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Suicide Prevention Advisor Kelly explains why looking after the relationship we have with ourselves is so vital in building emotional resilience.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week – a week to focus on the importance of building and maintaining relationships. Whether it is with friends, family, your teacher or colleague, or anyone else in our lives, having strong and healthy connections with others is vital to our emotional wellbeing.
But all relationships begin with and are dependent on the relationship we have with ourselves.
This week, PAPYRUS is raising awareness of the importance of remembering to look after ourselves when it comes to maintaining positive relationships and building resilience. A healthy self-relationship is about being able to value yourself as a person, embracing not only your strengths but your weaknesses, too. We live in a society that is constantly bombarding us with images, messages, subliminal ads, and merchandise to constantly pull us into the mind-set of ‘you can be better’ and ‘you’re not good enough’. This can make it very difficult for young people in particular to be able to forge a solid and loving relationship with themselves.
It is common for all of us to become involved in a negative relationship with ourselves when we have suffered traumatic events in life, or when we feel under pressure. When these things happen we can easily start to think negatively of ourselves and this self-relationship can become toxic. All too often we reserve our harshest criticisms and our most negative thoughts for ourselves – and those thoughts are precisely what stands in our way of achieving those things we most want in life.
At PAPYRUS, we know that when young people feel this way about themselves, these feelings of being a failure can become overwhelming and lead to thoughts of suicide. We often receive calls, texts and emails from young people on HOPELineUK who tell us that they feel they aren’t, or won’t ever be, ‘good enough’. Often these people don’t feel able to share these thoughts or feelings with anyone else – rather than seek support, they put other people first, as they fear that sharing their emotional pain will burden others.
It can be hard to separate out who we are from what has happened to us – but significant events in life do not determine who we are as a person. We are more than what has happened to us, but often the things that happen can impact heavily on the way we manage our emotions and the way we think about ourselves. We are each unique and we respond to the same life-events in different ways. Although it can be hard not to be hard on yourself and compare yourself to others, remember you are your own person with your own experiences and qualities. You are more than your current experience and with help, things can get better.
It's important to remember we all go through tough times and we can’t always solve problems all by ourselves. Recognising and asking for help is a sign of strength. With the right help to support us to become more emotionally resilient, we can learn to love ourselves and appreciate all the positive qualities we have and how they can impact on us and those around us.
At PAPYRUS we’ve been discussing ways in which we can all start to build or maintain a positive self-relationship. Here are some of the ones we think are particularly important in building resiliency to life’s challenges:
1) Care for your needs
If you are someone who cares a lot for others, it can feel hard to focus on yourself – but your health and happiness come first. Never feel guilty about taking care of yourself.
A great place to start building a healthy relationship with yourself is by caring for your basic physical needs. That includes getting enough sleep and rest, even when you feel like you have lots to do, enjoying fresh air and exercise, eating well and drinking sensibly.
2) Joy is important
Prioritise the activities that bring you joy and fill your emotional reserves. Giving yourself treats every day, such as a walk in the park, a small bar of chocolate, a cuddle with a pet or a long bath, can work wonders for your emotional well-being.
3) Focus on your inner world
Be aware of your internal processes. Ask yourself these questions on a regular basis: “What am I feeling? What am I thinking?”
Also, consider why you might be having these thoughts and feelings. Ask yourself “I wonder why that’s bothering me? Why am I feeling lonelier lately?” This can be incredibly difficult to do on our own sometimes, and this is why it is so important to reach out for some support. Keeping a diary, talking to a close friend, or going to see a counsellor can help you to become more self-aware.
4) Make time for yourself
In our busy lives we can forget to take time out, but it’s important to build in ‘you’ time into your everyday routine. You might want to sit quietly for ten minutes in the morning with your first cup of coffee, get lost in your favourite pieces of music, meditate or find books or poetry that resonate with you. It’s important to grab these moments to make sure they become part of everyday.
5) Be your own best friend
Any time you hear the negative put-downs swirling around your head, think about what you’d say to your best friend or a close family member, and then rewrite the script. Write yourself letters that focus on your strengths, write down positive quotes, and remember the qualities that people love you for.
6) Don't struggle on your own
It’s important to reach out and ask for help when things get difficult or feel overwhelming. Talk about your feelings with your friends and family, or someone outside your social circle, like a teacher or a colleague, if you find that easier to do. If you are experiencing thoughts or feelings of suicide, HOPELineUK offers a safe and confidential space to talk.
If you have some top tips you'd like to share about looking after your self-relationship, tweet us @PAPYRUS_tweets using the hashtag #LookAfterYou, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This could be anything - from 'I sing along to my favourite song in the car' to 'I go for a run after work to help get some me time' - just let us know what helps you to look after the relationship you have with yourself.
If you are a young person struggling with thoughts of suicide, or if you are concerned about someone who is, you can call, text or email HOPELineUK.