If you had never felt stressed or anxious before, you would be alone in this world. One of the most common complaints I hear from my clients over and over again is that they are feeling overworked or overwhelmed and trying to find balance in their life.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something simple you could do that would help you feel less stressed, anxious and depressed, and happier, more resilient and optimistic instead? Well, it turns out there is! It is… the practice of Self-Compassion.
What is Self-Compassion? Self-compassion means treating yourself with kindness and understanding, like a best friend would. Instead of criticizing yourself or judging yourself, when you are having a difficult time, feel like you made a mistake, or don’t like something about yourself, you are supportive and encouraging toward yourself.
But if I am not hard on myself, will I be motivated to get things done or to do better? Yes! Self-compassion is not letting yourself off the hook and be self indulgent. It’s using our desire for happiness, connection, and love as our primary motivation, as opposed to using guilt, shame and fear, which makes ourselves feel bad and adds stress and anxiety to our life.
If we are able to be more compassionate toward ourselves, we can approach things that give us joy and meaning and hold ourselves accountable.
But how can we increase our Self-Compassion? Here are a couple of ways to begin practicing.
1.Give Yourself a Hug
That’s right. An easy way to calm and comfort yourself when you’re feeling badly is through soothing touch.
Research shows that self-compassion may be a powerful trigger for the release of oxytocin. Higher levels of oxytocin strongly increase feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness.
Next time you notice that you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or self-critical, try giving yourself a warm hug, or tenderly stroking your arm or face, or gently rocking your body. Convey love, care and tenderness with your gesture. Notice how your body feels after receiving the comforting touch.
2.Be Your Best Friend
At the end of the day, think about the worst thing that happened to you. Write a paragraph to yourself about the situation with self-compassion. What would you say to your best friend in your position? Show understanding and kindness for yourself, and include what you need to hear to feel nurtured and soothed.
For example, let’s say you found out that you didn’t get the job you interviewed for. You can write something like: “I can see how upset you are. You really wanted that job. It is difficult to receive a rejection. But you really did your best. There is a job out there that is a good fit.”
It may feel funny or strange at first, but with practice, self-compassion will feel more and more comfortable and will come more naturally. As we become more self-compassionate, we feel happier, more resilient and more optimistic. And it not only benefits us – it gives us more emotional energy to be there for others and give more support to our loved ones.
How will you practice Self-Compassion today?
For more information about research on Self-Compassion, I highly recommend Dr. Kristin Neff’s Website.