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3 Unexpected Sources of Childhood Trauma + Effects in Adulthood

3 Unexpected Sources of Childhood Trauma + Effects in Adulthood

In a recent episode of the popular podcast, This American Life, I heard a story that caused me to reflect on the effects of unresolved childhood trauma and how it manifests in adulthood.

The featured guest told the story of how she was separated from her parents at a very young age, as they immigrated to the United States from Guatemala, leaving her behind with her grandmother. This difficult decision was made by her mother, who did not want her young daughter to endure the uncertainty and hardship that came with such a big transition. Though she eventually joined her family in the United States a few years later when things were more stable, the psychological effects of the separation followed her for the rest of her life.  

When she arrived in the United States, she began feeling pressured to be on her best behavior at all times, for fear that she would be sent back to Guatemala. Many years after her safe arrival, she still had the constant fear of deportation, even as a naturalized adult. Decades later, when she became a mother, she started having nightmares about her son being taken away from her. She began instilling fear into her son about their possible separation, going as far as to install tracking devices so that she could be aware of his location at all times. In this way, she was reliving her childhood trauma, as well as passing it along to her son.

How is it possible for an event from early childhood to affect an adult decades after the fact? Why doesn’t time heal the wounds of childhood trauma?

Unless childhood trauma is properly addressed, its effects will be evident even years after the traumatic incident. Sometimes, a traumatic event may be suppressed for a long time, only to resurface when something triggers it in adulthood. When this happens, it can be difficult to connect the dots between a childhood incident and a ‘grown-up’ problem.

There are many different types of experiences that happen during childhood that can be considered traumatic. There are more obvious instances of traumatic events such as experiencing a natural disaster, major accident, physical or sexual violence or being separated from loved ones. But there are also smaller, seemingly “normal” aspects of our childhood that can have a traumatic effect. Sometimes, traumatic events are the result of deliberate and abusive actions of the adults in our lives. Other times, the adult caretakers in our lives did not mean us any harm and genuinely believed they were making the best decisions for us. Unfortunately, even the best of intentions does not negate the lasting effects of childhood trauma. We all experienced traumatic events as children to some extent, based on our unique family dynamic or physical environment. It’s important to remember that events that may be considered ‘minor’ can have a lasting effect well into adulthood. Here are some unexpected sources of childhood trauma and how they may impact you as an adult.

Moving a lot as a kid

Moving is a major and transformative life event for everyone, but it has an especially significant impact on children. Many studies have researched the long-term effects of repeated moves once children have reached adulthood. The research shows that the more times people moved as children, the more likely they will be to report lower life satisfaction and psychological wellbeing as adults. Researchers also found that those who moved frequently as children had more difficulties finding and maintaining healthy and satisfying relationships in adulthood.

Moving creates a sense of displacement and a feeling of a lack of stability in a child’s life. Just when they have adjusted and adapted to their environment, they are forced to readjust, re-adapt and find a new sense of balance in their new home. With a new school comes the challenges of being “the new kid” such as being bullied, feeling left out and having difficulty making friends. When moves are quite frequent (as often happens with military families) children may feel discouraged from making friends at all, seeing it as a futile endeavor when they may soon be leaving again.

How this may affect you as an adult:

There is quite a bit of research on the long-term effects of moving around a lot as a child, with many studies concluding that it may lead to increased risk of depression, self-harm and substance abuse in adulthood. There is also the likelihood of challenges in maintaining relationships and jobs. Because you are so accustomed to being forced to leave, you may be inclined to quickly “cut off” romantic and platonic partners and may have challenges with keeping a job long term. Longevity and settling down may feel uncomfortable for you because of the lack of stability in your childhood.

Growing up in an Environment of Poverty or Scarcity

It comes as no surprise that children living in poorer households face unique and complex challenges not faced by children in more financially abundant homes. Trauma can be experienced by witnessing an actual or perceived threat to our safety or wellbeing and this is triggered in many ways while growing up in poverty. An inability to access food, clothing or shelter on a consistent basis threatens a child’s sense of safety and stability. Poverty can also bring on feelings of guilt, shame or fear as it relates to money and these feelings can follow you well into adulthood.

