Four Ways to Practice Self Compassion
Trying to make it through life in a human suit is exhausting work. Every day your nervous system is hit with emotions you have to navigate, basic needs to take care of, people you need to deal with, and to-do lists that never seem to end. With all that stimulation, it’s no wonder we sometimes lose our hold on our emotions and explode (or implode).
If you’ve ever run late in the morning and yelled at your kids or tripped over a wayward shoe in the living room and lost it on your partner, you’re probably familiar with the overwhelm we’re talking about. If you ever have days where getting your human suit out of bed seems impossible, you’re familiar with life feeling like too much sometimes.
When you’re irritable, short-tempered, anxious, unfocused, depressed, or just plain exhausted, you may do or say things you wouldn’t normally do. These are times when practicing self-compassion can help you shut off negative thoughts, reconnect to your humanity, and reframe your experience. This blog introduces you to self-compassion and gives you simple tools for applying it in your life.
What is Self-Compassion?
Compassion is being aware of another person’s pain because of our common humanity and desire to help alleviate their discomfort. We all have the same human experiences of love, loss, stress, and self-judgment and when we recognize someone struggling with something, our instinct is to help. Unfortunately, many of us fail to turn that compassionate treatment on ourselves.
When we say or do something that embarrasses us or hurts someone we care about, we have trouble dealing with those difficult emotions. Our instinct is to curl inward and let rumination and self-criticism take over. We may allow our brains to tell us that we’re stupid, no one wants to be around us, and we aren’t worth loving. But we’d never talk to our children or best friends like that. Self-compassion is seeing our own hurt and suffering and doing something to help alleviate it.
Emotions from anger to fear to embarrassment and even guilt are part of the human experience, but we aren’t meant to sit in those emotions for long. Emotions are signals that we need to take action in some way. Self-compassion can help you link those negative emotions with action by giving you the necessary time to process them.
When Do I Need Self-Compassion?
If you’re new to self-compassion or want to improve your practice, it can be helpful to have reminders for when you need to practice it. You need to practice self-compassion whenever emotions take over and threaten to derail you from living the life you want. Giving in to negativity and self-hate can impact your mental health, affecting everything from your family life to your earning potential. Here are some clues that you need to take a self-compassion break.
Your Inner Dialogue is Negative
Does your face burn with embarrassment every time you think about what you said the other day? Are you constantly revisiting an embarrassing moment? Are you still beating yourself up over how you shouted at your kids when they wouldn’t listen? The rumination where you turn over negative thoughts in your head on repeat isn’t healthy. It can harm your self-esteem and impact your mental health. Practicing self-compassion can help you stop self-criticism and keep you from thinking of yourself as a bad person to get back to building your dreams and enjoying the life you’ve created.
Depression and Anxiety Make it Hard to Function
We’re all prone to bouts of sadness and occasional anxiety about an event or situation, but if you have depression or anxiety that is persistent and interfering with your life, you must seek help from a medical professional.
Engaging in self-compassion can make a difference for occasional periods of intense anxiety and depression. Self-compassion will allow you to take the time you need to regulate your emotions and get back on an even keel. IF getting out of bed and eating a bit of food is the best you can do today, self-compassion allows you to accept that instead of berating yourself for your failure to function.
You’re Irritable and Easily Triggered
If you’re raging at your spouse every time they leave a sock on the floor or snapping at your coworkers when they make simple human mistakes, it’s a sign that you are feeling bad about yourself. When we beat ourselves up for being less than perfect, we begin to hold unrealistic expectations for people around us. Since people cannot meet high expectations all the time, we wind up feeling angry. Those unmet expectations and the resulting anger sign that you need to practice self-compassion, find out what’s really bothering you, and take steps to fix it.
Similarly, being quick to tears can indicate you’re on edge, feeling overwhelmed, and badly needing a self-compassion break. You’re easily triggered if you find yourself crying when you drop an egg on the floor while making breakfast or because of your boss’s voice when he asks for an overdue assignment. Figuring out what difficult emotions you haven’t processed can help you stay emotionally regulated.
