Megan Pollard, Clinical Psychology Intern, Horizon Health Network
February 10, 2021
This past year has been incredibly stressful for many people. Managing the challenges of daily life while navigating a global pandemic is an enormous task and it’s easy to be critical of ourselves for not knowing how to do this. Today, I wanted to share some tips to help cultivate self-compassion.
So, what is self compassion? Self-compassion is being open to your own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness for yourself, taking a non-judgemental attitude toward personal flaws, and recognizing that your experience is part of the common human experience (Neff, 2003). It means viewing your personal struggles in the same way you would a friend or loved one when they are struggling.
Self-compassion has 3 key elements:
- Mindfulness – which helps be present and separate us from our worry/fear;
- Common humanity – which reminds us that we are not alone in our suffering and protects against the loneliness of social distancing/isolation; and
- Self-kindness – which regulates fear through connection and warmth with ourselves.
Self-compassion has many benefits. Researchers have found it fosters compassion for others, prevents against compassion fatigue, promotes resilience, increases happiness, boosts self-esteem, and protects against mental health concerns. The good news is anyone can learn self-compassion and there are many practices that have been developed to help us comfort and care for ourselves in this way!
- Take a Self-Compassion Break: Think of a situation in your life that causes stress and try to feel the emotions associated with it. Say to yourself:
- “This is a moment of suffering.”
- “Suffering is part of life.” (Put your hand over your heart to feel the warmth of touch.)
- “May I be kind to myself.” (Ask yourself what you need to hear in that moment and say it to yourself.)
- Soothing Touch: It is more difficult to receive the physical touch/comfort we need as humans during a time of social distancing and isolation. Luckily, we can provide this comfort for ourselves! Don’t be afraid to give yourself a hug or place a hand over your heart to feel the warmth when you need it most.
- Compassionate Letter: Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of someone who loves you unconditionally.
- Focus on a perceived “flaw” or “failure” you have been judging yourself for and ask yourself, “What would my friend say about this?” “How would they convey their compassion for me, especially when I am judging myself so harshly?”
- Fill the letter with the sense of kindness and caring you feel from this person.
- After writing the letter, leave it for a while then come back and read it later. Allow yourself to believe the words and feel the compassion and other emotions sink in.
- Taking Care of the Caregiver: Health care workers need time to recharge and take care of themselves in order to take care of others. This involves giving yourself permission to meet your own needs.
- Off the job self-care: Spend time outside of work doing things you enjoy — listen to music, do yoga, spend time with family or those in your bubble, take a bath, play a board game, etc.
- On the job self-care: It can be hard to find the time during work to take care of ourselves. When you are stressed or overwhelmed at work try:
- Using self-soothing words (e.g. “I know this is hard and it is OK that you are stressed. Take a minute to breathe.”).
- Soothing Touch – place one hand on your heart and abdomen, take 2 to3 deep breaths, notice the gentle pressure and warmth of your hands, feel your chest rise and fall naturally.
I hope you find these practices helpful and thought-provoking. Remember: self-compassion is a skill and may require time and practice to reap the benefits. Imperfection is part of being human and self-compassion allows us to provide ourselves with the love, connection, and support we need to handle whatever challenges come our way.
Thanks for reading!
For more self-compassion exercises see: self-compassion.org
Megan Pollard is a Clinical Psychology Intern working with Horizon this year. She currently works at Horizon’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital and Horizon’s Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation.