By Miranda Massie on December 7, 2017
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.
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged editorial, generosity, kindness, Mindfulness, Miranda Massie, patience, recharge, rest, self-care, self-compassion, spiritual health, Support, survival | 3 Responses
By Guest Contributor on January 10, 2017
Guest Contribution from Dr. Thara Vayali
When we turn over a new leaf – such as in the new year, closing a chapter in life, or creating a plan of action for change – we tend to imbue that shift with an urgency, a haste to see the fruit of our efforts. This urgency can sometimes result in the same type of frustration that arises in daily situations when running errands, commuting, and interacting with others who don’t agree with us.
When frustration arises from the choices we make, the energy generated can help us by motivating us to get creative and choose alternatives that suit us better. It can refocus us to switch to a more appropriate goal and it can allow us to recognize how important the goal is for us. But this type of frustration is active and positive.
Frustration has a cousin named impatience – a more gnawing emotion that doesn’t let go and move forward. Impatience can drain from our capacity to make change. Impatience is a boiling within, a festering annoyance.
Our work, whenever life takes a turn away from our plans and impatience gets the better of us – in traffic, with new resolutions, with co-workers, while waiting in line – is to use tools to practice patience. Patience is not only a virtue; it can provide a more useful solution.
Although it may not seem like the most appropriate action in the moment, it is the choice that eats up the least of our energy, energy that would be much better used toward doing the things we want to do. Impatience takes more energy than patience.
Impatience: a restlessness and agitation with the current situation. There is an intolerance for feeling irritated, an inability to manage delays. This pacing, whether frenetic or calm, tends to have a tight grip on the need to know the future.
Patience: not an inactive state, it is not surrendering to fate, nor condoning poor behaviour. It is specifically not biding your time nor biting your lip, which it is often mistaken for. It is a devotion to the moment and a choice to see the current situation like an adventure; accommodating for new unpredictable obstacles. Patience is the capacity to take a step back and choose again. It is a loosening of one’s grip on ‘needing to know’.
The rising energy of impatience often shows up with thoughts such as: “I’m not sure where this is heading”, or “I don’t like the direction this is heading”.
- When those statements start arriving, ask yourself: How much energy do I want to expend on alleviating anticipation/disappointment?
- Then, can you take a deep breath when you notice you are triggered to anticipate what will or won’t happen next?
- Next, can you check to notice whether your grip on “needing to know” is tight or loose.
- And, if your grip is tight, can you ask yourself “Could I loosen my grip in any way?” By breathing, empathizing, smiling, going for a short walk – the options are endless.
- It just takes a moment to catch our impatience and ask it to slow down.
The choice then is to either commit to continuing along with our intentions or changing directions, but that choice is best made from a patient mindset.
When we are impatient, it usually has to do with our reality not meeting our expectations. It takes energy to expect the world and its movements to conform to our personal rules. That valuable energy could be used to mobilize our own best choices. When unexpected and sometimes undesired situations pop up as roadblocks on a charted journey, remember that when we interact with the world, we will inevitably be pulled off track in moments.
Imagine a feather floating down from the sky. On watching, one could feel either an urgency or an ease for the feather to find its way to land, but regardless of feelings the feather will float quietly to the ground at the pace of the natural world. If our impatience gets the better of us and we attempt to move it along, by blowing on it or waving it, we end up expending energy with minimal returns. The more we hurry a feather along, the more difficult it becomes for it to travel and land along its path and destination. Don’t sweat the journey – breathe deep and manage the gusts as they come.
Patience, little feather.
Thara Vayali is a Naturopathic Doctor & Yoga Teacher in Vancouver and is also a UBC alumnus. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. She is the creator of Change Natural Medicine: Budget conscious, membership based health consulting.