One of the most important things I’ve incorporated into my routine to take care of my mental health has been daily self compassion practice. For me this works best if I write it out in a journal, but others might find it easier to talk it through with someone. Regardless, the point is to practice extending yourself patience and forgiveness (as you would to a good friend or someone you love) and to build a more constructive/healthy way of responding to situations you might otherwise ruminate over or be hard on yourself for.
This consists of responding to a simple framework of questions inspired by research on the topic primarily from dr. Kristin Neff (I would highly recommend checking her out!). The theory is that with practice, we will be able to reign in our tendency to be self-critical or negative and instead cultivate a more positive and productive relationship with ourselves.
If you’re someone who likes examining the evidence, I encourage you to check out the research (re: CBT and self compassion) because the science supports it! And if it’s any encouragement, I was extremely sceptical about the practice myself and have really found significant benefits having practiced for the past 6 months. I’m not saying it’s going to save your life or change everything, but I believe that when it comes to taking care of yourself, no act is too small. You owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot – and the more consistent you are the better. My life isn’t completely different, but it is significantly better, owing to a lot of hard work, including working on practicing self-compassion.
It’s uncomfortable at first but try and write (or say) things that make sense to you and that you feel to be true – don’t “BS” it. Sometimes it helps to start working through an exercise as if you were writing to a loved one, child or best friend, then turn it around on yourself. Some tactile -oriented people I know find it helpful to gently caress their arms or give themselves a hug and engage in self-soothing activities while doing this. Others who are visual have recommended imagining sitting with loved ones or in a relaxing/peaceful setting as well. Just be mindful that there’s no one way to do it and I hope you give it the chance you deserve to!
1. Acknowledge that the situation is hard.
What are you feeling? Or thinking? What events transpired? Discomfort is often not pleasant – Acknowledge that what you are experiencing is difficult.
2. Recognize that what you are feeling is intimately part of the human condition, whether pleasant or not.
For example, anxiety has an evolutionary advantage of keeping us safe.
Social worries reflect the fact that humans are a social species and have relied on each other since the beginning of time.
Sadness and anger are all part of the broad spectrum of human emotion.
You are not alone in feeling this way. It is normal. People have felt this way before and survived, so can you.
3. Extend yourself compassion.
“Let me try and be kind”, “let me be kind”.
What would you say to a loved one or friend? How would you talk to a child who is upset? Try not to place blame or judgement. Rather, be accepting of the situation as it is and validate your experience.
Why does this make sense?
Are there any extenuating circumstances that contributed?
4. What do you need now?
To let go? To relax? To talk to someone? To address the situation? This is how you reframe your focus to move forward. Take your time.
Is there anything you can learn from this experience? Regardless, it’s likely not worth beating yourself up over.
Maybe you start to delineate a pattern of circumstances that correspond to recurring emotions. Can you identify your triggers? Find your stuck points?
Maybe you learn that you are way too hard in yourself, and being more forgiving actually just feels better!