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Giving and receiving kindness in Mental Health Awareness Week

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and the trending sentiment is kindness (click this link to watch the Mental Health Foundation’s one minute video). This lovely response to the coronavirus emphasises the small acts of care and compassion that are getting us all through lockdown – running an errand, waiting patiently in a queue, giving someone space on the pavement.

But what if you’re not receiving any kindness? What if you’re lonely, or sick, or bereaved or struggling financially? And what if you’re not feeling like being kind? Or if you’re too worried, scared, over-worked or just too plain tired to think about reaching out to others? 

The well-known self-help speaker, Brene Brown tweeted about this this week: “It’s ok to need,” she wrote. “It’s ok to ask. It’s ok to receive, dammit. Hard practice for those of us who attach our value to being givers. But so worth it. 🧡”

Kindness ultimately begins with being able to be kind to ourselves. If we project all our love and compassion out onto others, seeing the need only outside ourselves, then we’re on the fast track to burn-out. ‘People pleasers’ are quick to jump on the kindness bandwagon, prone to run ourselves ragged keeping others happy, but slow to turn a gentle eye on our own needs.

If this sounds like you then do you need to stop, just for a minute, simply to take a breath? Would you like to feel your feet on the ground and your mug of tea warming your hands before you leap up to do the next task? Maybe you might actually like some help, if you could just be brave enough or vulnerable enough to admit it and ask for it. 

The virus makes clear what we’ve always known but not always faced – we can’t make everything ok. Sometimes bad things happen, people get sad and we can’t always save them. Kindness doesn’t always mean fixing things for others. Sometimes it means bearing things with others and letting others bear things with us. 

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