How to be kind to yourself even when life doesn’t go as expected
Sometimes you can make plans right down to the very last minute detail and then something will happen and it doesn’t turn out as you expected.
After finishing university, Ayesha thought she knew where her life was heading. She had goals to aim for and was determined to reach them. However, it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that she took a step back and realised she was pushing herself too hard and at the expense of her wellbeing.
Two years ago, I graduated in Psychology with first-class honours. My brain and body could not comprehend; I achieved that? I always thought of myself as an average Joe floating through life. For the first time in my life, I was proud of myself and loved this newly discovered feeling – my time to shine.
Once I got that degree in my hand, I wistfully put my student life behind and began my new life back in my hometown, Leicester. “Now what?” – that euphoric feeling I once felt had diminished from my body. Instead, every single fault or mistake I had ever made, since entering this world, came flowing into my mind like a colossal wave.
The only thing providing me comfort was the fact I could experience that immensely warm feeling again – but only if I accomplished something else. So, I started drastically making lists and goals with small time frames. I created a toxic relationship with my mind; the more I attained, the more I wanted straight away.
Last year I was offered a superb internship with SANE and moved in with family in the outskirts of London. Instead of celebrating my achievement, I began looking for my next goal to achieve. With each success, the euphoric feeling I once held as a graduate became less – I wanted more.
I moved on from my last success and dreamed of becoming independent and moving out on my own into London. This next goal occupied my whole mind; putting immense pressure on myself every day to achieve this. I had encountered countless setbacks, for example, not having enough money to move out or not having the stability of a permanent position. With these setbacks, I punished myself with self-deprecating thoughts. The stress of not achieving this next goal meant I couldn’t savour my current life nor have fun.
Instead of accepting that the journey may not be comfortable, I began exerting myself even harder to make sure my goal of moving out became a reality. I continually searched for something more than the life I had. This load resulted in a significant decline in my mental wellbeing. I was sleeping less; continuously thinking about my next career move (without a breather).
My mind was racing all the time. The London lifestyle was getting to me, but I wouldn’t allow myself to give up – I couldn’t face failure. My mind and body were exhausted. I would get constant migraines and have aching joints. It felt like I was sinking into this black hole, and there was nothing I could do. I adopted an all-or-nothing mentality; only success is allowed, and failure is not an option.
In March, I went back to my hometown, Leicester, for a break. Little did I know this brief vacation was a permanent move as we went into a nationwide lockdown.
A temporary setback
Moving back to my family home made me feel even more removed from my dreams. Therefore, frustrating me even further. The only thing which got me through was saying to myself – ”this is only a temporary situation”. Although this did work in the short term, it wasn’t a healthy way to deal with it as months after moving back, as I am still in here. This phrase didn’t allow me to settle into my new life or enable me to accept the situation and move on. It made me believe that I don’t need to enjoy the present time in my hometown as I will be fleeing the nest soon.
Funnily, it was not until last week; I was about to put a deposit on a room in London. The day had finally come where I could cross off another goal. I was ecstatic; however, I had a wave of doubt as I don’t think I was ready to move out of Leicester. How weird is that – the place I tried so hard not to call home is the place I am not prepared to leave yet. I decided to take a step back, accept this and not kick myself for this decision. I could always cross off ‘Moving into London’ on my list another time.
Make sure to bloom
Sometimes the unexpected happens, and it is okay. You don’t need to be so harsh on yourself; you are only one person. Research has found that being kind to yourself increases your productivity in the long run. Things eventually tend to work out unexpectedly; now, I have been given job security – with this fantastic charity. I also have somewhere which I can call home in Leicester, and I learned how to drive my mum’s car – a bonus.
I am now discovering how much the mind can affect the body and vice versa. I am also using this time to learn how vitally important it is to take care of yourself, reduce stress, and be kind.
The world is full of stress-inducing scenarios; it’s how we react to them that matters. For example, a flower needs water, sun and air to bloom. If deprived of those three things, it will become weak and eventually die. We must treat ourselves like a flower and take care good care of ourselves if we want to bloom in this world.
Take care, be kind
Here are a few ways in which I have learned to be more kind to myself:
Listen to your body
Your body knows you more than you know you. A good friend once told me that your body is your most excellent teacher. It knows you better than even a textbook.
I have learned that certain things, such as waking up at 4am to do a workout, does not work for me, nor having six hours of sleep [unless you want to experience Miss grouchy over here]. Only you know what works best for your body, and no one else can tell you otherwise.
The most important thing you need to understand is that we are just human beings, not robots. It is okay if some days you want to turn your phone off, lay upside down on your sofa in your pyjamas and have a chick flick marathon. Taking time out of our busy lives to be is an excellent medicine for our body. By disconnecting from the influx of social media updates, emails and texts, it enables us to recharge naturally. Be content with being where you are, in this current moment.
Trust the process
I’ve realised that I push too hard to make things happen without patience. The fear of failure drives me. Every day I was overusing my brain, creating unreachable goals, forcing myself to learn something new as this was the only route to success – allowing me very little time to relax. My productivity therefore suffered. Setbacks are not the end of the world. We need to trust that we are precisely where we are supposed to be. Life becomes so much easier when you stop fighting with it, relax and go with the flow.
Be open to change
Enduring change has been one of the hardest lessons for me. Nothing stays the same forever. However, life becomes complicated when we become attached to the way things are. Accept that life is always changing. There will be new opportunities and new losses which will present themselves throughout your journey. For me, although I am taking a step back moving from London to Leicester, there are still positives from this decision, such as a new set of experiences to learn. Uncertainty can ultimately enrich your life or diminish it. Embrace it.
I have realised that sometimes we will feel on the top of the world and some days we want to hide away as we don’t feel good enough – and that is okay. Instead of fighting these emotions, become aware of the sensations in your body, allowing them to reach their full expression. Don’t be too harsh on yourself if one day, you are feeling a tad anxious or upset as it is only an emotion. Being kind to yourself and accepting the way you behave can bring a sense of clarity into your mental world. You could do this by journaling, meditating, or even through art.
Moreover, if we take good care through our bodies through exercise, healthy eating, or even having a nice relaxing soak in the bath. One thing I like to do is to dance to happy music while doing my weekly chores [it’s like having a little party]. When we care for ourselves, our minds will be thankful and become a pleasant place to stay.
Do something fun
I must emphasise this. HAVING FUN SHOULDN’T BE A REWARD. I have now learned that we should make having fun as part of our routine. You don’t have to spend loads of money on holidays or concerts all the time – it could even be little things like going to the park, meeting your friends, cooking your favourite meal, or also creating some art. Treat yourself – you deserve it!
Life shouldn’t be all work and no fun as I do believe we should live our lives not just survive. Believe me; our body will thank us later.
In unexpected times, it can be easy to feel helpless and anxious. By being kind to yourself, you will end your battle with what life is [a bunch of ups and downs] and have a more fulfilled experience. You are worthy of kindness, no matter how you are feeling. Pat yourself on the back and remember, you are doing the best you can – celebrate that.