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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

15 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself (Especially When Feeling Down)

15 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself (Especially When Feeling Down)
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You may be having a difficult day or a difficult week. It can feel like an uphill climb to get out of that emotional and mental rut and be kind to yourself, but there are, fortunately, many tools at our disposal for resetting our attitude. When we show ourselves kindness, we start to create new habit patterns and neuron pathways in the brain [1]. These new “mentalities” take us from seeing everything as negative and grim to joyful, positive, and full of opportunity.

We understand kindness from the perspective of how we treat our family and friends. What if we were to take that same approach to how we treat ourselves? How would our health improve if we listened to our body’s signals and responded with care and compassion? These are profound questions to ask. While having a bad day and feeling down is another part of life, we can start to implement tools into our routine that grow our self-compassion muscle even more.

1. Forgive Yourself Often

This may be the best and hardest tool to implement in your life, but it is so potent! We are so hard on ourselves, and we are often our own worst critic. We can easily forgive our friends and family, but we have a harder time taking that forgiveness within.

Today, practice self-forgiveness. When you get caught up in self-blame, pause and think about how you would react to the same situation with a friend. Often, we need the same kind of forgiveness. At the end of the day, we’re doing the best that we can. When we know better, we can do better. In the meantime, forgiveness is key.

2. Write Yourself a Love Letter

This is a simple yet precious way of writing your thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper. If you really want to add a touch of extra love and be kind to yourself, pull out your fanciest stationary[2]! If you’re having a hard time with writing, imagine you’re writing to your younger self. What would you want to say? Often, it’s words of encouragement.

We hold a lot of compassion for ourselves in hindsight, after life has tested and blessed us. Writing love letters offers us perspective in which to find gratitude! If you want, you can also mail it to yourself, or save it and open it in a few months or even years.

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3. Take Care of Your Physical Health

This may look like going out for a walk every day in your neighborhood or favorite park; it may also look like taking a yoga class on a Saturday morning, or joining a favorite gym or fitness club.

When we’re feeling down, our physical body hangs on to all of that pent-up energy and emotion. We need to clear that energy in order to maintain physical health, as well as emotional and mental health[3]. Whatever you choose is up to you! Just make sure it feels good and you’re having fun while you’re at it.

4. Nourish and Treat Yourself

This may look like taking yourself out to dinner or cooking a delicious meal for yourself at home! Often, in times of despair, one of the first things that starts to lack is our nutrition. We either don’t eat enough or we overeat, and never the right kinds of food.

Schedule a time on your calendar for treating yourself! It may be ordering food from your favorite restaurant, or spoiling yourself with something that you would never order regularly. Whatever it is, make sure it feels special, something out of the ordinary, and bonus points if it’s healthy!

5. Seek out a Therapist

When it comes to emotional and mental health, seeking out professional health is a major win and a great way to be kind to yourself. We can’t always help ourselves. We need someone to hold space for us, listen and hear us out, and offer perspectives that we wouldn’t have on our own[4]. There is no shame in asking for help.

Therapists will often challenge you to confront the way you think about various situations and experiences, so if you have a problem with negative thinking, therapy can be particularly useful. Just make sure you’re ready to go into it with an open mind and lots of self-compassion.

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6. Buy Yourself Flowers

This may seem like a cliché approach to self-kindness, but think about the last time you bought flowers for yourself. How long has it really been? There is great power in treating yourself in the same manner as you would treat someone you loved.

Small gestures, such as buying yourself flowers, are breadcrumbs towards those new habit patterns. When put together, they create a new outlook of joy, happiness, peace, and contentment. To go a step further, take yourself out on a date! You may be surprised how much you enjoy your own company.

7. When You’re in a Rut, Ask Questions

We reflexively jump to outside stimuli when we’re facing a challenge or are in a rut. You may turn to food, drugs, or alcohol; or you may keep yourself mindlessly busy, distracted, or running headfirst into emotional restlessness and poor decisions.