How this may affect you as an adult:

For many adults who were raised in an environment of poverty, the mindset of scarcity follows them for life. Even after attaining wealth or stability in adulthood, you may still operate from a place of lack. There may be the constant fear that you are going to “lose it all” and end up back in an impoverished situation. This can lead to hoarding of resources and an inability to enjoy the fruits of your labour. A lack of financial education in childhood may lead to poor financial planning or decision-making in adulthood, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Childhood Trauma from Emotionally Unavailable parents

Though a parent may be physically present and make provisions for a child’s physical needs, they may be emotionally absent or unavailable. Most often, they themselves had emotionally absent parents and simply never learned how to offer emotional support to anyone, including their own children. Other times, parents may have demanding jobs or other obligations that do not allow them to be emotionally present in the lives of their children.

Emotionally absent parents are reluctant to display intimacy and may have challenges showing physical or verbal affection to their children. Because of their own inability to handle their emotions, they are unable to guide their children in managing their emotional wellbeing. These parents will often encourage children to suppress emotions instead of addressing them in a healthy way.

How this may affect you as an adult:

Adult children of emotionally absent parents often grow up to repeat the patterns and behaviors of their parents. They may have difficulties in romantic relationships or friendships due to their inability to be vulnerable and affectionate. In turn, they may seek out partners who are emotionally unavailable, leaving them dissatisfied as they yearn for connection and intimacy. It may be difficult to cope with the emotionally demanding realities of adulthood, leading to a reliance on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs or impulsive shopping.

Healing from Childhood Trauma Through Therapy

To some extent, we are all dealing with the aftermath of childhood trauma in one way or another. Though none of it is your fault, the responsibility of healing from your trauma rests only with you. By working with a therapist, you will have expert guidance and support as you process difficult moments from your past. Though this can be a daunting prospect, it is one of the most fulfilling things you can do for yourself. To take the first step, schedule a free consult to get matched with a therapist who meets your needs.

5 Important Self Care Tips For Social Media Users

5 Important Self Care Tips For Social Media Users

Though social media is a relatively new advancement in technology, it has very quickly become an unavoidable aspect of our everyday lives. For most teens and millennials, constant access to social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitter is facilitated through use of a smartphone that is always connected to the internet. For older populations, Facebook and YouTube are far more popular. For younger generations, exposure to screens starts in early infancy, with many parents using tablets and smartphones to keep young children entertained with games, videos and educational content. Regardless of your age group or lifestyle, chances are that you have some form of a relationship with social media, due to its accessibility, ease of use and various benefits. 

Of course, there are many positive aspects to social media use. These revolutionary platforms allow us to have easy access to important information, which can be crucial during an ever-changing world. The latest information about the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, elections and other crucial world events are available at the tap of a screen. With travel restrictions and lockdowns, social media allows us to keep in contact with loved ones we otherwise would not be able to reach. 

Limited research on effects of social media use

Given the relative recency of these technologies, there is limited research on its effects on our mental health and wellbeing. The most accurate research studies take place over many years and measure long-term impact. With social media, there simply hasn’t enough time for such a comprehensive study. While we may not yet have information on the long-term effects of constant social media use, we do have quite a bit of research on the shorter-term impacts. This is crucial information that we can use to surmise what the impact will be if we continue using social media in a particular way over a longer period of time. 

Many studies focus on the psychological impact of increased exposure to these platforms and how this exposure contributes to depression, anxiety, self-harm and disordered eating

FOMO and the comparison game

By nature, humans are wired to compare themselves to each other. Long before these technologies existed, we have been “keeping up with the Joneses” by comparing our careers, possessions, children and bank accounts to our peers, neighbors and colleagues. For decades, research has indicated that we make upward comparisons, i.e. we measure the mundane or unpleasant aspects of our lives to the grandiose and glamorous aspects of other people’s lives.

