How to nurture your relationship with yourself
We generally recognize the impact that relationships have on our wellbeing, whether these relationships are with significant others, co-workers, bosses, friends, or family. Some relationships contribute to stress, others lead to emotional fulfillment, others to a mix of emotions.
The one relationship that is the most constant, and often the most complex, is our relationship with ourselves. Our relationship with self impacts every other relationship in our lives and is critically important to well-being. Despite the significance of our relationship with self, we often pay very little attention to how it is impacting our overall emotional experience.
Here are some tips to begin nurturing and prioritizing your relationship with yourself.
Pay attention to self-talk – How we think about and talk to ourselves has a significant impact on the way we feel. Often, our self-talk can be negative, self-critical and can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. Begin noticing when you are engaging in negative self-talk such as “I can’t” or “I’m not good enough.” Challenge these thoughts by offering an alternative and more loving perspective. Examples of positive self-talk are: “I’ll try my best”, “I feel good about myself”, or “I’m a work in progress and that’s okay.” It can sometimes be helpful to think of what you would say to someone you care about, as we are often harder on ourselves than others.
Check in with yourself – We often make time to check in with friends and loved ones by making a phone call or sending a message. Typically, we begin conversations with “How are you?” when talking to others. However, this is not a question we often ask ourselves. Begin making time to ask yourself “How am I doing?” and “What do I need?” Answers to these questions can provide useful information in better caring for yourself.
Limit distractions – We live in a world full of distractions that are difficult to escape. While it is often not realistic to completely disconnect from the noise of life, it can be helpful to limit our exposure. Technology is one way that many of us become distracted from our lives and internal sense of self. Limiting time spent on social media, scrolling the internet, and even watching the news can be a good place to begin making more time for yourself and what you value in your life.
Practice acceptance – Sometimes situations are not as we want them to be, and we may not have the power to change them. Past mistakes, actions of others and what will happen in the future are all out of our control. Instead of being preoccupied with things outside of our control, we can reflect on what we can control and focus on the present. Strategies for staying present focused include grounding techniques, reminding yourself that you are okay, and accepting that we all make mistakes.
Receive support – Nurturing our relationship with self does not mean we do not also have a need to connect through relationships with others. The people we spend time with and the environments in which we choose to spend our time have a significant impact on how we feel about ourselves. Prioritize spending time with others in spaces where you feel heard, validated, and valued. This support may come from family, friends, support groups, or community spaces.
Connect to your body – It is not only important to pay attention to what is happening in your mind, but also in your body. Take time to listen to what your body is telling you. Examples may be: “I need rest”, “I’m hungry”, “I feel uncomfortable”, or “I feel strong.” Caring for your body may include going for a walk, practicing yoga and deep breathing, or taking time for relaxation. Whatever form self-care takes, remember it is important to appreciate and practice acceptance of your body.
Prioritize self-care – The many demands on our time and energy make it difficult to prioritize ourselves. We each have a diverse set of needs, including spiritual, physical, occupational, social, financial, mental and emotional. We may not be able to meet all of these needs each day, but it can be beneficial to focus on intentionally caring for yourself in at least one way every day. Making time for yourself in small ways can increase your connection with self and contribute to greater personal growth and life satisfaction.
-Holly Cañas, LCSW