Advice From Life's Flight Attendants

MICHAEL DONOVAN, PSYD

Flight attendants give us the best advice.  In the event of an emergency, first put the oxygen mask on yourself before beginning to help anyone else.  Too often, our instincts are to care for others before we care for ourselves.  Whether an emergency or not, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be in the best position to help others.  During February, Summit Psychological Services focuses on Random Acts of Kindness.  It’s our way of encouraging you to find small moments, minor acts, simple steps you can take to pay it forward as you treat others with kindness.  


What about random acts of kindness toward yourself?  Making sure you’re putting that proverbial oxygen mask on first...each day this month!  Could you dedicate a month to treating yourself the way you deserve?  And knowing that dedication will ultimately help you be the best version of you for the others in your life.  Therapists will often ask “what is your self-care?”  In a busy world riddled with stress and schedules and commitments and relationships- daily self-care can be that Random Act of Kindness you need to make it through the day, the hour, the week!


Stress

What can you do about stress?  Mindfulness is far from a new concept but has gained traction in recent years, particularly as schools are embracing its competencies and teaching kids’ mindful practices.  You can learn breathing techniques that might help you during intense moments of stress.  One strategy is the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique that includes all of your senses.  Right where you are pick 5 things you can see, pick 4 things you can touch, pick 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.  Trying yoga, taking a walk or listening to a guided meditation are all mindful strategies to hopefully help with stress.  I like the app “Insight Timer” for guided meditations.  Go to the gym, get that long overdue massage or decompress under a warm blanket with a hot cup of tea and a good book.


Schedules

Did you know there are 168 hours in a week?  So, when we say we don’t have time, what we’re really saying is that we don’t have the time to make something a priority.  In February, could you try to find the time?  Look at those 168 hours and subtract work and sleep.  See what you have left and keep subtracting.  Be honest and see if you can find some time in each day JUST FOR YOU.  Schedule yourself care.  Self-care doesn’t always have to be fun- schedule an appointment for a dental cleaning or find time to go to the car wash.  Schedule your summer vacation, a dinner with friends or schedule yourself to spend an hour walking around Barnes and Noble or watching a show on Netflix.  There are 168 hours in a week, and YOU deserve some of those hours.  This is your month to give it a try!


Commitments

Oh, the commitments.  There are those we just can’t avoid- usually having to do with work.  This month, can you consider if there are commitments you CAN avoid?  Those that no longer add value to your life, interfere with your 168 hours in a week in a negative way and only trigger your stress and negativity?  We sometimes hold on to commitments out of habit but this month you’re creating new habits!


Relationships

The most important relationship is the one with yourself.  Love yourself, be proud of yourself and treat yourself with kindness.  Surround yourself with others who can help with that.  Text or call that friend.  You know the one.  You can go months without talking and not miss a beat when you finally catch up. On the drive home, call a family member you don’t talk to so often simply to say hello and check-in.  Spend time with friends- only those who bring out the best in you.  If you’d like to expand your circle of friends, use this month to take a step in that direction- attend a social event, join a social app, put yourself out there!  


Spending time with a therapist is an amazing example of self-care.  Taking a few moments to read an article like this is too!  Google will offer you plenty of lists of self-care activities, big and small.  Some might cost (going for a manicure and pedicure) and many won’t (light a fire and read a book you checked out from the library).  If you’ve gotten this far, it means you’re really thinking you deserve some self-care. I agree.  So, during February, offer yourself a Random Act of Kindness each day.  You could go so far as to list your self-care acts in a calendar to help motivate you and keep you accountable.  Remember- YOU deserve it.  Pledge to secure your mask first!

HOW TO BE KIND TO YOURSELF

ALISON JOHNSON PSYD
MANAGING DIRECTOR

                     “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” - Oscar Wilde

A word often used to describe the act of being kind to yourself is “self-compassion.”  It is a concept derived from Buddhist psychology and it refers to how positively we can relate to ourselves.  

We are pretty good at this when we feel deserving of this personal self-attention. Unfortunately treating our-selves kindly can be very mercurial.  Humans are quick to throw themselves into a sticky morass of shame and negative self-judgement. We cut ourselves off at a moment’s notice from the kindness which we would afford a friend if they were in the same situation. At these times we can only offer up a litany of self-deprecation and unkind thoughts about ourselves.  Self-compassion is the antidote to prevent us from disappearing down the rabbit hole of self-loathing and depression.

There are 3 main components of self-compassion: 

  • Self-kindness refers to acting in kind and understanding ways towards ourselves. Our inner voice is kind and warm instead of harsh and critical

  • A sense of common humanity is the recognition that everyone makes mistakes and we are just like everyone else – neither better than, or worse than, … but the same

  • Mindfulness offers a perspective on our hardships, helping us to not exaggerate our distress and become engulfed by it


Research has scientifically proven the benefits of self-compassion. 

  • Increased life satisfaction

  • EQ or social and emotional intelligence

  • Connections with others

  • Greater wisdom

  • Increased happiness and greater optimism

  • A decrease in self-criticism

  • A decrease in depression

  • A decrease in anxiety and fear of failure


There is another important factor to consider when giving yourself compassion.  It is not enough to do a kind act for yourself in the day, just so you can check it off on your to do list. Self-compassion needs to be administered with the same loving warmth and empathy which you would use to impart it to a friend.  Think for a moment what it feels like in your body just before you lean in with empathy to help a friend.  Then, … try and find those same compassionate feelings when you are helping yourself.  Be just as real, authentic and caring towards yourself as you would if you were with your best friend. 


