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Make self-kindness a lifestyle: Five practical tips to get you started

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“Be kind to others,” we have been told since childhood.

But over the past two stressful years, that’s been easier said than done.

“We have all been chronically stressed for two years, and that changes our stress response system,” explains Dr. Kerri Ritchie, Clinical and Health Psychologist and Professional Practice Coordinator for Psychology at The Ottawa Hospital. “Everything feels bigger, even small slights, because our threat response system is looking for threats everywhere. This has kept us safe during the pandemic, but we’re not meant to be nice and kind when we’re under threat.”

A painting in an office
This painting hangs in Catherine Youngson’s office. She says, “It serves as a place where I can go mentally when I need to pause, be mindful and take a moment.”

Dr. Ritchie says one approach to cueing our systems that we are not under threat starts with looking inwards. Before you can effectively show kindness to others, you need to show kindness to yourself.

Self-kindness is critical to your overall mental wellbeing. Not only does a good self-kindness routine help you reduce the baseline stress in your life, but it also helps you hone your compassion, a powerful emotion that allows you to empathize with others and motivates you to lend a helping hand. With the world collectively living through difficult times, the ability to show compassion is now especially important.

Different people have different ways of being kind to themselves. But the essentials include enhancing your health and wellness through self-care, building a support system by strengthening relationships with people who care about you, and creating work-life balance by making time for your hobbies.

Health-care providers at The Ottawa Hospital practice self-kindness in small ways every day, helping them manage the inherent stresses of the profession and maintain compassion for their patients—both of which are essential to delivering quality care.

If you need more inspiration for your self-kindness routine, here are a few ways that our care staff have made self-kindness a lifestyle…

Enjoying a small gift every day

Dr. Kerri Ritchie, Clinical and Health Psychologist

“My go-to right now is advent calendars because I like a small surprise gift every day! At the end of December, I bought them on discount!” she says. “And because carbs are good, mac and cheese! Both of these harness memories of childhood fun for me.”

Even a months-old advent calendar can go a long way in giving you a little boost. The idea is to find something that brings you just a little bit of joy every day.

Displaying hometown photos and whimsical art

Catherine Youngson, Program Director of Patient Access and Patient Flow

“I choose to have joy in my day in small ways, every day. During the pandemic, I was unable to visit my family in Northern Ontario, so I have used photos from home as my Microsoft Teams background, which has brought me a sense of comfort. Also, my office has always been known to be full of whimsy, and while pink does not always make everyone happy, it works for me.

“And never underestimate the power of chocolate! I have always had a bowl of chocolate in my office for those moments when I (and others) need a little pick-me-up.”

Strengthening body and mind

Ellen Alie, Director of Medical Imaging

“Each yoga class is an opportunity to care for myself. Whether it is working to hold a pose longer, building strength and flexibility, or concentrating on my breathing, yoga provides an opportunity to focus on my physical and mental health.”

Working toward a dream

Geneviève Côté, Manager of Patient Relations

“At the 18-month mark of the pandemic, I needed a morale boost, so I thought about making one of my dreams come true. I had always dreamed of learning to row and being part of a crew. I was raised in a landlocked northern town, so rowing was not an option growing up! My birthday gift was a rowing machine, and I have been ‘training’ daily ever since. The rowing club didn’t take novice members last year, but I have my fingers crossed for this spring!

 “Another first for me was being invited to join a book club! This sense of belonging to small clubs and doing interesting things with people I like literally feels like aloe vera on a sunburn for my soul!”

Drawing on cultural teachings

Mackenzie Daybutch, Coordinator for the Indigenous Cancer Program

“I remind myself of the Ojibway teachings of the 7 Grandfathers: Respect, Humility, Wisdom, Love, Bravery, Honesty and Truth. I smudge with our Indigenous medicines to keep my mind balanced. I also enjoy running and playing with my daughter! She helps to keep things light and remind me to appreciate the little things in life.”

Did we give you some ideas? We’ll settle for a smile!

We hope we’ve given you some inspiration. Even if we’ve just given you a smile, this article is already doing its job!  


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This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.