Stress Awareness Tip #6

Hands holding a broken hearth, care and compassion concept. Digital illustration.

Many of us are so good at finding compassion and empathy for others. However, sometimes bringing compassion for one’s self is challenging. Today’s stress awareness tip is about self-compassion. We can be so hard on ourselves which only adds to our stress. Being in a stressful situation is hard enough, but then add on top of it our judgements about ourselves and a stressful situation has just magnified.

Let’s start by looking at what self-compassion is through the lens of Dr. Kristin Neff’s work. Dr. Neff is one of the leading experts in the field of self-compassion. She so beautifully writes about self-compassion when she says:

“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

Dr. Neff, also, defines the three elements of self-compassion:

Self kindness – Be kind to yourself! You are worth it!
Common humanity – We are human and one thing we all have in common is that we are imperfect. You are not alone.
Mindfulness – Be aware of your feelings.

Sounds so great! However, if you are in the majority, in practice it can be easier said than done. With patience and practice, it can become easier. To get you started Dr. Neff provides a test for figuring out your level of self-compassion. Additionally, Dr. Neff provides some fantastic guided meditations and exercises to cultivate greater self-compassion. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, start by becoming aware of first how you are feeling and then notice what you are saying to yourself (mindfulness). Are you saying things that are judgmental and hurtful to yourself or are you building yourself up? If you are finding yourself being judgmental towards yourself, stop and start thinking in description. Description has no judgement. Rather you are just describing the situation. Once you have switched to description then start building yourself up with quotes or empowering words that help you bring in some self kindness. It may help to have note cards, pictures, or a list of quotes on your computer that you can easily access or hang up.

Remember we are all in this together. You are not alone. We are all imperfect and that is what makes us human. Be gentle and kind to yourself and keep practicing. It will become easier!

References and Further Reading:

Dr. Kristin Neff – Self-Compassion
Psych Central – 5 Strategies for Self-Compassion
Dr. Emma Seppälä – The Science of Happiness, Health and Success
The Center for Compassion And Altruism Research And Education

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