Here are some suggestions for ways to be kind to yourself.

  • Give Yourself the Gift of Time – “Me Time” - make sure you have an opportunity to do something which you really enjoy.

  • Give Yourself Praise and Compliments – don’t forget to acknowledge you own achievements with your own “great job me!”

  • Create your Personal Ally – we all know what our relentless inner critic sounds like in our heads.  Now imagine your ally who is always on your side and draws attention to all the positive aspects of you and your behaviors. 

  • Practice Forgiving Yourself – self-blame is only fuel for further negative thoughts and actions.  Learn how to tell yourself that you are forgiven. Practice making amends, not just to others, but to yourself.

  • Practice Self-Care – imagine you were babysitting a five-year old for the day.  You wouldn’t skip a meal, allow them just to eat junk food and force them to stay up as late as possible.  Why treat yourself any differently?  If you have the right attitude to take care of the needs of a child for the day, then you have the know-how to take care of yourself.

  • Give Yourself Respect – this means that you stop comparing yourself to others and defining your self-worth by how you “measure up.”  You are neither better than, or worse than.  You are uniquely different just like everybody else!

  • Set Limits and Boundaries – this requires that you are honest with yourself and others about what you are able to do for them.

  • Give Yourself a Treat – and remember treats don’t always come in the form of foods, drinks and retail therapy!  Perhaps a treat could be a luxurious hot bath, or a massage at a spa.

  • Turn Mistakes Into Learning Opportunities – mistakes are part of our every-day lives and usually the best way to learn about anything.  If you make a mistake, don’t beat up on yourself.  Rather, find a way to make the experience an opportunity to grow and develop.

  • Entitle Yourself – this requires that you consider yourself to be “ENOUGH!”  This is hard because we often tell ourselves we don’t deserve something or we haven’t been good enough.

  • Find Balance – we all want to do “our best,” but try striking a balance between pushing yourself to reach your potential and acceptance of who you are as good enough.

  • Recognize we are Perfectly Imperfect – striving for perfection is making success something that you cannot attain.  So, you will always be dissatisfied with yourself.  Set small and reachable goals and then build on them one step at a time.


And finally, here are some quotations to inspire you to grow in self-compassion:

  • "Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship with myself." —Nathaniel Branden

  • “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”―E.E. Cummings

  • "Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others."—Christopher Germer

  • "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."—Henry Thoreau

  • “You've been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”—Louise L. Hay

  •  "The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely."—Carl Jung

  • "Our task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."―Rumi

  • “Being human is not about being any one particular way; it is about being as life creates you—with your own particular strengths and weaknesses, gifts and challenges, quirks and oddities.”―Kristin Neff

  • “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”―Brené Brown

  • "Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance."—Tara Brach

  •  "When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs, and habits – anything that kept me small. Now I see it as self-loving."―Kim McMillen

  • "Compassion isn't some kind of self-improvement project or ideal that we're trying to live up to. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don't even want to look at."—Pema Chodron

  • "An important aspect of self-compassion is to be able to empathically hold both parts of ourselves--the self that regrets a past action and the self that took the action in the first place."—Marshall Rosenberg

  • "There’s no amount of self improvement that can make up for a lack of self acceptance.”—Robert Holden

  • “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”—Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

  • "Most unhappy people need to learn just one lesson: how to see themselves through the lens of genuine compassion and treat themselves accordingly." —Martha Beck

  • "You can have compassion for yourself-which is not self-pity. You're simply recognizing that 'this is tough, this hurts,' and bringing the same warmhearted wish for suffering to lessen or end that you would bring to any dear friend grappling with the same pain, upset, or challenges as you."—Rick Hanson

  • "Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, so that we can give from our surplus, our abundance. When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of."—Jennifer Louden

  • "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel."—Steve Furtick

  • “When you say 'Yes' to others make sure you are not saying 'No' to yourself." —Paulo Cohelo

  • “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” -Anonymous

  • “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” -Jack Kornfield

  • “Lack of forgiveness causes almost all of our self-sabotaging behavior.” -Mark Victor Hansen

  • “If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.” -Dalai Lama

  • “The fact is then when you make the other suffer, he will try to find relief by making you suffer more. The result is an escalation of suffering on both sides.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

  • “A second quality of mature spirituality is kindness. It is based on a fundamental notion of self-acceptance….” -Jack Kornfield

  • “The art of being yourself at your best is the art of unfolding yourself into the personality you want to be. Learn to love yourself, be gentle with yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.” -Wilfred Peterson

  • “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” -Joseph Campbell

  • “When you are compassionate with yourself, you trust in your soul, which you let guide your life. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny better than you do.” -John O’Donohue

  • “There is only one success - to spend your life in your own way.” - Christopher Morley

  • “It’s not your job to like me - it’s mine.” -Byron Katie

  • “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • “If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him keep step to the music which he hears, however measured or however far away.” -Henry David Thoreau

  • “Accept everything about yourself - I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end - no apologies, no regrets.” -Clark Moustakas

  • “I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.” -Dr. Kristen Neff

  • “The degree to which you love yourself will determine your ability to love the other person, who will be reflecting back to you many of your own personality traits and qualities.” -Sanaya Roman

  • “Love brings you face to face with your self. It’s impossible to love another if you cannot love yourself.” -John Pierrakos

  • “Loving Yourself is healing the World!” -Jaymie Gerard

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