When a friend or family member has made a mistake or is going through something difficult, we are often there to offer support and reassurance. We tend to see the good in them when they cannot and encourage them to move forward.
But how often do we extend this act of compassion to ourselves?
When we are not kind to ourselves, we tend to continually think of mistakes we made, imagine worst-case scenarios, and spend a lot of energy in an unproductive cycle of ruminating thoughts. When the brain is over-functioning, our bodies also experience a physiological response such as an increased heart rate. We may feel anxious, depressed, and stressed.
Practicing self-compassion brings many mental health benefits. Self-compassionate people are happier, more balanced, and well-adjusted. They are more at peace with who they are. They are less critical and judgmental. Additionally, they benefit from having emotional intelligence – knowing how they are feeling and able to express and attend to their feelings appropriately. They are resilient, which enables them to better cope with difficult times.
Here are some tips to help you practice self-compassion:
Supportive touch: How do you comfort a crying child? Our instinctual response is to hold the child and offer physical reassurance in the form of hugging or patting. While it may feel awkward at first, extending this form of gentle touch to us can be very calming. In a stressful moment, try taking deep breaths, gently stroking your arm, or even patting yourself.
Write a letter: Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of someone who cares about you. When we speak to ourselves with kindness, we can challenge negative self-talk and start to become more content with who we are.
Practice self-care: It is often too easy to put the needs of family, friends, and work ahead of ourselves. Prioritizing our own mental well-being can improve the quality of our lives, and by extension, that of others we care about. Self-care can come in many forms – going for an evening walk, working on a hobby, getting coffee with a friend and more. Choose something that works for you and make it a habit to focus on yourself too.
Remember, engaging in self-compassion does not make you a selfish person. Opening yourself up to the nurturing power of self-compassion can help you not just survive, but thrive.