Social media ups the ante of the comparison game by giving us constant access to the highlight reels of others. A few decades ago, we may be notified of a colleague’s new car if we happened to notice it in their parking spot at work or a chance encounter at the grocery store. Now, you can see how #grateful your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend is for her new car before she even drives it off the lot. Seeing this while you’re dealing with a tough financial time can easily bring on feelings of inadequacy and comparison. 

These feelings of comparison can lead to FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Have you ever watched an Instagram story of a group of friends at a restaurant or party while you’re at home in your PJs? It’s easy to feel like life is passing you by while scrolling through the seemingly exciting lives of others.

In some ways, comparison can be a healthy and useful tool for self-development. By seeking inspiration from the achievements of others, we can find motivation to make improvements to our own lives. By using your peers as a benchmark, you can also find reassurance in the fact that you are on the right track or may even be doing better than you expected. But the comparison game can quickly take a very dark turn, leaving you feeling inferior, anxious or depressed. 

Social Media & The 24-hour news cycle 

The 24-hour news cycle came about in the mid-1990s when television networks began doing fast-paced investigative journalism in an effort to compete with each other. There is a constant race for the juiciest scoop, the exclusive interview and to be the first to break the latest news. This was a revolutionary concept in comparison to printed newspapers, which were only able to provide delayed information once per day. In the age of social media, the news cycle is even more constant because it’s in your pocket. 

Back in the nineties, it was easy to turn off your TV to head to work or otherwise go about your day. Today, it’s more of a challenge to avoid the news than it is to stay informed. Information overload can lead to stress, anxiety and a whole host of mental health issues. 

Steps you can take to minimize effects

If you’ve noticed that your social media use leaves you feeling depressed or that every notification brings a feeling of dread or anxiety, it may be time to make some changes. 

  1. Remind yourself that you don’t need to be constantly connected to stay informed. Do you really need to hear every breaking news update? Checking a summary of your favorite news sites once or twice per day is enough to keep you informed of important local and world events. There are many services that offer personalized, condensed news reports based on your interests and location. Consider turning off the CNN notifications in favour of one of these options. 
  2. It’s also important to remember that people are only putting the very best version of themselves on social media. It’s unfair to compare yourself in a low moment to a retouched, made-up, and hyper-positive social media post. Remember that we all face setbacks and challenges, but these are rarely shared on Instagram. 
  3. Social media can easily cause us to feel like the star of our very own reality show. This can create a feeling of obligation in relation to updating your followers about your daily life and major life developments. Remind yourself that there is no such obligation. Release the pressure that comes with taking the perfect shot, writing the wittiest caption and getting the most likes or comments. It’s okay to take a break from posting. If you’re feeling up for it, why not take a social media detox? Disconnecting from the constant rat race can bring you unexpected peace and clarity. If your livelihood depends on social media, consider scheduling posts ahead of time to keep your feed updated.
  4. Another simple, yet important step to take is to unfollow or unsubscribe from accounts that negatively affect your wellbeing. Does a certain news site use anxiety-inducing headlines as clickbait? Unfollow! How about an email marketing newsletter that always leads to you making a purchase you’ll later regret? Unsubscribe! And the girl with the seemingly perfect life with the self-righteous captions that cause you to feel inferior? It’s okay to mute her, too. 
  5. If you’re having issues detaching from social media and are concerned about its impact on your mental health, you may wish to discuss these concerns with a therapist. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology understand that social media is interwoven into our lives and are trained to address the mental health issues that may arise from constant use of these platforms. Schedule a free consult to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.
5 Proven Techniques For Calming Your Anxiety Right Now

5 Proven Techniques For Calming Your Anxiety Right Now

Do you struggle with anxious thoughts? You’re certainly not alone. Anxiety is the most common mental disorder and will affect most people at some point. It’s the body’s natural reaction to stress and can be useful for keeping us alert during dangerous situations. Sometimes, anxious thoughts can occur in situations that aren’t necessarily dangerous, but are of great importance such as a job interview or first date.