Instead, we can ask ourselves questions to start to dig deeper into our current situation. For example, asking “What do I need right now?” can be a powerful moment of introspection. It not only brings us back to the present, but it also cuts through the noise of mental and emotional chatter.

8. Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People

Our loved ones have a beautiful way of pulling you out of your own funk when you don’t know how to be kind to yourself. Just by being around other people, our energy can lift and shift in ways that promote a new, fresh start to our day. Make sure you find friends who will be patient with you and make space for you to be heard and loved. If you feel like your friends aren’t capable of this, it may be the moment to limit the amount of time you spend with them. Remember to surround yourself with people who can lift you up versus people who can only bring you down!

9. Hydrate!

This also may seem like a simple tool, but it is an incredibly important one! Just like food, hydration is also something we toss to the back burner when we’re feeling down. It just doesn’t seem to be that important until we have a headache and don’t know where it’s coming from.

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Drinking water not only regulates our body’s innate functioning systems, but it also heavily impacts our mood[5]. Remember to stick to water and avoid high-sugar drinks, such as sodas. If you’re not sure, water is your best bet!

10. Have a “Self-Care” Day

This doesn’t have to be fancy. You can draw yourself a bath, have a picnic outside, or choose to snuggle in for a movie night. A “Self-Care” day is all about being present with yourself and enjoying the little things with more appreciation. There are many ways of enjoying the day that won’t cost you a lot of money, and all with tools already at your disposal in your home or community.

11. Make Time for Meditation

This is a wonderful practice of tuning into your mental state and works to teach you how to be kind to yourself. With so many meditation applications out there, you can find teacher-guided sessions or timers with gentle background music to ease you into meditation. Meditation teachers often say that all of our answers reside within us, so starting this practice in a time when we’re struggling can provide powerful insight.

12. Give Yourself Recognition

There are many successes we simply don’t take the time to celebrate. Instead, we wait for others to celebrate or recognize our accomplishments. Today, think about something you’d like to be recognized for. It could be a project you’ve been working on or something you’ve devoted time and effort to in your life. Then, celebrate it!

Share it with your friends and family, and give yourself a pat on the back! Another fun way of giving yourself recognition is to create a “Brag Bucket.” Each time you accomplish something, drop a note with what you did. At the end of the year, take a look at everything you’ve done and celebrate yourself!

13. Give Yourself a Massage

We already mentioned how the body holds on to emotional and mental baggage. This can show up in tension, tightness, aches, or pains. While it is certainly rewarding to go get a massage, you can also give yourself one. Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga, highlights a particularly healing massage practice called abhyanga, which is an oil massage that you can do from the comfort of your own home[6].

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14. Stop Tolerating What/Who Doesn’t Serve You Well

Sometimes practicing self-kindness is about cutting the cords of what no longer brings you joy in life. This may be an idea, routine, or a person. It’s OK to walk away from something that brings you down. When you can let go and distance yourself in such a way, more space opens up for you to fill that void with what actually makes you happy!

15. Rest and Recharge

We live in a society that worships productivity. While that may be needed in some instances, it also creates the assumption that a lack of productivity makes you worth less as an employee and a person and makes it very difficult to find time to be kind to yourself. We need to get back to the flow of nature, which shows us that while much may not be going on, life is still thriving and growing. Likewise, so are we.

We are not designed to thrive in a “grind” society. We don’t always need to work, move, create, and do. More often than not, we need rest! We need to simply be, and we need to know that this is more than OK.

Final Thoughts

We all have days where we feel down and out. In these moments, we can either wallow in our despair and let it consume us, or we can practice simple yet effective tools to nourish ourselves. At the core of self-kindness and compassion is the fact that we’re all just doing our very best, day in and day out. As the old Buddhist saying goes, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserves your love and affection.”

More on How to Be Kind to Yourself

Featured photo credit: Elly Johnson via unsplash.com

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Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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