Thank Goodness That’s Over… I Hope?

Well, what can I say? 2020 has been the strangest, most challenging year we have faced yet. Some of us have fared ok, and some of us have struggled. Christmas is supposed to be the time of year when we relax, have fun, spend time with our chosen family and friends, but this year looks very different for many people.

The struggles we have faced this year have been some of the hardest in my lifetime- mental health difficulties have increased, financial struggles and an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. Never mind our health and how worried we may be about ourselves and our loved ones.

I have spent most of the year in shielding, and it has been quite an isolating experience, even with a large family. We have missed out on so many celebrations, and we have lost family members. As I am typing, my town has now gone into ‘Tier 3’ due to the seriousness of the situation. We live in some very worrying times.

There are so many reasons to take care of ourselves, but we quite often put others first. During this challenging time, I want you to be compassionate to yourselves- we have had such a challenging year, and we often overlook ourselves. Being compassionate to yourself is difficult, but we afford so much compassion to others, why not focus on yourself for a little bit?

2021 may well start easily- however, we face more challenges with this new COVID strain, which is more easily transmitted, and there will be further difficulties ahead. A vaccine is here but will take time to roll out. Please remember to be careful, social distance and wear a mask- doing these things shows caring for yourself and others, even if we don’t realise it. Reach out to your family and friends, even if you think they are busy or have a place to go at Christmas. Quite often you may find that they don’t- we are very good at hiding our difficulties sometimes, and during a pandemic, we are no different.

Try not to put pressure on yourself for an ‘amazing’ Christmas; new year’s eve will be very different, too. So what if you didn’t learn French, or how to play the piano. So what if your friend is now an expert artisanal baker- we are all coping with this pandemic in the vest way we know how to, and for some people, just getting out of bed and making a cup of tea is about all that they can muster. We have all achieved so much this year; just getting through 2020 has been challenging, but we have kept going due to our resilience. Your friend who is the expert baker, didn’t do it because they needed to be a baker, they did it to keep busy and focused- we have all done this in some very different ways, and it is how we have coped and got through 2020. We are going to need this fortitude for next year, too.

I wish all of you a safe and peaceful holiday period; 2021 will be different, and hopefully better, but we need to be patient and take our time. Have a lovely holiday, and I will see you all in 2021.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

Like all of you, I have been working from home, trying to educate the kids whilst working with clients, admin and writing my progression for my thesis- COVID-19 has kindly set me back a bit, like I am sure it has many of you! So, this blog is going to be short and concise… unless I end up waffling!

This week marks an incredibly unusual Mental Health Awareness week for us all, with everyone coping in the best ways that they can. The theme for this year is ‘Kindness’, but I would ask you “what do you think about when I say ‘kindness’?” I am sure most of you will think about being kind to others. However, particularly during these stressful times, what about showing kindness to yourself? Have you thought about that?

Most of us have an abundance of compassion for our friends, family and even strangers, but what about compassion for ourselves? When do we think about being compassionate towards ourselves? When are we actually compassionate towards ourselves? What do you think being compassionate towards yourself is? What should it consist of?

Being compassionate towards yourself is difficult- our brains are hard-wired to assess for danger at all times, and goodness knows we are in a dangerous situation right now, with COVID-19 causing concerns globally. Jobs, health, schooling and friendships feel like they are all at risk, and some may well be. Now is a really good time to start to be more compassionate towards yourself.

Being kind can consist of many things- volunteering, helping a friend, a random act of kindness or making a cup of tea for yourself because you have had a hard day. I guess I am thinking about the home-schooling parents here- wow, what a term, eh?? Congratulations for getting through it- it has been tough!

Helping others gives us an amazing sense of satisfaction and happiness, but it can be difficult to volunteer or help out whilst this current pandemic is happening. We do, however, have the internet to help! We can virtually check-in with people and see how our friends and family are. We could skill-share online- I could teach you yoga if you teach me knitting? Given that most of us are actually stuck home and cannot get out to help others, it feels to me that right now is a really good time to practice your kindness towards yourself.

When something goes wrong, or doesn’t turn out as you would have liked or expected, what happens next? What words go through your head? Are they kind words? Are they words you would use to a friend in the same situation? 

We use our Internal defensive behaviours to keep the self from experiencing difficult internal situations or emotions and can include dissociation, substance misuse, harming oneself, and constantly reminding oneself of one’s faults, flaws, and weaknesses.

External defensive behaviours are intended to help the individual avoid harm from others, and include blaming the self, silencing the self, being submissive and non-assertive, distrusting others, and keeping others at a distance (Gilbert & Procter, 2006)

So, If my friend failed their driving test, am I going to commiserate with them and support them or am I going to tell them that it isn’t surprising as they fail at everything and are totally useless? NO!!! So, if I failed my driving test, why do I have those thoughts about myself? This is what I mean about being compassionate towards yourself- ok, I failed the test, but it isn’t the end of the world. I can take the test again; I can take more lessons and I can get better. Everyone fails something at some point in their lives. 

Part of compassion is about being realistic- who are you comparing yourself to? There isn’t really much point in me comparing myself to Taylor Swift, is there? I am not under 30, a pop star or a millionaire, so the comparison isn’t fair to me. Even if my brain thinks it is!

Kindness starts with being kind to yourself, so it is just as import to recognise when you have given enough of yourself- feeling tired, overwhelmed or frustrated are really good signs that it’s time to be kind to yourself. Don’t overdo things- so many people in this pandemic situation have decided to learn things or bake things. If you don’t feel like learning something, just because others have, doesn’t mean you have to. Back to comparing again, aren’t we? Their situation will be different to yours, so maybe they have more time and energy to actually do new and different things. It is ok to have not learnt French, the guitar or how to make the perfect sourdough bread before we all go back to work, you know.

For support:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk

https://youngminds.org.uk

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/

https://www.compassionatemind.co.uk

Reference:

Gilbert, P., & Procter, S. (2006). Compassionate Mind Training for People with High Shame and Self-Criticism: Overview and Pilot Study of a Group Therapy Approach. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 13, 353–379.