Anxiety and depression can often rob us of the ability to love ourselves. Suddenly we become unkind to ourselves and we focus on our flaws and downfalls, but don’t recognise our strengths or anything positive at all.
So, how can we learn to be kind to ourselves?
When you struggle with anxious thoughts
When I was in the midst of my struggles with anxiety, I was horrible to myself. I would never acknowledge when something had gone right and I would never be proud of myself. I was often appalled at the sight of myself, and would always over think social situations I had been in, constantly thinking I had been stupid in the presence of others. I was always extremely self-critical.
This is normal with anxiety. It is the monster that steals your confidence and positivity. It replaces self-respect and self-worth with self-loathing and being self-critical. It is very difficult to be kind to yourself when you’re drowning in anxious thoughts.
How to change negative thoughts to positive thoughts
When I received professional help, I discovered the importance of being kind to myself. I learnt to stop myself mid-negative thought. In time I learnt to stop the anxious thoughts and over–thinking. It took time, but practice made perfect. I still have to catch myself now from saying something negative.
If you are struggling with negative thoughts, try these tips (they are what helped me!)
- When you look in the mirror, instead of drawing your attention to what you don’t like about yourself, try giving yourself a compliment about one thing you do like about yourself each time.
- When someone gives you a compliment, instead of going shy, accept it and say “Thank you”.
- After being in a social situation, don’t over think how you behaved or what you said. Try to accept it for what it was and distract yourself by doing something you enjoy, like reading a book.
- If you catch yourself in a negative spiral of thoughts, stop yourself kindly and move onto thinking about something else. Compliment yourself, address something you’ve done well. List your achievements in your head. Focus on plans for the weekend. Just stop running with the negative thoughts.
A massive thing that helped with my self-loathing was to practice self-care. I realised that beforehand I never spent any time on myself. I was always busy taking care of everyone else and never had time to take care of me. I would never sit and do anything that I loved.
Now, I understand the importance of self-care. It not only distracted me from the negative thoughts and being so self-critical, but it made me love myself again. I became important again. I now don’t hate myself, or speak so unkindly to myself. I accept compliments; I don’t focus on negatives in the mirror (most of the time). I take care of myself.
Here are some tips for self-care:
- Each day, spend at least 10 minutes doing something you love. Maybe that’s reading a book, watching a TV programme or pampering yourself with a face mask or nail polish.
- Say no to situations that threaten your calm or anxiety. If you are constantly pushing your boundaries, then you will often feel drained and it is then easier to fall into those negative thought patterns. It’s ok to say no and people will respect you more for it.
- Spend time with people that speak kindly to you. Those that celebrate when something amazing happens for you, and encourage you to chase your dreams and reach goals. Someone that can support you and have a laugh with you. Get rid of any toxic relationships in your life.
Don’t let anxiety and depression steal you of being kind to yourself. It is so easy to fall into negative thought patterns and be critical of yourself, but try to follow my advice above to stop this from happening.
Make sure that you practice self-care often as well – it will help you to accept who you are and squash that anxiety monster that tells you you’re not good enough.
You are good enough, you are more than enough and above all, you matter.
If you need support for some of the issues described in Gayleen’s blog, please follow this link to access support. Our peer-support groups can help with these issues.
Author: Gayleen Hodson