Empathy is what connects us. It’s what allows us to see the humanity in the people around us, and gives context to their emotions. And yet so many people who are so eager to extend empathy to their loved ones still struggle to feel that same love and empathy for themselves. If that sounds like you, that’s okay! A lot of people struggle to be as kind to themselves as they are to others. But you shouldn’t have to struggle through it alone, and you may benefit from learning small and simple ways to show yourself empathy.
Here are a few ideas to show empathy to yourself:
- Spend time doing something you love to recharge. It’s easy to push aside the things that you like to do when it feels like there are more things that you have to do. But you’ll feel recharged and more ready to tackle the day if you spent some time devoted to just feeling good.
- Connect with loved ones (especially over the phone or video chat). Being unable to see friends and loved ones as much as last year is really hard, and it feels like there’s not that much to talk about when you’re spending most of your time at home. But even a quick 10-minute call can boost your mood and make you feel more connected.
- Take a break from social media. It might feel like it’s the thing keeping us connected to our friends, our favorite TV shows, and the news, but our brains aren’t built to take in that much news and information all day long. Put down the phone and take some time away from Instagram in the name of self care.
- Listen to what your body needs, and respect that need. Maybe you need an extra snack, extra sleep – or a nap – to make it through the day. Or you might just be itching to move, and need to take a walk or do some yoga. Our bodies are adapting to the new routines we’ve taken up this year, so don’t try to stick to the same thing you were doing last year.
- If you don’t want to talk to your family or friends, but need someone to talk to, text EMPATHY to 741741 to connect to a Crisis Counselor, any time, 24/7. Your problems aren’t unimportant, and you deserve to feel like you have a safe place to talk about them.
Here are a few ways to show empathy to your community:
- Remember to show up and celebrate milestones with friends and family, even if it’s not in person. Milestones, birthdays, and celebrations aren’t feeling the same since they’re not happening in person, but that only means that it’s more important to show up for your loved ones and show them that their achievements are important to you.
- Check in on those you haven’t heard from in a while– even your “happy” friends. Everyone expresses their experiences and emotions differently. Someone who may seem happy on social media may really be struggling. So remember to check in on all your friends, regardless of how they “seem.”
- If you see someone who is suffering, and you want to get them support from someone with training, tell them to text EMPATHY to 741741 and they’ll be connected to a Crisis Counselor, any time, 24/7. Sometimes, you won’t be able to help your friends or family just by being there to listen and support them, and that’s okay. Crisis Text Line is there to help, with Crisis Counselors available, any time.
Here are a few ways to show empathy to your friends and family:
- Make contact with empathy as the agenda. When you’re reaching out to a friend, make sure your priority is on their well being. It’s easy to get distracted sharing cat videos or funny tweets or asking them what they’re doing next weekend, but the best way to let them know you’re there for them is by simply asking how they’re holding up, and if they need someone to talk to.
- Let them dictate the speed and mood of the conversation. While you might want to get right to work making your friend feel better, they might just want space to vent or cry, so focus on listening and matching your friend’s conversational pace. Or maybe they just want a distraction and to hear about what’s going on in your life. Let them tell you what they need!
- Respect what they need. Maybe they’re not in the mood to talk, and they just need some space. Listening to your friend and respecting their needs helps build trust, so when they do want to come to you and talk, they believe that you’ll listen to them.
- If you feel like you can’t give your friends the support that they need, you can tell them to text EMPATHY to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor anytime, 24/7. They are trained and able to help share empathy and kindness with you or a friend.
Here are a few ways to communicate with empathy online:
- Communicate with intention. When communicating online, it may feel to communicate unkindly behind the safety of your screen. Before you share anything online, take a second to think critically about what you really want to say and how you want to say it. Kindness always wins.
- Set boundaries for yourself so you can fill up your cup first. Fill up your feed with accounts that bring you joy. Your feed is your feed. So, it should work for you. Certainly stay informed, but set some clear guidelines about which accounts you follow and why. If it’s not bringing value to your life, no need to keep it in your digital life!
- Engage in hard conversations in the right place. Not all conversations are meant for the public on the internet. If you need to have a hard conversation with someone, it might be more productive to invite them to have a one-on-one conversation with them in private instead of in public on the internet for everyone to see.
Showing empathy is something that anyone can do, and it only takes a little bit of time and emotional support. It’s hard to know what others are going through, but supporting them through whatever they are feeling is always enough. And if you don’t feel equipped to help them with any particular problem, refer them to Crisis Text Line, where they can text EMPATHY to 741741 and be connected with a Crisis Counselor, any time. Practice empathy, and be the good you want to see in the world.