Wellness Wednesday: A little self-compassion can go a long way

April 21, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

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Have you ever thought about being kind to yourself? Do you treat yourself with respect, love and compassion? Do you tell yourself positive things or do you tend to be self-critical? Do you treat others better than you treat yourself?

Take a minute to think about those questions.

The uncertain end of the pandemic has caused much stress and discomfort for millions of people. While some have been able to slow down and recalibrate, others are having a hard time getting through each day. While uncertainty can be frustrating, practicing self-compassion allows you to shift your perspective, provide yourself with comfort, and recognize that you are not alone with difficult experiences.

“Practicing self-compassion is so important during any life challenge,” said Kathleen Robertson, M.S., R.N., director of the Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience. “Right now, it’s needed more than ever before. With so many people struggling with grief, loss, anxiety, and depression, self-compassion practice allows a space to acknowledge painful experiences and respond with gentleness and connection.”

The New York Times recently published an article defining what many people are feeling during the pandemic. “Languishing” is the term used and it is defined as a sense of stagnation and emptiness, a void between depression and flourishing. During periods of languishing, self-compassion may help ease the sense of dread by acknowledging that no matter what the external variables, your inner peace is intact.

How You Can Practice Self-Compassion

Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate — rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. Read more on the definition from psychologist Kristin Neff at www.self-compassion.org.

“The most important message about self- compassion is that we bring awareness to ourselves to know when we are stressed or suffering, that we are not alone and that we invite kindness and support to ourselves just as we would to a friend or loved one,” said Robertson.

Here are a few tips to help you kickstart your practice of self-compassion:

  • Acknowledge that times are hard right now
  • Treat yourself as you would a friend or a child
  • Find a meaningful activity for yourself
  • Read or say aloud mantras such as:
    • I can do this
    • I may have made a mistake but it does not define me
    • I accept myself as I am
    • Today, I will treat myself with kindness
    • I will not judge myself today. I will instead give myself love and understanding
    • If I don’t love myself, I can’t fully love someone else

Self-Compassion your way into Flow

Self-compassion requires practice, and the practice can reveal opportunities for self-care, coping, and participation in activities that provide a sense of comfort, purpose or joy.

According to the NYT article, “flow” may be the antidote to languishing. Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away.

Once in flow, you will start to recognize what motivates you again and how to make time for yourself in order to show up better for others. Caring for others—as Michigan Medicine faculty and staff do each day in both work and personal lives—requires care for oneself.

In the comments below, feel free to leave advice, tips or even share your struggles with how you practice self-compassion.

Resources 

Seek support from several resources available at Michigan Medicine.

The Michigan Medicine Wellness Office provides centralized coordination of wellness resources and activities, fosters collaboration, and identifies and implements best practices for broad organizational impact.

The Michigan Medicine Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience is committed to helping all Michigan Medicine faculty, staff and families by providing coordinated, compassionate and confidential support. OCWR is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide timely, targeted mental health care. They offer a caring space to explore your needs through talk therapy.

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