Emotional exhaustion leads to overwhelming fatigue. This isn’t the type of fatigue a good night’s sleep can help undo. If you go to bed exhausted, wake up tired, and rely on caffeine and sugar to make it through the day, you probably need a break. Self-compassionate people know that if they give themselves adequate rest, time to process difficult emotions, and think through their actions, they’ll be more productive and better friends, employees, bosses, and family members.
Four Ways to Practice Mindful Self Compassion
Whether you decide to take a brief self-compassion break or an entire mental health day, you must be mindful of how you spend your time. A self-compassion break should leave you renewed and ready to tackle life afterward. Mindful self-compassion is a break from daily life to practice self-care, reconnect with yourself, and strategize about how to move forward. Here are a few ways to practice self-compassion – try combining them for even more benefit.
Sit Still and Engage in Mindfulness
Our lives are busier than ever. We rush out of the house in the morning, eat lunch at our desk while answering emails, and spend the evening hours hustling through dinner, carpooling, and maybe giving a bit of attention to our partners.
Practicing self-compassion requires you to take a few moments to sit, be still, and find inner calm. This could be meditating or sitting in your favorite chair with a cup of tea and not moving. Finding stillness allows you to connect with your intuition and find the next step in your life. It can also stop the endless churn of negative self-talk that many struggle with.
Don’t allow yourself to sit and ruminate on the negative thoughts swirling through your mind. Instead, focus on breathing deeply and getting connected with your inner voice. Listen for your next right thing, and take steps toward it after your teacup is empty or your timer beeps.
Affirmations for Positive Self-Talk
If your inner critic spends excessive time telling you that you’re not good enough, that your needs are less important than others, and that you’re a failure, positive affirmations may help. Positive affirmations are factual statements about your worth, goals, and accomplishments designed to help stop self-criticism and help you refocus on the truth. You can repeat these affirmations aloud, write them in a journal, or put them on post-it notes on your bathroom mirror.
Think of the most common thing your inner critic tries to tell you (they’re usually all lies). Maybe yours tries to tell you that you never have good ideas, and it keeps you from engaging fully in meetings and presenting ideas that could positively contribute to the company. In that case, try an affirmation such as “I am smart and creative. I have good ideas, and I share them with confidence.” It may feel silly at first, but our thinking directly influences our behavior. If we change our thinking, we can change our behavior.
Journaling can help practice self-compassion – if you do it right. There’s a temptation to journal all the negative thoughts about yourself because that’s your current thought-spiral. It’s fine to put those thoughts on paper, but only if you immediately write about how silly they are and fill it in with the actual truth. Journaling as a self-compassion practice requires self-kindness. Imagine you’re writing about a good friend and only write what you would say to them.
Here are a few self-compassion writing prompts to get you started:
- What are three things you’ve done well recently? How did that make you feel?
- Who is someone who is always supportive of you? How can you reach out to them this week for a bit of love and connection?
- What need of yours (healthy food, movement, physical touch, time with loved ones, fun) isn’t getting met? What are some ways you can meet this need this week?
Visit With Someone Who Fills Your Cup
There are people in our lives who fill our cups, and there are people who drain them. If you’re struggling with self-compassion, it’s good to seek out time with the fillers and avoid the drainers. Make a list of the people most likely to build you up. Perhaps it’s your best friend, partner, parent, or pet. It doesn’t matter who you call on when you need to be reminded how amazing, talented, and loveable you are – it only matters that you do.
If you can visit in person, you’ll get the most benefit, but a phone call or video chat will do wonders for your ability to use self-compassion when that isn’t possible. Be sure to get vulnerable and let your loved ones know how you’re struggling – give them the gift of an opportunity to show up for you.
Get Help Practicing Self-Compassion
Sometimes all the self-help tips in the world aren’t enough, and we cannot find a way to love ourselves through the trials of life. If you’re struggling to find self-compassion while navigating the world in your human suit, counseling may help. Our providers are skilled at assisting people in navigating the stress of daily life by providing an empathetic space, offering solutions, and guiding them through difficult decisions. Reach out to our office today to schedule an appointment and get started on your well-being journey. Taking care of your mental health means you can be a better you. That makes you a stronger parent, a more available partner, and more productive in your professional life.