New Year's Affirmations for Self-Care
Rather than making some New Year’s Resolutions and inevitably failing to meet any of them, this blog will look at some positive affirmations and statements to keep in mind for the challenges and opportunities of 2021.
R – Reaching out is not a weakness. We’re wired for connection.
We are biologically driven to survive and thrive in relationships. There is nothing wrong with asking for help or admitting when times are tough. Stay in touch with relatives, friends, mentors and other people within your social circle. These should be people who really “get it” – who truly listen and allow you to be vulnerable. You can also talk to someone at a helpline – this link from Mind offers a range of organisations who are ready to offer support: https://tinyurl.com/ybtoe8gz Let’s create a culture where we reach out to others who may be struggling and help them to feel kept in mind and understood. Don’t overlook just how powerful it is to say “That sounds really hard” during a conversation with a colleague or to show that we’re thinking of a loved one with a phone call or a text.
E – No matter what life has in store, you are Enough
When we feel overwhelmed or stuck during stressful times, we can tend to be hard on ourselves. We may start to believe that we simply aren’t able to cope with a situation. We can predict that failure or the worst outcomes are more likely than not. Try to practise more positive self-talk. “I deserve to be happy”. “I have people who look out for me”. “I am proud of how I have kept going”. Reflect on the personal qualities which others appreciate, such as your ability to listen, your patience or your sense of humour. Challenge those all-or-nothing thoughts by asking “How true is this?” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Reframe your perspective with hope by saying “This will get easier now that I know what to expect” or “I can’t do this yet, but I’m going to keep trying”.
S – Spend more time in the here-and-now
We can easily be weighed down by powerful emotions related to past events or anxious thoughts about the future. Having our minds drift away from the present moment is actually very common and this is likely to happen far more frequently when we have so much to worry about. Think about ways to anchor yourself in the here-and-now. Slow down and deepen your breathing with a longer exhale. Take a few moments to tense and relax different muscles around your body. Pay attention to what is happening around you right now. Getting out in nature offers lots of opportunities to notice and absorb different sights, sounds, smells and textures. As talked about later in this blog, practising gratitude is also a simple yet effective way of keeping ourselves in the present.
O – It’s Ok not to be ok
Our mental health needs to be continually managed at the best of times. It’s not surprising that this becomes more difficult during sudden and prolonged periods of stress and uncertainty. There is no shame in feeling scared, angry or bored by the restrictions introduced during the pandemic. You may feel guilty that others are experiencing much tougher circumstances than you. There may even be a sense of loss after enjoying the time at home. We are having normal reactions to what is an abnormal situation. Beware of comparing yourself to others on social media. A happy picture may only be a snapshot of an otherwise difficult day. Just because someone else has decided to learn a new language or hone their baking skills doesn’t make your day of lounging in a cosy slanket any less important.
L – Looking after yourself is not selfish
Even during the most stressful times, we can fall prey to the concept of doing more. Working longer hours. Giving up our free time. By sacrificing opportunities for self-care, we make it harder to tolerate stress in the long-term and ultimately we won’t be as helpful to others. There is nothing selfish about taking the time to go for a walk, read a good book, enjoy a long soak in the bath, treat yourself to a gift or simply “Netflix and Chill”. In fact, building self-care into your regular routine can be predictable and comforting when you’re facing constant and sudden change in your work or your caring commitments. If you think that being kind to yourself is the last thing you can fit in right now, then it’s probably a priority.
U – Ups and downs are to be expected
You can think that you have the week planned out and then something comes out of the blue which demands your immediate attention. You might have planned to do something relaxing or enjoyable, only for circumstances to change. Something which you easily achieved last month may seem like an uphill struggle today. Zig-zags in our success are part and parcel of life. But when we’re stressed, those bad days and setbacks can feel utterly bewildering and they colour our mood for hours or days afterwards. An important thing to keep in mind is that there are only so many things you can control, but they are the most important things. Choose to get enough sleep each night. Choose to eat and drink well. Choose to increase your contact with people who are kind, understanding and motivating.
T – There is always reason to be Thankful
What did you manage to achieve today, despite being so busy and stressed? What went well? What was better than expected? What made you smile or laugh? Being grateful for even the smallest things can make a big difference to our well-being. Keeping a diary or writing them on a post-it-note for the fridge can be a concrete reminder of these positives. Don’t forget the things we take for granted, such as our family and friends, our food, our health, the roof over our heads, etc. Much like staying in the here-and-now, gratitude is an important filter for negative thoughts. Persistent stress and anxiety can erode our sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. When we can find the good in even our darkest hours, we can maintain a more balanced perspective on life and cope more effectively with difficult moments.
I – Work towards the Ideal you in small steps
What needs to change to make everyday life a little easier? When you’re having a good day, put aside a little time to come up with a plan for doing things differently. It might help to start by reflecting on when your well-being started to go downhill in recent days, weeks or months. What are the things you’ve been doing lately which need to be reduced or stopped altogether? What are the things you can start to do more of? If you’re faced with a seemingly insurmountable “To do” list, perhaps you can break it down into small chunks or prioritise the most important tasks. Be prepared for your plans to go awry from time to time as a result of factors beyond your control. Keep your expectations realistic and start with small steps. Self-care is a marathon rather than a sprint.
O – Openness helps us to be authentic with others and about ourselves
We often have little idea what others are going through. Their words and actions may confuse or irritate us, but we are more likely to be empathetic when we remain open and curious about what lies underneath. We can also strive to be more open in how we communicate about ourselves. Resist the urge to say “I’m grand” when you’re feeling the opposite. If someone is likely to judge you for saying “I’m having a rough time”, that says more about them than it does about you. Don’t be afraid to use the word “No”. Too often we try to please others or worry about what they might think. How can anyone recognise that you’re struggling if you continue to be all things to all people? Give yourself the license to say “Not today” or “Yes I can help you with that after I…”.
N – Being Nice feels nice
Over the past year, we’ve celebrated the many people who have helped to make life a little better for others. While difficult times can cultivate this sense of appreciation, we should aim to make kindness a routine occurrence. A few words, a gesture or even a smile can change someone’s entire day and give them something positive to cling to as they cope with a difficult day. An act of kindness is like a ripple in a pond. We feel good when we help others to feel good. What can you do to spread a bit of happiness and admiration? It can be as simple as giving someone a compliment, encouraging others to look at someone’s work, writing a thank you card, leaving warm feedback on a website or reminding someone of how they helped you in the past.
The above are just some examples of the big takeaways from 2020 for me. Feel free to share your own hopes and affirmations for 2021. In the spirit of kindness and gratitude, check out my recent thread on Twitter which shares the excellent work of a variety of educators and positive people: https://twitter.com/DrChrisMooreEP/status/1342056414550913028
I wish you all a peaceful and prosperous New Year!