With Valentine’s Day approaching, there is a lot of buzz in the air about love. We buy gifts and make plans with our loved ones to show them how much we love them and that we care. But what about ourselves? How often do you do something for yourself to show that you care?

I’m not talking about the typical acts of self-care (we’ve already covered those, here and here). What I’m talking about is your internal dialogue; that little voice that either tells you that you’re awesome or tells you that you suck. Society is hard on us growing up, always expecting us to be the best; get the best grades, get a high-paying job, etc. As we grow older and begin to develop our own ideas about ourselves, we often begin to adopt these feelings.

It’s wonderful to have drive and to want to improveourselves, we need that in order to have purpose in life. But oftentimes itgoes too far and we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, whichinevitably leads to failure. When we experience this failure, it can be sounbelievably detrimental to our emotional wellbeing that we lose all sense ofourselves, our self-worth, and our self-esteem. This can in turn lead to adownward spiral of feeling anxious and depressed.

So how do we stop this cycle? Well, it’s not easy. Most ofus have spent our whole lives believing that we need to be perfect and gaugingour self-worth on our accomplishments in life rather than our character orintegrity as people.

This is a complicated issue, but I’ve broken down some tipsthat you can use to help be your own Valentine this February and give yourselfsome love.

Give YourselfPermission to be Imperfect

Everyone knows that logically, none of us are perfect. Weall make mistakes. But social media and the expectations that others put on us(and we put on ourselves) can cause us to lose sight of that. We only see whatother people want us to see; typically, the positive things in their lives, andtheir successes but not their failures.

When we stop comparing ourselves to those around us, we giveourselves permission to be imperfect. It’s okay to make mistakes; in fact, somewould argue that it’s necessary in order to grow and improve in life! Youcannot improve or learn if you don’t fall down or fail sometimes. So the nexttime that you make a mistake or recognize that you should/could have donesomething better, give yourself permission to make that mistake, learn from it,and move on.

Which brings me to my next point:

Look at the BigPicture

We often get really upset with ourselves when we make mistakes.We can’t believe that we forgot to do this thing, or didn’t get a good enoughgrade, and we’re mad at ourselves for it. But what does that get us? If youfail an exam and get angry at yourself and beat yourself up, that’s probablynot going to give you the confidence to do well next time.

In addition from accepting our mistakes and learning fromthem, we also have to put things into perspective and really see the bigpicture. So you fail an exam, and your mind automatically goes into panic mode,thinking you’ll never amount to anything. But think about it: is one exam goingto make you flunk out of school? Probably not.

Even if it does, does that mean you can never get a job? No;perhaps not in your desired field, or you may have to return to school. Doesthat mean you’re going to be homeless? Again, doubtful. You can likely get ajob somewhere and support yourself, or get some help from friends and family.Mistakes feel like failure and they make us question our worth, but we are notdefined by any one, two, or even three events in our lives. We are defined byour character and our ability to grow, learn, and bounce back from adversity.

Have RealisticExpectations of Yourself

Having said that, we also have to have realisticexpectations of ourselves. Sure, on the surface it may seem like a given thatyou expect yourself to pass your exams. But what if you were battling somefamily, financial, or personal issues at the time? What if you had a millionthings on your plate and couldn’t concentrate to study?

We don’t want to make excuses for negative behavior, but wedo need to be realistic. We can’t take on the whole world and come outunscathed (not even the Avengers could do that; spoiler alert).

So the next time you’re beating yourself up because youdidn’t work out after coming home from a 12-hour shift, making and eatingdinner, helping your kids with their homework, and spending time with yourfamily – remind yourself that you can’t do it all. No one can, and THAT’S OKAY!You can work out tomorrow. The world will not end (and you won’t get fat)because you missed one workout.

Let Yourself FeelNegative and Positive Emotions

While it’s all fine and dandy for me to suggest that yougive yourself a break, inevitably those negative emotions are going to pop up.‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m a failure’, ‘I never do anything right’, ‘I’llnever amount to anything’ – sound familiar? If so, you’re certainly not alone.We all have these thoughts that pop up once in a while, and that will probablynever change. Without some of these thoughts, it may make it difficult for usto grow. But what we can do is decrease their impact on us by not allowing themto take control of us.

The next time you’re feeling down because you made amistake, let yourself feel that disappointment. It’s okay. It doesn’t mean thatyou ARE a disappointment, it just means that this event was disappointing toyou, and next time you want to do better. Rather than trying to get rid ofthese feelings, embrace them and learn from them.

Embrace Your Flawsand Your Strengths

Not only are we not all perfect, but we all possessdifferent skills and strengths. As they say, it takes all kinds to make theworld turn.

We often see certain thoughts, feelings and skills andnegative or positive. Happiness, excitement, empathy, and selflessness areoften seen as positive. Sadness, anxiety, grief, feeling down, and selfishnessare often seen as negative. But can you think of any instances in which theopposite is true?

