How To Practice Self-Compassion In Trying Times

How To Practice Self-Compassion In Trying Times

via Forbes by Rebecca Zucker

This year has been a year like no other. A global pandemic, racial injustices, and political uncertainty have created a perfect storm of upheaval and uncertainty. Many people have been feeling an unwelcome cocktail of anxiety, depression, grief, and even trauma. Nearly eight out of ten executives have reported poor mental health during this time and 70% of working professionals report that they have never felt more stressed or anxious throughout their careers as they do now. For those who are trying their best, but may not be at their best, it’s ok to give yourself a break, take care of yourself, and show yourself some compassion.

I recently spoke with Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself and The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, about the importance of self-compassion in these trying times and how to practice it. Neff describes in her book that compassion, by definition, is relational. It’s something we offer others, but we can also offer it to ourselves. Moreover, self-compassion is a muscle we can build that makes us more resilient over time and allows us to be more optimistic. It encompasses three main components.

Being Mindful. Practicing self-compassion first requires that we notice our suffering. It’s not avoiding, rejecting, or suppressing it, which can make things worse – the axiom “What we resist persists” is quite true here. Mindfulness involves the nonjudgmental awareness and acceptance of our current experience. We can’t show ourselves compassion if we don’t acknowledge what we’re feeling. Instead of unconsciously being in the thick of our emotions, mindfulness allows us to step back and say, “I’m going through a really hard time right now.” Neff says, “Recognize that this is hard for you. Call attention to it. Be aware of it instead of shoving it away or being lost in it….the first thing has to be to become aware that you’re suffering.”

Often, unpleasant emotions will register first in the body, and we may notice a physical sensation before we recognize exactly what we are feeling. It might be that our heart starts racing, our muscles tighten, or we feel “a pit in our stomach.” Naming the associated emotion can help raise our awareness about what it is that we’re experiencing. Your body will never lie to you. It will tell you exactly what you are feeling. You just need to listen to what it is saying and put it into words. Like tuning into a clear signal on a radio dial, tuning into exactly what message your body is sending you can take some practice, but becomes easier over time…

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