I don’t want this to be a sob story. I do however, want this to be a story of learning, understanding, and self-love. I want to talk about practicing self-compassion for mental health. What is self-compassion? Well read this excerpt from Dr. Kristin Neff regarding self-compassion that is a beautiful introduction to self-compassion:
“Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”).
When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.”
First of all, isn’t that excerpt fu**ing beautiful?! I don’t know about you but it gave me this overflow of warmth to know that I can make my pain and suffering go away by being more compassionate towards myself. Self-compassion is taking that concept of being kind towards others through difficult times, but towards ourselves to alleviate some of the suffering. In some way it then leads us to more of an understanding of our pain and allows us to make changes by reinforcing a positive mindset and view of our actual reality.
Anyway I need to be honest with you all. Lately I’ve been feeling very unhealthy. I had to leave my job, I’ve lost weight (and I’m already tiny!), I go to bed late and sleep in, my appetite is a mess, my anxiety is through the roof, and I’ve had random crying spells throughout the days. Also, my relationship is a mess, basically it no longer makes me happy.
Not to mention I’ve had a lot of new medical issues adding on to my decline in health. WHEW. Isn’t that a lot of heavy, toxic shit?! Excuse my language. Anyways, as a result I’ve been beating myself up constantly and not having the energy to follow through with what I’d like to. I have been very hard on myself and adding fuel to my already mountain of fire.
Where do I even go from here? The thing is, I know the things I have to do but I don’t want to do them. I give myself excuses and develop this negative self-talk that basically makes me fear moving forward and doing the things I need to do. I am completely hating myself instead of filling my soul up with positivity, love, and self-compassion.
I want to paint this picture because as many of my readers with mental health issues, it is DIFFICULT to get yourself out of a slump when you are wrapped up in so many unhealthy situations. But I want to talk about self-compassion anyways because as the saying goes, nothing changes if nothing changes. And OMG do I want to change.
Here are some ways we can practice self-compassion:
Be kind to yourself
This can be very difficult to do. Being kind to yourself is a way to let yourself off the map and tell yourself you are doing the best you can in the situation you are in. It is okay to fail and remember that no one has it together 100% so why should you beat yourself up for something that isn’t attainable?! Feel empathy towards yourself like you would a stranger or loved one going through difficult times instead of beating yourself up for not being good enough for something. Here is what Dr. Neff has to say about it:
“Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals”.
Understand bad memories
Instead thinking about a bad argument with a loved one, an emotional breakdown at work, the lady who frustrated you at the grocery store for walking slow, focus on what it was you NEEDED at that time. If you were arguing with a loved one, was it because you dislike them OR because at that time you needed to be heard?
And that lady at the grocery store, was she walking slow to piss you off or is it that you needed to be seen? Shifting your perspective about certain incidents that trigger you can be a way of setting them free and allowing them to no longer hold emotional value in your life. After you realize what it was you needed, you can work on that without the memory holding you back.
We are all human
This is a big one. Often, we start placing blame in our shortcomings by taking it out on ourselves and create this lifestyle and mindset that is full of frustration because “no one understands”. If no one understands then we isolate ourselves and close our own doors to the outside world. We think that nobody else can understand and by closing ourselves off, we are not being compassionate towards our own needs.
It is important to know we you are human, and it is okay to mess up and have issues. It isn’t okay for you to think that you are the only one suffering. I am sure MANY of you can relate to my personal story.
Be your own friend
When a friend or loved one is feeling blue, we attempt to console them by taking them out in the community or doing an activity together. As children we would play make believe and be content playing by ourselves, right? Right. So why is it when WE are feeling down, we attempt to do nothing for our own emotional needs? I for one, wrap myself up on the coach and I swear sometimes I think I just stare at a wall. But that’s probably my depression talking.
Regardless, we need to be our own friends! Experiences and adventure can increase our gratitude (read here). Appreciating new things can allow us to be more compassionate to our own dilemma’s because we start to see that we CAN heal and we CAN go on and things WILL be okay because we have the power to change by involving ourselves in healthier activities. So, take a yoga class, go on a walk, go get ice cream, take a pottery class, or travel. Be your own friend.
Make healthier choices
If we feel like crap, think we look like crap, and constantly doubt our abilities…well we are going to continue feeling like crap. One way to practice self-compassion is to love our body and take into consideration that we, as much as any one else is this world, deserve our love and attention. We are worthy and we should treat ourselves as if we are.
Making healthier choices through nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle are great actions to take to show our appreciation towards ourselves. You don’t have to shift all at once. For example, with my eating issues and body weight at this moment, all I could accomplish is to get myself some vitamins and probiotics to improve my gut health because I care about my health and I deserve to be happy. And that is a start to self-compassion.
Be a good person
The Law of Attraction states that energy flows where attention goes. If we are attacking ourselves and attacking and questioning others, well guess what is going to happen? Nothing good or positive that’s for sure. Focus your energy on being a good person towards others. If we are non-judgmental towards others, it will trasnfer to our own thoughts and feelings about who we are.
Feel your pain. Feel your emotions and then let them go. Here is what Dr. Neff has to say about feeling:
“Self-compassion is a practice of goodwill, not good feelings. In other words, even though the friendly, supportive stance of self-compassion is aimed at the alleviation of suffering, we can’t always control the way things are. If we use self-compassion practice to try to make our pain go away by suppressing it or fighting against it, things will likely just get worse.
With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. This allows us to hold ourselves in love and connection, giving ourselves the support and comfort needed to bear the pain, while providing the optimal conditions for growth and transformation”.
Flow with consistency
Immerse yourself in something new, something you want to learn, or something you love and enjoy. Total absorption in what you’re doing can enhance positive emotions and create a feeling of accomplishment. This reminds you that you are able and you have the capability to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. It is also a great way to get out of your ruminative thoughts.
If you’re like me and can’t find where to start. Start small but the important thing is to treat yourself with loving kindness and remind yourself that you will get through this, just like you have gotten through other difficult situations.
Source: Practicing Self-Compassion for Mental Health – Zana Wellness
The Art and Importance of Self–compassion W/Kimberley Quinlan