In the true spirit of the holiday season, I feel it is important that I not only be honest with myself, but with you as well. This fall was tough: it was probably the most demanding, hectic and draining fall that I have experienced in many years, at work and in my life outside of work. The upside is that I’ve been able to share my wellbeing work with large numbers of the UBC community, and that I’ve handed in my last school paper for the semester. It was a rewarding and meaningful time, both personally and professionally, and I hope the same is true for you. Even so, I’m conscious of the fact that my personal gas tank is hovering on empty as I push myself towards the finish line that is my holiday break. As we find ourselves in the middle of yet another busy season (one that is sometimes overshadowed by consumerism, busyness and all manners of excess), I’m experiencing a lot of internal questions:
Could I be doing more? Should I be doing more? Why do I feel guilty when I’m not working or studying? Have I let others down? Am I capable? What should success look like?
In sharing these vulnerable thoughts and insecurities recently with friends and now with you, I’m reminded of a practice that is often overlooked but one imperative to our survival – especially at this time of year: self-compassion.
Practicing self- compassion
What is self-compassion?
It is taking the time to treat ourselves the same way that we would treat a loved one, whether they’re two-legged, four-legged, winged, etc. It is acknowledging that we, too, deserve care and comfort during stressful and difficult times. It is the act of silencing our inner critic in the hope of accepting that we are entitled to a break.
Why is it important?
Self-compassion has been strongly linked to wellbeing. It can lead to reductions in negative mind states such as anxiety, depression, stress, rumination, thought suppression, perfectionism and shame. It has also been found to increase positive mind states like life satisfaction, happiness, connectedness, self-confidence, optimism, curiosity and gratitude .
How do you start?
- Practice self-kindness instead of self-judgement.This means accepting our imperfections with empathy instead of shame and criticism. The more we cling to aspirations of perfection, the more we judge the end result. Recognize and value the massiveness of what we try to do each day and know there will be situations, histories and events beyond our control and that these are not a reflection of our worth or character.
- Look for common humanity instead of isolation.This involves acknowledging that we may face difficult situations, but we are not alone in doing so. Trials and tribulations are part of the common human experience, and they are ones that we do not have to face alone.
- Try mindfulness instead of over-identification. This is working to process negative emotions in a constructive way in order to avoid emotional reactivity and negative thought patterns. Reflect on how you are more than your external achievements and that internal accomplishments are worth just as much.
Want to learn more?
Watch this two-minute video for tips on practicing self-compassion
Or, listen to this 10-minute guided meditation for self-compassion:
This holiday season, as a reminder of the true meaning and spirit of this time of year, I invite you to give yourself the gift of self-compassion. Take it slow and be kind in your expectations of the self. Cut yourself some slack. Find new ways to silence that internal critic and replace it with a voice of kindness and charity. And I promise to try and do the same for myself as well. As 2017 closes, let’s get ready to meet the New Year with fresh eyes and an open heart.