC)
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Counseling services at Integrative Counsel
Other mental health services Integrative Counsel provides are depression counseling, anxiety counseling, art therapy, improving codependency and boundaries, grief and life transition, accessing your body informed wisdom, and increasing mindfulness and awareness.
Alli Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts. Alli’s interests include painting, history, learning about other people, and wearing the color pink. She likens herself to a “mouse in a palm tree”, and she loves it that way.