Learning To Kill My Anxiety With Kindness

This article was supposed to be one of those hyper-productive “Here’s how I woke up two hours early and took care of all my chores, exercise, and meditation for the day!”

As it turns out, I couldn’t write that article.

I let my anxiety get the best of me this week. I let it swallow me whole and spit out a small, pathetic, self-centered version of myself. And here she sits, trying to write this article (and maybe write herself out of her own pity party).

The Slump

Every morning this week I set my alarm early, so I would have time for a morning walk, some thoughtful writing, and a healthy breakfast. Every morning I snoozed until the last minute before rushing out of the house. I dread putting on clothes and doing my hair, which made me feel (upsettingly) like Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar:

“It seemed silly to wash one day when I would only have to wash again the next. It made me tired just to think of it. I wanted to do everything once and for all and be done with it.”
― Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar

I often took a three hour nap in the middle of each day, or a long aimless walk downtown. Productivity evaded me. I filled my days with “shoulds” and then felt drained and guilty for not telling people how I was really feeling.

Being Kinder To Myself

Sure, waking up early to “get shit done” is great. But we need to be kind to ourselves even if we haven’t been at our best, actually, especially then. This is something I have a hard time practicing. I found the following questions helpful. They are from the book The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart & Your World.

“What is one thing I can do today that will stretch my heart a bit wider? What does a meaningful life mean to me? What would I regret not doing at least once in my life? What would I die for? What am I most proud of? What am I grateful for? What is one habit I want to break, and what is one habit I want to create? What does ‘god’ or ‘spirit’ mean to me? When was the last time I said ‘I love you’ to those I care about? To myself?”
—Tara Cousineau, clinical psychologist and meditation teacher

I took an entire Saturday to practice more kindness to myself. Here’s what helped:

  • Canceled all plans and spoke to almost no one
  • Visited the local library (I love quiet places!)
  • Read this article about being kind to yourself
  • Wrote down everything I’m grateful for in excruciating detail
  • Wrote down my dreams and aspirations (it helps to get me looking at the big-picture)
  • Took a long walk
  • Got excited planning new projects I want to work on
  • Focused on what I can do and surrendered the rest

I am learning that practicing kindness to myself will be an ongoing process, not just something to do on a Saturday when I am at my wit's end. I'd love to hear more about your self-compassion rituals and routines:

Do you beat yourself up when the house is a mess and you haven’t been cooking healthy meals or exercising or saving money like you wanted to? How can you start practicing kindness to yourself on a daily basis?