It’s often said that the most important relationship we have in life, is the one we have with ourselves. And as Nancy Myers as that all sounds, we have to agree with the sentiment. Unhealthy relationships tend to steer us towards poor self-worth, mental health struggles and unhealthy relationships with other people. Whether consciously or not, we tell ourselves that we don’t deserve better and trivialise our struggles as if they don’t quite matter. Even when things are going good, we can be our own worst critics, self-imposing impossible standards and gettind down on ourselves when we fall behind.
And after having our whole world turned upside down, having nothing to do but reflect on the state of our lives and stare at our bedroom walls, the focus on mental health awareness has reached a peak. Though we're a little fatigued by buzzwords like 'self-care' and 'wellness' and the commodification of mental health, a little compassion for ourselves never goes astray.
If you're in need of some TLC but don't quite have the patience for fluffy books, podcasts, meditation, or retreats, there's a psychologist-approved technique known as NOTE that could help you take a mental check when you're beating yourself up.
As published in Psychology Today by Steven C. Hayes Ph.D., the NOTE technique — which is an acronym for Notice, Observe, Thank and Engage — is a simple-to-follow formula that encourages us to be more mindful of how we treat ourselves. Below, our guide to practicing the steps.
Noticing what's going on is about catching yourself out when self-deprecating thoughts or criticisms come about and identifying them as such. The ability to be self-aware of your own emotions and judgements is invaluable to your mental health.
Once you've taken notice of the thought or feeling, it's time to dig a little deeper. Analyse what the thoughts are saying and what feelings are showing up with them. Is it a familiar feeling? Has someone expressed these concerns to you before? Try to take a bird's eye view of these thoughts and observe them like they're an experiment.
It might sound silly but remembering to thank yourself is an effective way to build up your self-worth. Whether it's internally or out loud, remind yourself that you're a worthy priority with positive reinforcement for taking the time to reflect.
What this also does is help to see the negative emotions for what they really are: an evolutionary protective defence. As Hayes says, your mind means well, it just doesn't always know how to step out of problem-solving mode. But when you treat even the worst parts of yourself with kindness, you're relating to it instead of just trying to shun it.
Even if you're a staunch introvert, it's healthy to take a moment after a self-worth low and engage with the world around you. Grab a drink with friends, call your mum or even go pet your neighbour's dog.
Being able to remove yourself from insular thoughts and getting out there is not only a great distraction, but reminds us that there is so much more to life than our wee little fuck-ups.