Take a self-compassion break (DW#730 )

While some of us manage our anxiety through being hyper productive and busy, others struggle to get anything done at all. Some of us eat too much, sleep too much and others find it hard to sleep or eat much at all. All these and other ways you are coping these days are all "normal" responses in times of crisis.


The key is to remember to show kindness and compassion to ourselves regardless of the method we are using to cope. We do NOT need to add self-criticism and self-judgement on top of all the stress we are going through right now.


Research into the practice of self-compassion shows that the practice builds resilience and helps us cope with adversity. Importantly for these times, the practice of self-compassion has been shown to reduce trauma and PTSD among war veterans. In other words, if we practice self-compassion, we are more likely to cope better with adversity and build resilience in the face of challenges.


The practice itself is very simple. The challenge, if there is one, is to convince ourselves that turning towards our pain (rather than away from it) and treating ourselves with kindness (rather than judgement) is an effective way to deal with stress, pain and suffering. Here is a podcast episode which explains self-compassion in greater detail.


So begin by noticing what happens in your mind when you feel hurt, worried, or irritated. Do you lose patience with yourself? Do you tell yourself you "should be" coping better?


The next time you get upset, try this instead:


Begin with at least a few seconds of self-compassion as soon as you feel bothered or distressed by something. And then you can move into other strategies of more active coping.


Remember that self-compassion is where we start, not where we stop. Once we practice self-compassion rather than self-judgement or self-criticism, we free up a lot of energy that would otherwise go into being at war with ourselves.


Here is an exercise called the Self-Compassion Break from Kristin Neff


Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, painful or stressful. Bring the situation to mind and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.
Now, say to yourself:

1.    This is a moment of suffering

Other options include:
  • This hurts.
  • Ouch.
  • This is stress.
  • I am feeling sad/upset/anxious.

2.    Suffering in a part of life

Other options include:
  • My pain is a part of being human.
  • Other people feel this way.
  • I’m not alone.
  • We all struggle in our lives.
  • Pain and suffering is a natural part of life.
  • It is normal to feel this way when things are challenging.
  • We are all going through challenging times.
Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest.
Now say to yourself:

3.    May I be kind to myself
You can also ask yourself, "What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?"

You can also say this part like a prayer or a Dua, turning to God and invoking His compassion towards yourself. Remind yourself that He is the All Merciful, and being part of His creation, you are also a part of His All-Encompassing Mercy.

Here are some options or you can come up with your own:
  • May I give myself the compassion that I need.
  • May I accept the way I am handling this situation.
  • May I cope with kindness and compassion towards myself.  
  • May I learn to accept myself as I am.
  • May I forgive myself.
  • May I be strong.
  • May I be patient with myself.  
This practice can be used any time of day or night, and it will help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when you need it most.
I will inshallah add this practice as an audio track to the podcast so that you can listen to it and follow along when you need to.
May we be kind to ourselves and find it easier to be kind to others!

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