What about someone who is so selfless that they don’t takecare of themselves? We likely wouldn’t see this as positive. What about someonewho is feeling down because they haven’t slept well and they’re tired andoverwhelmed? While this may not feel good, I doubt most of us would blame theother person for feeling down.

The point is, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and even skillsdo not have to be positive or negative, each one has their place in society andin life, and we need all of them to make the world turn. Even things like anxietyand worry can be extremely beneficial in some circumstances, like the worrierwho always checks traffic before they leave the house to ensure they don’t runinto a backed-up highway (and they never do).

What Would You Tell aFriend?

Sometimes when negative events come up, or we make a mistake, we get so caught up in all of our negative feelings that it can be difficult to put things in perspective in the moment. One of my favourite techniques to use in these instances is flipping the situation and imagining that a friend was in your shoes and telling you what you’re telling yourself.  What would you say or how would you respond to a friend in the same situation? Would you tell them the same things you tell yourself? I’m guessing not. We’re often extremely hard on ourselves and much more kind to others. It can be helpful to write some things down to give you better perspective, and Self-Compassion.org has some wonderful writing prompts to help you do so.

This Valentine’s Day, treat yourself to some internal love and self-compassion, and be your own Valentine for once!

Jennifer Thomson

Registered Psychotherapist

RP, MACP

Calling all of my fellow millennial, hard-working professionals; those of you who have worked so hard to get to where you are today, and overcome great obstacles in the process. Those of you who are dreamers, doers, and have a million and one different ideas in the works. Do you ever find yourself stuck?

The high-achieving professionals “stuck” is one of the most frustrating “stuck’s” there is. Here’s how it usually goes. You have an idea in the works, and you have a pretty good notion of what you need to do to put it into action. You are excited, passionate, and then – two weeks go by and you notice you still haven’t done it. You feel frustrated with yourself for not acting on that new resume, professional Instagram account, or business idea. You take a break from the frustration by scrolling through Instagram, checking your Facebook, or watching one too many episodes of Ru Paul’s Drag Race on Netflix. After a few hours you notice you spent more time than you wanted to “taking a break”, and get frustrated with yourself that you could have spent the time writing a blog post, finishing an assignment, polishing up your resume, or researching your idea. Now you’re pissed at yourself. The more pissed you get, the more you scroll, and the more you scroll, the more pissed you get as you see “how much more successful” than you everyone on Instagram is. You ponder to yourself how they “have it together” and you feel left behind, on your couch with a half-eaten bag of Lay’s. Sound familiar?

It does to me – been there, done that. Sometimes still there, and still do that! So what can we do about it?

The following are some simple strategies to help you move from Netflix & Chips to productivity master.

 

ACCOUNTABILITY

Accountability is huge for getting unstuck. It can come in many forms, ranging from telling someone you know about your plans, setting reminders in your phone, or using a planner to schedule activities.

One of my favourite ways to stay accountable is using a good ole-fashioned paper planner and gel pens so I can colour-coordinate events, appointments, and to-do’s. There is evidence that writing things down can help with memory retention, and increase commitment to that activity.

Doing it in a way that’s colour-coordinated helps to keep things on track, organized, and has the added bonus of being visually appealing to look at. When choosing a planner, it can be helpful to consider things like page layout, size, and dividers. Find something that makes you feel excited, as the more you like it, the more likely you are to use it.

 

FOCUS ON VALUES

When creating a plan, it’s essential that you focus on your values. Is this thing you’re planning actually important to you, or is it a “should” that you heard from someone else?

To notice if it’s actually important to you, make a list of your goals and beside each one answer the question: Why is this important to me?

Does it connect to a value of bringing you closer to the career you’d like? Is it fuelled by a desire to have closer relationships? Can you notice if it’s connected to your love of arts, or nature?

If the answer is “because _______ told me I should”, this is probably not a value and you may want to reconsider this goal.

 

PRESENT-MOMENT AWARENESS

Staying present (in other words, mindful awareness) can help us to stay on-task and to notice when we are doing things that are not part of our values system.

This may include a formal mindfulness practice (check out our page on mindfulness apps to get you started), or informal mindfulness of stopping to take count of whether we felt like we acted on our vales or not.

When we are stuck in a cycle, we may not notice right away that we are in the cycle. It’s helpful to check in with yourself by noticing how you are feeling and whether that is driving your behaviour versus the things that are important to you. In other words, “Am I scrolling through social media because it’s helping me get closer to my goal of x, or am I doing it because I feel crappy?”. When we notice and label a behaviour as feelings-based, it gives us the opportunity to change it and try something new.

 

SELF-COMPASSION

Be kind to yourself. Although Netflix & chips may not be a part of your values system, there may be days where that is a part of self-care. Netflix & chips isn’t always a negative thing, but if we find it’s become part of a routine we may want to use these strategies to work on it.

 

It’s important that we treat ourselves with kindness and respect, no matter where we are in this process.