Other times, anxious thoughts seem to creep in for no apparent reason. You may not even be able to identify the cause of the anxiety and this can make you even more anxious. When these thoughts begin to hinder your ability to function in your daily life, you may want to consider working with a therapist. There are many practices and habits that can reduce anxiety in the long term. Ensuring that you are eating healthily, staying hydrated and getting proper sleep are foundational when coping with an anxiety disorder.

But what about tackling anxiety in the moment? What can you do when you have a presentation at work in an hour, but you can’t stop ruminating on your credit card bill? Or when you feel overwhelmed at the grocery store, but need to finish your shopping? These are the little moments in life where coping skills are essential. While you can’t control or predict when anxiety will arise, be prepared by learning these five simple strategies that can be used at any time.

Mindfulness for anxiety

Mindfulness is a simple, yet effective method of calming down your anxious thoughts in the moment. When anxious thoughts arise, we are usually ruminating on the past or speculating about the future. Mindfulness keeps you in the present moment and helps to counteract anxiety. You can practice mindfulness at any time by simply focusing on your breathing. Take deep, deliberate breaths and make a note of all the sensations in your body. Can you feel the air tickling your nose? Can you see the rise and fall of your chest? When you feel your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breath and the present moment.

Mindfulness is a popular technique used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) that you can practice at any time. By taking the time to pause and remain present, you can appreciate all the little things about the current moment that you otherwise may not have noticed. This can have a surprisingly soothing effect on the mind and body.

Radical acceptance

Radical acceptance is another DBT technique that can be used to calm anxious thoughts. It is the ability to accept situations that are outside of your control without judgment. It is based on the premise that anxiety stems from our thoughts about a situation, and not the situation itself. Radical acceptance encourages you to accept and be at peace with reality, which can help to minimize your anxious thoughts. By embracing your reality instead of fighting it, you are less likely to experience resentment, shame or guilt about your past. This can be very effective in reducing ruminating thoughts.

Whenever you find yourself fighting reality (for example “my life shouldn’t be this way”), use the opportunity to practice this technique. You can easily incorporate radical acceptance into your life by repeating coping statements to yourself. Examples of radical acceptance coping statements include:

  • The present is the only moment I have control of
  • This moment is the result of a million other decisions
  • I cannot change the past, I can only live in the present
  • I don’t like what’s happening but I can cope with my reality
  • Everything that happened in the past has led up to now
  • The past is in the past, but now I can move forward

Self-soothe with Senses

This is a simple and popular exercise that can be used to calm anxious thoughts. The best part is that it can be done at any time and in any location. You’ll be using your senses to take note of your surroundings. This is an example of a mindfulness technique because it helps to keep you in the present moment. It also has the additional benefit of distracting your mind from your anxious thoughts.

  • Acknowledge 5 things you can see around you. Perhaps the polish on your toenails or someone walking by outside your window.
  • Acknowledge 4 things you can touch around you. This can be your hair on your neck, the ground under your feet or your clothes on your skin.
  • Acknowledge 3 things you can hear. Maybe a dog is barking in the distance or maybe you’ll notice a sound your own body is making.
  • Acknowledge 2 things you can smell. Take a deep breath and make a note of the things you can smell. Do your hands smell like soap or sanitizer? Can you sniff your collar?
  • Acknowledge 1 thing you can taste. Maybe you’re chewing bubble gum or maybe you can still taste some of your last meal.

Walking for Anxiety

Movement is an excellent way to calm anxiety. If you’re able, go for a short (5 or 10 minute) walk before returning to your present situation. Research indicates that walking is powerful enough to “turn off” the part of the brain that is responsible for your anxiety. The physical activity of walking can have a clearing and calming effect on the mind, enabling you to see your situation with fresh eyes. Incorporate mindfulness into your walk by taking a note of the things around you. Make a game of it by counting all the red items you see on your walk. While walking outside has the added benefit of fresh air, an indoor walk is incredibly effective at calming an anxious mind.

