We say things to ourselves that we would never say to a friend. We treat ourselves critically, harshly, as if by reprimand alone we could improve our outlook on life. For most of us, our inner critic is highly engaged and hard to turn off.
When we take a minute to notice the inner chatter, and take action by asking 'does this serve me well?', that's a first step in changing the narrative. First, HALT. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Any of these, or all together, create conditions which encourage mean self talk and circular thinking - trying to think your way out of those traps is nearly always a dead end. Have a snack, a nap, a chat, a cry. Then, try these suggestions the next time you catch yourself giving yourself a 'shoulda..coulda..didn't' type of lecture. Small steps add up, low expectations are easier to meet and make you feel better. Incremental change seems to stick around longer.
1. Make a jar of 10-20 'touchstones'. Pieces of paper, or elaborately painted beach stones, your choice. Each one has a treat or a cue for self care....Hot bath? Early bedtime? No screentime for a set amount of time? Call a friend? Go for a walk? Eat some chocolate? Most importantly: commit to doing it. Don't let yourself talk yourself out of it.
2. Move it to change it. Put on some feel good music, old favorites or a random playlist. Agree that it may feel silly - and it's worth a try. Dance, yoga, living room calisthenics, running the bleachers at a stadium, a bike ride, what makes you feel good? Again with the low bar. If booking a yoga class across town makes you feel annoyed and exhausted already, get a smaller goal. What's possible right now?
3. Sleep. Seriously. Arianna H et al. might have called it first but this night owl wonders...when was the last time you woke up actually refreshed? For me, it's a struggle to go to bed before midnight (and I am always awake with loud kids sometime around sunrise...) Every night I think 'I should go to bed early'. Every night I say 'it's only 10.30, what's another hour?' Cue irritation, peak anxiety, carb cravings, and generally unsociable behavior.
4. Why not dress yourself up and take yourself on a solo date, sans devices which intentionally block connection? The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, has a beautiful practice for increased inspiration, connection, and self care. This video is a gorgeous reminder of How To Be Alone.
5. Regarding other people. We mostly can't change how people act - their business is theirs, but we can act towards ourselves in ways which we know are supportive, healthy, safe, and encouraging of well-being. It gives a good bar to measure against when we are being maltreated, can change our narrative towards our own sense of place in the world, and can help us shift towards treating ourselves the way we deserve to be treated.