Imagine you have a close friend who is feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and they ask for your advice. What words of encouragement and support might you offer?
- “You’re doing great.”
- “Look at what you’ve accomplished.”
- “Give yourself a break.”
- “Take some time for yourself.”
- “What can I do to support you?”
Now imagine it is you that feels stressed and overwhelmed. Would you say these same things to yourself? Chances are, probably not. Typically, we are much harder on ourselves than we are on others. Finding ways to be kind to ourselves is especially important at busy times of the year like this.
Self-compassion is strongly linked to our wellbeing. It can reduce negative mind states such as anxiety, depression, stress, rumination, perfectionism and shame. It can also increase positive mind states like life satisfaction, happiness, connectedness, self-confidence, optimism, and gratitude.1
Three ways to enhance self-compassion:
1. Reframe negative thinking patterns
Our minds produce a constant stream of thoughts, a large portion of which are negative. A key to reducing the impact that these thoughts have on us is to identify negative self-talk and to reframe it towards the positive. For example, when you are being hard on yourself, notice these thoughts and ask yourself if you would say these things to someone you love. If not, why would you say them to yourself?
2. Focus on your practical wisdom
Sometimes it can feel like we are coming up short in aspects of our lives. When facing these thoughts, focus instead on your practical wisdom.2 We are all experts in something so discover what it is that gives you a sense of mastery and play to those strengths. Often these are skills and character traits that go unrecognized or underappreciated like empathy, intuition, altruism and self-reflection.
3. Acknowledge your emotional labour
We give a lot of ourselves to others, to our jobs, and to our communities — often doing so without realising or acknowledging the emotional energy that it requires. The emotional labour and effort we exert in managing and regulating our emotions in our personal and professional lives can impact our wellbeing.3 Acknowledging these efforts is a way of cultivating compassionate towards ourselves.
Other easy ways to practice self-compassion:
- Watch this two-minute video for tips on practicing self-compassion.
- Listen to this 10-minute guided meditation for self-compassion.
- Get ideas for enhancing self-compassion with these articles: Give the Gift of Self-compassion, 5 Ways to Thrive Today, Tomorrow and Beyond and Treat Yourself: Why you Deserve a Gift this Holiday Season
This busy holiday season, I invite you to be kind to yourself as well as those around you. Find ways to see the common humanity amongst us all and treat yourself with the same compassion and care that you do the people you love.
Warmest wishes to you, your colleagues and your loved ones this season.
All my best,
2 Eastman, C. A. (2016). Improving Workplace Learning by Teaching Literature: Towards Wisdom. Switzerland: Springer Nature. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29028-7
3 Bierema, L. L. (2008). Adult learning and the emotional self. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 120, 55–64. http://doi.org/10.1002/ace