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The “Oughts” family lives close by and keep inviting themselves in. The patriarch of the Oughts family, Regret, showed up after a recent visit from my grandchildren. “I ought to have...” “if only I had...” “why didn’t I...” A barrage of regretful criticism assaulted me for days, and I felt lousy. I felt like I hadn’t done enough. Finally realizing that Regret isn’t good company, I ushered him to the door.

Moving past regret

I struggle with wanting everything to be just right. Everything ought to be perfect all the time! I hold myself to a high standard and often forget that, as a human being, I am limited. I am not going to think of everything or get it all exactly right. The beginning of 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is patient and kind...” Beating myself up with regret over nonsensically impossible standards isn’t loving or kind.

Practicing self-kindness

So, how do we show kindness to ourselves? One way is to notice how you treat yourself. Do you put too much pressure on yourself or hold yourself to unreasonable expectations, like expecting yourself to be all things to all people? Do you lose sight of the fact that, in our humanness, we make mistakes? Treating yourself with kindness is a gift you can give yourself. Here are some ways to be kind to yourself:

  • Speak kindly to yourself and use words of affirmation. Your self-talk makes a difference. Remind yourself of how God sees you: Beloved, Precious, Holy.
  • Forgive yourself when you mess up (as we all do). God calls us to forgive others as he forgives us, and that includes forgiving ourselves. Nothing is beyond God's grace.
  • Accept limitations. Remember, in our humanness, we are limited in what we can do. We need to let God be God and rest in him.
  • Take one thing at a time. When you are overwhelmed, break your tasks into small, manageable pieces. Don't get overwhelmed by the path, just take the next step.
  • Make space in your day and your week to rest and restore your soul. Jesus took time away to pray and be alone with the Father. Make time to be still in God's presence.
  • Give yourself grace as you go through the day. Don’t worry about small things. It is absolutely okay to know our limits and enlist support.
  • Notice what makes life good. Gratitude helps keep us balanced and brings joy. Little things count! A delicious cup of coffee and the color purple are two things that help make my life good, and I am grateful.

We are in a season when stress is amplified. It is a long winter with isolation from one another. Financial pressures, and navigating life amidst COVID-19 can leave you ready to crack. Give yourself the gift of kindness as you navigate the winter. Implementing the following tools can help:

Simplify

Keep your expectations realistic and simplify as needed. Scale down what you do. Reassess what needs to be done, and think about what is important to you and your family. What will matter five years from now? Ask your family what matters to them, and give yourself permission to eliminate things that feel to overwhelming.

Recognize your limits

Accept what is out of your control (which is most things). Life is full of unexpected surprises and circumstances we cannot control. Rather than waste your energy fighting something you cannot change, accept the reality of what is. COVID-19 may have changed who joined you for holiday celebrations or how you were able celebrate. While we grieve that loss, we can focus on all the ways that we can still stay connected. While we will miss the loved ones we can’t be with, making the most of things and finding creative alternatives can help us.

Practice good self-care

Good self-care is essential all year round but even more so during the winter cold when it is difficult to safely gather and connect in community. Be attentive to your body, mind, and spirit. Rest, play, laugh, reflect, journal, exercise, color, dance, stretch, get plenty of sleep, take a walk outside, be in the moment.

Notice God's blessings

Be attentive to goodness and beauty. Tune in to the sights, sounds, and smells. God's blessings are abundant in our life and all we have to do is become aware of them. These moments help us tune in to the present moment and delight in God's grace. Goodness and beauty help restore our soul as we breathe in God's grace for us.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).

Allow yourself to linger over a delicious cup of hot spiced cider, an orchestra or choir concert, the snap and crackle of a bright, warm fire in the fireplace, or the vision of sparkling, white, fresh fallen snow.

As you care for your loved ones, remember to love yourself with the gift of kindness. And if the “Oughts” show up at your door, send them packing. It is far better to sit with Jesus and let him remind you that you are loved.

 

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