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The Founder Files: 4. Kindness

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on ‘kindness’ and I can’t think of any better theme during the weirdness and wonder of lockdown.

I’ve been overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude recently for the kindness of others.

I’ve had people reaching out to me from throughout my network checking in to see if I’m ok. People I might not have seen or heard from for months but genuinely seemed to take an interest in how I’m coping. Some in quiet, thoughtful DM’s and others taking a more direct approach with surprise phone calls (thanks Steve!) and even sending books in the post (weirdly, another Steve. I promise not all of my watchful guardians are called Steve….)

After I posted on social media mentioning that I was going into quarantine, I received a message from a friend offering to do my shopping and cycle two miles to drop it off to me, and another message from another friend offering to do the next round!

Beyond the kindness I’ve experienced first-hand, I’ve been blown away by the sense of solidarity and community that I’ve witnessed out in the ether.

From individual social media posts writing about it being ‘ok not to be ok’ to large companies offering free services for the duration of lockdown. Grassroots volunteer services have cropped up in neighbourhoods across the country and many of us have experienced social support and understanding from people we may never have expected it from.

But nowhere is the message of ‘kindness’ more important than in the conversations we have with ourselves.

Last week I found myself getting ridiculously impatient with myself, which I recorded in the blog titled ‘Frustration.’

I’d hit an emotional brick wall where I suddenly decided I was ‘sick of all this shit.’

I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, annoyed at my inability to work, angry at myself for being impatient, then annoyed for being angry, frustrated by being annoyed, and so the ridiculous cycle continued.

Foul moods within foul moods, like a hormonal Russian doll.

I’d tried throughout the day to shake it off, but it didn’t want to shift.

I tried to distract myself but doing unrelated tasks, but that didn’t seem to work. So I returned to the bad mood and tired to dissolve it through rational analysis. I journaled angrily and recorded a video, exploiting my own suffering to try and exorcise it. But it didn’t help.

It wasn’t until I had a conversation with Bryony Gunson in the evening that the cloud started to lift. Bryony is a facilitator at ‘Be and Do’ – a modern meditation company.

During our discussion, she helped me realise I was being really unkind to myself. I was effectively kicking myself while I was down, rather than accepting the feelings as they surfaced and giving them space to just exist, free from judgement.

Talk about a mic drop.

It’s a lesson even the wellbeing practitioners need to remember. Kindness is something so many of us are capable of giving freely to other people, but we lack the patience, respect or sometimes awareness to turn that attention inwards.

We’re quick to set unrealistically high standards for ourselves, beat ourselves up for making mistakes or consider ourselves failures if we don’t finish all the things on our to-do list.

We work ourselves too hard, then give ourselves a hard time when we’re resting, denouncing it as procrastination.

If you recognise yourself in what I’m saying, I’m hoping this blog will act as a nudge for you.

Don’t just ‘save’ a little bit of kindness for yourself. Prioritise it. Put yourself at the front of the queue.

Alice x x

P.S – ‘Be and Do’ are hosting a series of free meditation sessions during lockdown which I’ve been enjoying. I thoroughly recommend them for their delivery style as well as their focus on explaining some of the theories and philosophies behind how meditation works. Have a look and sign up here.