Are there only benefits to kindness?
We seem to value kindness highly in the caring professions, and yet we don’t teach it in undergraduate programs and it has not been widely researched. When we do research kindness, we usually examine the ripple effects of kindness that is directed outwards. We have not yet fully investigated the benefits of kindness to self and how it can influence our resilience and ability to show kindness to others. It’s time for us as a community to change that. Self-kindness can be a transformative act, both for our daily wellbeing and our professional practice.
So, what does kindness to self look like?
To me, it looks like a brimming cup bringing sustenance, warmth and generosity. Filling that cup takes time. If you lead a busy life, it can be incredibly difficult to parcel off time between working shifts, caring for family, and running logistics for the people in your life. Here are some ideas to make some time for yourself:
- Use your leave: Sometimes, we try to hoard our leave for a luxuriously long holiday that never comes, or set it aside to devote to other people’s needs. It can be really beneficial to take even a short break, so consider getting in the habit of taking a few short breaks a year.
- Task share: Connect with others with whom you can share responsibilities — arrange a carpool with other parents at your school, negotiate equitable care arrangements for elderly parents with siblings or family friends, or hire a cleaner to help out at home occasionally. It’s not shameful to ask others to share the load.
- Plan ahead: Reclaim some of your time by getting into the routine of meal-prepping and storing meals ahead of time.
- Prioritise the things that make you feel good: Insist on taking the time for a morning session at the gym, or to see a movie with your friends. It’s easy to give up on time for yourself if you don’t resolve to defend it.
Be present when you do the things you enjoy: It can be easy to waste a moment to relax by letting our heads fill with thoughts of the future. When you are taking time to yourself, try to stay in the moment — savour the sip of hot coffee, the warm sun on your skin, or the gentle breeze. Other things can wait.
Getting creative can help you create regular time to experience the things that bring you joy.
Time spent in kindness to self stretches hours. Taking a little time to yourself will give you back the energy to ask your colleague ‘are you ok?’, ‘can I make you a cup of tea?’ or and ‘yes, I have the time to hear what is upsetting you’. Kindness helps you both give and receive feedback, it prompts you to be curious enough to research and be educated, helps you to choose your words wisely and with compassion. It will help you be a better carer, professional, and friend. Fill your cup first and then pass it on to others: mentor young colleagues, pass on your invaluable knowledge to colleagues, or offer support in difficult moments.
Kindness comes back towards you and flows from you. Caring for others is a demanding, stressful job but it also comes with rewards. To feel and give your best you need to have that cup full. If you feel depleted or lacking energy to be kind, give us a call at Nurse and Midwife Support on 1800 667 877. We’ll help you figure out how to fill your own cup.