By learning these strategies, you’ll be better equipped to handle anxious thoughts when they arise. The best part is that the more you practice, the better you will become at these skills. While they are incredibly useful in the moment, it’s also important to consider long-term strategies for managing chronic anxiety. The therapists at Flourish Psychology can work with you to identify your triggers and find freedom from your anxiety. Schedule a free consult to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.

Infertility, family planning and mental health

Infertility, family planning and mental health

Family Planning, Infertility and Mental Health 

Planning for a baby can be an exciting, yet daunting time. While planning for one of the biggest changes of your life, you may be thinking about your finances, relationships, career and health. It’s common to face increased anxiety during this experience, especially if you’re having challenges with conception. Several studies show that people dealing with infertility have higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to their fertile counterparts. Though it’s important to take care of your physical health as you prepare for pregnancy, be sure to prioritize your mental health as well. 

Diversion from Your Life Plan

Infertility often represents a major diversion from the plans and goals you have made for yourself and your life. Maybe you planned to be a parent by a certain age, or maybe you feel like a baby is what you need to make your life complete. An unexpected challenge to your plans can be disorienting and distressing. Working with a therapist during this time can equip you with the skills needed to cope. 

Infertility and Mental Health

Trying to conceive and struggling with infertility can be an isolating and emotionally painful experience. A lot of focus is placed on ensuring your body is physically ready for pregnancy. It’s important not to neglect your mental health while dealing with infertility and trying to conceive. As you navigate this challenging time, you are more prone to depression and anxiety than at other times in your life. Infertility is also linked to lowered self-esteem and confidence. Pay attention to your levels of stress and anxiety and take breaks when things get overwhelming. 

Planning a Pregnancy with an Existing Mental Health Condition

If you have or have ever had a mental illness, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor before planning to have a baby. Most people with mental health conditions have healthy pregnancies and babies, but it’s still helpful to speak to your doctor. Some medications used to treat mental illnesses can also impact your ability to conceive or should not be taken while pregnant. Do not stop taking any medications without first speaking with your doctor. Talking to your doctor can also give you insight on how pregnancy may affect your mental health, so you can feel prepared and informed. 

Impact on Your Relationships 

Deciding to have a baby can be a mutually fulfilling experience that creates a stronger bond between you and your partner. In other cases, trying to conceive can be stressful and may have a negative impact on your relationship with your partner. If both people aren’t on the same page, this can cause tension and uncertainty about the future of the relationship. For some couples, sex can become boring or routine while trying to conceive, causing issues with intimacy. If planning your family is causing stress in your relationship, it may be worth looking into couple’s counseling. 

Deciding to become a parent can impact other relationships, too. Friendships may be affected since you may be less able to dedicate time and energy to those interactions. If your friends are not becoming parents, you may find yourself drifting apart as your interests and lifestyles change. 

Professional Support at Every Step of the Way

At Flourish Psychology, our clinicians can help you process concerns about pregnancy and building a family. We can also support you through the process of fertility treatments or healing after a miscarriage. If you are considering surrogacy and need emotional support in making this life-changing decision, our clinicians offer a safe and welcoming therapeutic environment. 

Contact us for a free consult to get started. 

4 Simple Ways To Maintain Balance While Working From Home

4 Simple Ways To Maintain Balance While Working From Home

Before the pandemic, many of us prioritized having work/life balance and perhaps took active steps to achieve it. In a pre-COVID world, this was as easy as leaving your work laptop at the office and heading off to a life outside of work. You may have been heading home to your family or a favourite TV show. Perhaps it was after-work drinks with friends before heading home.

For those of us who commuted to an office, there was a physical demarcation between life at work and life outside of work. By leaving the building, many of us were able to mentally unburden and leave work at the office. With the pandemic forcing us indoors, many of us are working from home for the first time. This is a huge transition and presents challenges as it relates to achieving work/life balance.

