I wish it wasn’t the case, but we are all we have. When you learn how to take care of yourself, regardless of your thoughts, whatever that means for you, you will find that so many gaps, so many imperfections, are filled in automatically. If you can trick your mind into believing you’re worth time, you will find your levels of contentment rising, your ability to approach new problems improving, and your gratitude spiking.
But putting time into oneself by way of warm baths, productive social gatherings, meditating, reading, or whatever, was difficult for me, and can be especially difficult for people with mental illnesses.
Why We Don’t Want to Help Ourselves
At one time, although I knew what I could do to relax, and knew what would help me, I held off. When I did poorly on a test or said something strange in a social setting, my first reaction used to be to punish myself. It’s a logical response—if we see our pets doing something they shouldn’t, we punish them. We scold them or spray them with water, and hope they learn to not do the behavior again.
When we do something we wish we hadn’t, our natural response might be to do the same with ourselves: why should we meditate when our behavior dictates that we don’t deserve it? And so we don’t, thereby missing an opportunity for growth and development of self-esteem.
So, for a long time, I avoided things like meditation, journaling, and everything else I currently do, and let my thoughts and self-loathing fester. I watched the cycle continue as punishment for whatever it was I did wrong.
It Should Not Be Contingent on You
If you only take care of yourself when you feel great, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s not fair to yourself to feel valuable when you do something well and let yourself feel miserable and useless when you mess up.
Therefore, when you’re deciding how you’re going to put time into yourself every day, it should be a standardized thing that does not depend on how you behave.
We get into a cycle, visualized above this post.
- We mess up
- We feel undeserving and restrict ourselves from making positive change
- We don’t help ourselves
- We feel less valuable
All we have to do is interrupt that cycle. So instead of letting our feelings of not deserving lead to not helping ourselves in whatever way we can, we need to make sure that we help ourselves, regardless of what caused us to begin the cycle. But that’s tricky.
How to Make a Plan
The best way to go about this is to take consistent action, regardless of the day you had. You need to remind yourself that no matter what happens out there, you’re worth the time you spend on yourself. And your brain will learn that quickly. All it takes is to have a couple of bad days, and then having the strength to continue doing that which you know will help you. You will find a source of energy within yourself independent of anything else.
I recommend choosing some habits to do every day. You can start with one, as I did, or choose a couple, but it’s important to not overburden yourself.
You may not want to do this. I used to feel that doing things like meditating and writing in a journal would be admitting that I had a problem. But I did and I do. No biggie; just as other people have problems, I just happen to have some chemical imbalances in my brain. Whoopdie-doo.
And if you’re reading this, you may as well. It’s not your fault. It’s fine, and the best you can do is recognize that and take methodical and step-by-step action against it.
“Problems” are not sentences. They’re problems, and those can be worked through. The most important part of becoming comfortable with putting time into yourself is recognizing that your problems are worth the time they take to solve. You will not be able to wish them away. You must act. But you can act as slowly as you need.
Start Small and Slow
I used to set goals for myself. They weren’t necessarily too difficult, but I would accelerate too fast. I felt rushed, like I needed to get better as soon as I possibly could. But then I realized that I have all the time in the world, and that was liberating.
Instead of hoping you’re a mentally stable prodigy after only a week of meditating, recognize it should and will take longer. When I stopped trying so hard to force progress, I began meditating once a day. I did no more and no less.
If I tried to do more, and tried to stack on journaling, cold showers, and yoga on top very quickly, I would become overwhelmed in days and give up, having made no progress in my self-worth at all. You may have done the same.
So instead, go slow. Miserably slow. Make it your entire mental health “goal” to perform a positive activity once a day for a month. If after a month, you add something else, you will have made the former activities habits, and so the new burden will not feel like much. If you make it your goal to make this very slow progress, imagine where you’ll be in a year, two years, ten years. Don’t try to stuff progress into a few days.
When we stack too much on ourselves, we set ourselves up to fail. You have as much time as you need to make yourself better, so take it.
Right now, think of a thing or two you can do to help yourself. Get out a piece of paper and write them down. I recommend meditation or journaling. For the next month, do them each day. And that’s it. Put all your mental health effort into taking those small actions.
How to Recover When You let Your Self-worth Slip
Sometimes, even when we want to do something that will show ourselves our well-being is worth the time it takes, we forget to do it or don’t have it in us to do it. This can be minimized by the employment of grounding techniques, which I talked more about in this post.
If you set a good foundation, missing a day of a habit might not bother you as much as it would now. This is because you will come to realize that it will happen. When you forget, the most and all you can do is realize that you can’t change the past, and focus only on doing it today or getting back on the saddle tomorrow.
How to Know You’re Making Progress
When you set yourself daily habits and achieve them, you will create a basis of confidence and a baseline of strength that you may not have when you refuse yourself the activities you know will help your mental state on the basis of punishment for personal wrongdoing. All you need to do is start slow and simple to ensure progress.
I think it’s reasonable to feel improvement within a couple weeks of dedicated and unconditional care for yourself. Our thoughts have the tendency to throw us into cycles, so when we break the cycle of self-loathing and belief that we’re not worth time, so many other cycles will shatter. Therefore, by making a minuscule change in your life and expanding it slowly, we solve one major and many of the minor problems our mental illnesses cause us to experience. And we can approach the rest with new confidence.
For more info on the activities I do every day for self-care, check out the “Habits” tab on the top of this page.
This video expresses the value of marginal adjustments over a long time. Remember that, when it comes to mental health, big leaps of change are not sustainable.
Leave a comment letting me know the first habit you’d like to incorporate into your life and why. If you have a history with that habit, whatever it may be, I’d be interested to hear what prevents you from already doing it.
If you need help staying accountable or have any suggestions or questions, comment or message me directly. Putting time into yourself everyday will always be worth it, no matter what the rest of your day is like. Trick your brain into valuing yourself by showing it that you can stick to a daily and marginal improvement plan with the end goal in mind.