Giving Yourself Grace: The Importance of Emotional Self-Care

Happy woman sits next to pond
Photo by Mental Health America (MHA) from Pexels

Over the past year, specifically since we’ve all been dealing with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like the phrase “give yourself some grace,” has become an automatic response to someone expressing a personal struggle or stress.

Similar to the almost-involuntary response of “good” when someone asks how you are (even when you’re the furthest thing from it), I recently found myself giving a similar auto-response of, “I know,” when someone tells me I need to “give myself some grace.” This usually happens after I’ve recounted a mistake or feeling of being overwhelmed. But, to be honest, until recently, I really didn’t know. More and more I found myself wondering, “What does that phrase even mean?”

I took some time to reflect on the saying and decided that giving yourself grace is a manifestation of self-care. Not physical self-care like making your steps goal for the day or sneaking in time to get a manicure, but mental and emotional self-care. Recognizing, accepting, and honoring your limits, and loving yourself anyway.

To this end, I came up with a list of some tangible ways we can all give ourselves some grace. So next time someone suggests you do so, you can be well-equipped to take action and mean it when you (if you’re like me) auto-respond with, “I know.”

Saying no

I’m someone who struggles with saying no. Even if I’m exhausted from the week, have a mental to-do list a mile long, and just want to curl up in bed at 8 p.m. on a Friday night, I feel immense guilt if I turn down an offer to go for a walk or hop on a group Zoom catch-up.

When considering why, I realized that I’ve been mentally equating saying no to insulting someone. I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel like I don’t care. However, when I really thought about it, I realized that by never saying no, I was just hurting myself. Not giving myself time to rest when I was tired or forcing myself to participate in something when I didn’t have the energy just led to feelings of resentment and compounding exhaustion.

It hasn’t been a perfect path and I can’t say I’ve gotten rid of all feelings of guilt, but I have started to let myself say no and I suggest you do the same. It’s a great way to start giving yourself some grace, whether you’re feeling overstretched, need a mental break, or just truly don’t want to do something.

Carving out time to do something you love

What’s something you truly enjoy doing? Something that helps you detach from the stress of the day? For me, it’s reading. Last year I made a resolution to stop mindlessly scrolling on my phone and refocus on my love for reading. I had gotten into a great habit, but when the chaos of the pandemic hit, I found myself falling into old patterns of doomscrolling as a way to detach from the stress.

I’ve recently recommitted to reading each day. Sometimes that means staying behind while my husband takes my daughter for a bike ride and sometimes it means going to bed 20 minutes early to read in silence. Taking some time to disconnect and recharge in a way that works for you is an enjoyable way to give yourself some grace.

Letting go of the pressure to be perfect

No one likes making mistakes, but the reality is that everyone does. And one thing that will only set you back further is mentally harping on it. Instead of beating yourself up over it, set a clear course of action to correct it, complete those steps, and move on.

Recognizing that none of us are perfect and focusing on solutions instead of problems is a way to give yourself grace that benefits everyone. I’ve found this to be beneficial even in small instances, like when I’ve accidentally booked a hard-to-schedule doctor’s appointment at the same time as an important work meeting. Instead of getting stuck on it, I’ve learned to just focus on fixing it – make the uncomfortable phone call and move on.

Letting go of the pressure to be perfect also opens doors. You may find yourself willing to try new things, both personally and professionally, and step out of your safety zone a bit more if you’re willing to accept that things don’t have to (and won’t) always end perfectly.

Asking for help and delegating

Asking for help is hard, largely because we live in a society where asking for help can be seen as a sign of weakness. However, it’s exactly the opposite. Recognizing that you’ve hit your limit and are maxed out on what you can accomplish alone is a sign of strength and maturity.

One way I’ve embraced this recently is by accepting that sometimes taking the “easy” way out is the best option. For instance, I began having my groceries delivered at the onset of the pandemic to avoid going out. However, now, I don’t imagine that I’ll go back to the store every time. In the time it would normally take to do my grocery shopping, I can spend more time with my kids, fit in a workout, or knock out some extra work. Plus, I can have more free time to relax in the evenings.

Outsourcing a necessary task that you don’t enjoy allows you to release control over a task that causes you stress, which frees you up to do more of what you love and let go of the illusion that you have to do it all on your own. And that’s exactly what giving yourself grace is all about.

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