Work/Life Balance is Important for Your Mental Health

Rest and leisure are essential aspects of self-care. We are unable to perform our best work when we are burnt out, stressed or anxious. When we neglect one aspect of our lives, we tend to see the effects in other areas, too. We are unable to be whole and healthy human beings without balance.

Being able to separate work from the other aspects of life can be especially challenging when working from home. Here are some tips to help you achieve work/life balance as we continue to spend more time indoors.

1. Set physical boundaries for work/life balance

When working from home, it is important to have a designated location for working. This area should be separate from your resting or leisure areas. Even if you are in a compact space, you can achieve this by dedicating a small corner to work. It can be as simple as using a foldable desk, which can be stowed away with the rest of your work items.

It’s important to have a physical separation between “work” and “not work” within your home. This physical separation will also help to tell your brain when you are working and when you are not working.

Another physical barrier can be the clothing you wear. Though working from home allows for dressing however you like, you may benefit from designating specific work outfits. Be sure to dress comfortably, but still in a way that makes you feel confident and motivated to work.

2. Set time-based boundaries

Working from home does not mean that you are always on the clock. Set working hours for yourself and be sure to give yourself ample breaks throughout the day. Let’s say you have chosen 8:00am to 4:30pm as your working hours. When it’s 4:30, stop working! Close out all work-related windows, turn off the computer, and physically move away from the working area. There may be some days where you have to work additional hours to meet a deadline or complete a project. In general, make a habit of having defined working hours, just as you would in a traditional office setting.

3. Set mental and emotional boundaries

A key element of achieving work/life balance is setting mental and emotional boundaries. This simply means being able to mentally and emotionally “shut off” work at appropriate times. Remind yourself that there is a time for everything and that your work will be waiting for you when it’s work time.

Mindfulness is learning how to be present, without worrying about the future or past. When we are worrying about work during leisure time, it is helpful to practice mindfulness. This can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing to remind you to stay in the present moment. Take the time to notice the things around you and appreciate things just as they are.

Developing hobbies and interests is another way to set mental and emotional boundaries. When we take the time to enjoy our interests, it is a reminder that there is a life outside of work. When we are focusing on a passion project, we become so engrossed that we are able to unplug from work completely.

4. Set interpersonal boundaries for work/life balance

Finally, it is important to communicate our expectations to the people we work with. We can politely inform colleagues and clients of our working hours to manage expectations about response times. We can directly or indirectly make it clear that we are only able to answer phone calls or emails during certain hours.

When working from home, others may expect that you are “always on” or are able to handle requests at any time. It is important to be able to politely communicate these boundaries so we can maintain healthy working relationships.

It’s normal to face difficulty in achieving balance. The work we do is a fundamental part of who we are. Work-related stresses may affect your relationships, your home life, and your general mental health. The therapists at Flourish Psychology understand the impact of a fulfilling career on your overall wellbeing. We want to help you to do your best work so you can live your best life. Schedule a free consult today.

Self Compassion Leads to Emotional Resilience

Self Compassion Leads to Emotional Resilience

Self compassion is the deliberate practice of being kind, gentle and understanding with yourself. It entails being aware of your own suffering, challenges and shortcomings without judgment. It is often said that self compassion means affording yourself the same kindness that you would offer to a friend in a similar situation.

Research into the practice of self-compassion has shown considerable benefits for overall wellbeing. People who are more self-compassionate tend to have better physical and mental health and are less prone to anxiety and depression. Interestingly enough, the “tough love” approach tends to break us down over time. On the other hand, being gentler with yourself actually helps you develop emotional strength and resilience.

How you can practice self compassion

Self compassion begins with the knowledge that you are a human being who is trying their best. Everyone makes mistakes and will experience failures and regrets. Remind yourself that you are not the only one who is feeling afraid or uncertain. This is all a part of the human experience and you are doing the best that you can under very challenging circumstances. Self compassion involves recognizing that your mistakes, perceived inadequacies and suffering do not negate your value and worth as a person.