 

In other words, if we beat ourselves up for our Netflix & Chips moments, it feels belittling instead of motivating. It is more helpful to use compassion and understanding, in the same way we would if a friend was telling us about their struggle. Saying to yourself “I am allowed to have an ‘off’ day” or “I am worthy even if I’m frustrated today” or “I have faith in you – you’ve got this!” can help boost our self-esteem and normalize the fact that we all have our moments and that’s okay.

 

Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP 

2019 is finally here, and if you’re anything like me, you have a long list of New Year’s resolutions!

Every year I start off by writing down what I want to achieve. Once I fine-tune them, I put the list somewhere where I will frequently see it, usually in a journal or day planner. Having the list somewhere visible allows me to keep them in mind throughout the year. Where will you put your list so that it is easy to see, everyday?

 

Setting Smart Goals

I start off the process by jotting down my intentions. This year I am planning to prioritize self-care while I finish my Bachelor of Social Work degree. Last semester, my self-care (regular exercise and healthy eating) took a back seat to my schoolwork. This approach didn’t work for me. and I became tired and run down – I definitely wasn’t performing at my best. I have realized that prioritizing self-care will be very important moving forward, as I won’t have a break leading into my final semester in the spring. Keeping a healthy focus by setting some clear goals around fitness and diet will help me cope with the heavy workload and high expectations.

After I write down my intentions, my next step is to turn them into SMART goals. By using a Specific, Meaningful, Adaptive, Realistic and Time-framed approach, I ensure my goals are clear and achievable. For more information on creating SMART goals, check out this SMART goals worksheet. After I have created my specific goals, I will prioritize which are the most important to start with. In the past, I have found that trying to work on too many goals at once can be pretty overwhelming and can end up making me feel less motivated in the long term. My more recent approach has been to start small. Focusing on just one of my goals at the start has allowed me to be more successful.

This year I will be starting off by focusing on scheduling more time for self-care. For me, this means going to the gym regularly, cooking healthy meals, meditating, and getting enough sleep. If I were to start working on all my goals today, I would easily become overwhelmed and would probably end up giving up on all my New Years resolutions! I find that an all-or-nothing mindset doesn’t work well for me. It’s much easier for me to start small and add more when I know I can handle it. So, my first SMART goal is that I will book myself into a minimum of three one-hour classes each week at my local gym so I can run, ride the exercise bike, row, and connect with my friends, which will help keep my stress under control.

 

Strengths

In addition to developing SMART goals, I believe one of the best tools you can use to accomplish your New Year’s resolutions is yourself. When you think about it, you know yourself the best! You know what has worked for you in the past, and you can probably even name things that haven’t worked. This can actually be a great starting point. If you already know what doesn’t work, you can start to come up with new creative solutions that will work.

 

Uncover Your Strengths

I ask myself these questions when I am trying to figure out how I can use my own strengths to achieve my goals. How would you respond to these same questions?

  1. Reflect on your past accomplishments. How did you achieve these goals?
  2. What was easy? What was harder to do?
  3. How did overcoming past challenges make you stronger?
  4. What skills and resources did you use to overcome the challenges and help accomplish your goals?
  5. What would your friends and/or family members say are your best qualities?

Reflecting on your strengths and your past successes can be really helpful when working towards your future goals.

 

Motivation

Maintaining motivation has always been tricky for me when it comes to my New Year’s resolutions. One year can be a long time to stay motivated. Understanding that motivation can be difficult is helpful! Here is what I have learned along the way:

The most important thing is that everyone is motivated in different ways. For example, one of my past resolutions had been to go to the gym at least 4 times a week. I am a person who is typically more externally motivated. In other words, I realize that I need external pressures to hold myself accountable. So, in order to achieve this goal, I ended up joining a group fitness class. That way I couldn’t just show up to the gym, run on the treadmill for 10 minutes and then pack it in without doing much to really enhance my overall fitness. I have made connections in the group class, can participate in group activities and challenges, and we can cheer each other on. I must also book my classes ahead of time to ensure I get a spot. And I am unable to cancel my classes (within eight hours) without an additional charge. All of these steps encourage me to plan ahead, show up, and work towards my fitness goals.

 

Visualization 

Visualization is also a good technique that can help you to picture your path to success. Take time to think about how you will approach a goal, the steps you will need to complete, and then imagine yourself achieving the goal. Imagine how it will feel, what success looks like, and how good that success will be!

 

Be Kind to Yourself

After listing my goals, I try to be mindful of two things: “Be kind to yourself” and “Take care of yourself”. Above all else, these are the two most important intentions for me and they take priority over everything else. Realistically I know I am going to make mistakes. I am going to get off track, and I am probably going to struggle. I have learned to accept that this is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay! Being kind and forgiving to myself throughout the process will only set me up to be even more successful.

 

By Chris Henderson

Chris is currently studying Social Work and will graduate with his Bachelor of Social Work in June 2019.   He previously earned a BA in Criminology and a Diploma in Police Foundations, where he developed a keen interest in social welfare and human behaviour.   Chris is passionate about exploring ways to enhance physical and emotional health, and empowering people to be the best that they can be!