Acts of kindness have been shown to increase our self esteem by creating a sense of belonging, they reduce our sense of isolation by building bonds with others. We are social beings but modern life can leave us feeling alone and the increasing dependence on social media can sometimes promote the idea that everyone has a wonderful life when we’re not feeling good about ourselves.

Mental health issues can change the way we think, when I’m in a difficult place I just can’t engage with others, the tendency is to become reclusive and protect myself from a world that seems too overwhelming. I tried to volunteer for the National Trust but even though it was only a few hours a week, it was still too much. I felt ashamed and my self esteem took a huge nose dive. It took me ages to feel ok again because not only was I coping with depression I was also wrestling with the internalised shame of having mental health issues and feeling a failure when I’d done some volunteering which was “supposed”to help me improve.

When I disclosed I had to leave because of my illness one of the well meaning workers asked “But doesn’t it make you feel better when you get here?” It was difficult to explain especially as I knew that my symptoms were going to get worse and soon I wouldn’t even be able to get there and even if I did I wouldn’t have the energy to “pass” i.e. pretend to be ok. It’s hard for others who’ve never had serious MHIs to understand what it’s like and that their logical arguments just don’t help. Empathy and compassion do. They do not understand that our sense of overwhelm comes from a deep sense of feeling bad and a huge fear that we’re both unacceptable and that at any moment something terrible will happen.

It’s also hard for us to make sense and communicate what goes on inside to others in coherent ways. A lot of the time I can’t make sense of what’s going on inside myself never mind communicate it.

Here’s a short video about CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Kindness to self.

Being kind to others requires us to be kind to ourself first.

When we’re in a difficult place or recognise that we’re rapidly approaching a difficult place the first person we help is ourself/selves. Kindness starts inside us, it starts with attending to our internal life, i.e. the parts of that are trying to communicate with us. Really listening to our selves requires that we commit to having quiet times where we treat ourselves respectfully. This doesn’t come easy and so we have to work on being kind to ourselves/selves. Therapy with the right therapist can be helpful.

Think of it as doing some volunteering with your self/selves. If we’re not feeling ok it means a part of us feels unattended to and is trying to tell us by being depressed, withdrawing, manic, sad, anxious and /or angry, or there may be parts of us that feel different things so it gets confusing; one minute we can feel one thing then the next it’s totally different, this is called “rapid cycling” (ie quick changing moods – not going out on a bicycle).

Attending to our internal life requires us to minimise external distractions

If a good friend needed to talk would you turn off the TV? Stop looking at your phone? Go somewhere quiet so you could concentrate on what they were saying? Would you be sympathetic or would you humiliate and laugh at their feelings?

Treating yourself/selves as you would someone you cared about is one way of approaching self care, so when it’s time to “attend”to yourself/selves:

turn off your phone, TV, computer, iPad, screen.

try to go somewhere quiet where you’ll not be disturbed

go somewhere where you feel safe

listen to what’s going on inside, don’t judge or be critical ( hard I know), but just notice the thoughts and feelings.

Try writing down what’s going on inside.

Some people find writing down what’s on their mind gets the thoughts out of their head and onto paper (or screen). It’s like emptying the trash and your head can feel clearer. Also the act of writing can sometimes help us make sense of the jumble in out mind. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling, no one will read the writing except you. It’s about the process of listening and recording your thoughts. After a while you will be surprised with what your inner selves begin to share with you.

Whilst you write try not to censor any thoughts, instead have a non judgemental and curious attitude.

If writing isn’t your thing then try and go for a 30 minute walk and record yourself talking into your phone.If it’s safe for you to walk alone and in nature all the better, plus, people just think you’re on the phone.


You don’t need fancy paper or expensive art equipment, neither are you “making a picture”. The aim of drawing what’s going on inside is to develop a relationship with the parts of you that are trying to communicate with you in images. Sounds crazy but try it. Whatever you draw, ask “What message do you have for me?” Ask the scribble, the tree, the animal, the pattern, don’t interpret it, just ask what it has to say. If you keep on drawing and listening then you may be surprised by what the parts of you inside are trying to say.

Spending more quality time with ourself/selves is a way to become calmer even though it can be uncomfortable at first. Modern life distracts us so much from our internal world.

Starting a journal and keeping drawings are ways to develop a better relationship with ourself/selves, keep it safe and private, this is about holding a safe space for our inner parts to express themselves without fear of judgement from others who may attack us for things they don’t understand. You can get journals that lock, secure boxes, and/or use a password for an online journal. Protect your inner world, it’s precious.

Other ways to be kind to ourselves are:

go for a walk, in nature if possible.

do some exercise, move your body, work with your body but don’t over do it.

listen to music


prepare and cook some nutritious food,

read a poem,

have a bath,

do a mindful exercise, meditation

be creative: draw, paint, write, make something

hug a soft toy or pet

wrap yourself up in a blanket

Get support: find a trustworthy and kind person to talk to (this could be a helpline, counsellor or carer)

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