One of the easiest ways to show yourself compassion is to pretend that you are a beloved friend who is going through a rough time. Even if your friend was somewhat at fault or genuinely messed up, wouldn’t you assure them that it’s okay? Wouldn’t you let them know that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and that this too will pass?

You certainly wouldn’t berate your friend by telling them that they deserve to suffer because of the mistake they made. You would never tell a friend that their life is forever ruined because of one wrong decision. So why do we do this to ourselves?

Being a good friend to yourself

Ashley just found out that she didn’t get a job that she was really banking on. She feels hurt and rejected and her mind spirals with all kinds of thoughts. She tells herself that she will never get hired because she just isn’t impressive enough. The hiring manager probably saw her application and laughed. She should just give up the job hunt now because she will never find a good job.

Now, imagine that Ashley calls her boyfriend and tells him that she didn’t get the job. He responds by saying that he isn’t surprised because she simply isn’t impressive. He tells her that the hiring manager probably took one look at her email and deleted it. He tells her she should just give up on job hunting because she’s never going to find a job.

Ashley should dump that boyfriend, right? How could he be so mean during a moment of vulnerability?

It’s so easy for us to treat ourselves in ways that we would never tolerate from the people in our lives. It’s so easy to say unkind things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to the people we love. The next time you’re feeling low, ask yourself what you would want to hear from a close friend in that moment. Then say those things to yourself. It may feel strange at first, but soon it will become natural for you to treat yourself with gentleness and compassion.

Self criticism versus self compassion

Self criticism usually has good intentions. When we criticize ourselves, it’s often because we hold ourselves to very high standards. It’s easy to believe that self criticism helps to hold yourself accountable or keeps you in check when you mess up. But in the long run, self criticism can turn into a constant loop of self-loathing, leading to poor self esteem, depression and anxiety. You begin to fear your own brain’s mean comments, so you are constantly on guard and afraid to make mistakes or take risks.

Self compassion, on the other hand, provides a safe space where you feel empowered to try new things. You know that you can rely on yourself to be supportive during inevitable moments of failure and regret. This helps you to build emotional resilience over time. Self compassion is a source of inner strength that helps people to cope with the difficulties that life throws their way.

Self criticism cuts you down over time and can even make you cynical. Self compassion builds you up.

What self compassion is NOT

Self compassion is not the same as self pity. Self compassion comes from a place of empowerment, not victimhood. Self compassion does not mean that you do not accept responsibility for your actions or that you make excuses for bad behavior. Rather, self compassion gives you a safe space to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings without feeling ashamed of them. Self compassion reminds you that you messed up because you’re a flawed person who is doing their best. Self compassion gives you the strength to try again – and to do better next time.

Activities to promote self compassion

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective ways to challenge critical self-talk and embrace a more compassionate state of mind. This form of therapy helps you to identify and challenge negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors, so you can deal with them in a healthy way. You will explore and identify where there is a block in your life. You will also look at the beliefs you hold about yourself and how they affect your well-being. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology are trained in this kind of therapy. Schedule a free consult to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.

Journaling is an especially useful tool for encouraging self compassion. Take the time to write about a situation that is causing you distress, guilt or shame. Then write a response from the perspective of a loving friend who can see the situation more objectively.

Why not come up with a self-compassion mantra that you can repeat to yourself whenever you need to? Examples include “I am going through a hard time and I will be kind to myself.” Try to use your mantra to counter any intrusive or unkind thoughts. Be mindful of when you are being harsh or critical towards yourself. Sometimes these thoughts are so frequent and common that we don’t even notice. Stop and ask yourself whether you’re really being fair and whether you would be speaking to a friend in this critical manner.

Self compassion is a deliberate practice that becomes easier over time. It may be difficult at first, but it’s sure to have long-lasting effects for your mental health and wellbeing.