Mental Health Week: End of Work Day Checklist

It’s Friday, the end of the week, and also the end of mental health week. What a great time to reflect on how our week has been before we get ready to enjoy our weekend.

Maybe we had some successes this week, and maybe we had some things that could have gone better. How ever your week went, take a minute to celebrate what went well, and cut yourself some slack for what didn’t. Many of us (myself included) have the tendency to beat ourselves up for our mistakes or be overly critical of ourselves in difficult situations – sometimes based on the belief that being tough on ourselves will make us stronger. However, this is counterproductive, and erodes our resiliency to cope with difficulty. When we stop to think about it, how can we expect to rise up by beating ourselves down? Instead, research shows that being able to extend compassion towards ourselves during difficult times and after making mistakes fosters resiliency and reduces anxiety and depression. As we are collectively in a difficult time right now, this is especially relevant.

So how do we extend compassion towards ourselves?

One of the best mental health tips that I have ever learned comes from the self-compassion expert, Dr. Kristen Neff. She says that “during a difficult time, or after making a mistake, notice the thoughts that pop into your head” (Dr. Kristen Neff from her book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself). What are some of the things you say to yourself after making mistakes, or while experiencing difficulty? Ask yourself if you could imagine saying those same things to a good friend. If not, challenge yourself to change your self-talk to what you would say to a friend who has made a mistake or is in a difficult situation. Thinking of it this way has been very helpful to me, and I still challenge my self-talk regularly (it’s a practice) by asking myself what I would say to a friend in the same situation. It is fascinating to me that we often have a much easier time extending compassion towards others than to ourselves.

Think back on this week, or even on the past 6 weeks. Whatever didn’t go as well as you had hoped, challenge your self-talk when you reflect on it. Being compassionate towards ourselves does not mean ignoring the lessons in our mistakes or difficulties. Take whatever lesson you can from what went wrong, and then make like Elsa (I’m a frozen fan) and “Let it Go”!

Dr Kristen Neff explains what happens when we don’t let it go: “Once our minds latch on to negative thoughts, they tend to repeat over and over again like a broken record player. This process is called “rumination” (the same word that’s used for a cow chewing the cud) and involves a recurrent, intrusive, and uncontrollable style of thinking that can cause both depression and anxiety. Rumination about negative events in the past leads to depression, while rumination about negative events in the future leads to anxiety. This is why depression and anxiety so often go hand in hand; they both stem from the underlying tendency to ruminate.” (Dr. Kristen Neff from her book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself)

So “Let it Go” (tell me that song isn’t ruminating in your head now), challenge your self-talk, and have a great weekend.

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