How to Focus on Self Compassion

By Kelly Cunningham

The end of a rough winter season can sometimes cause frustration, inner criticism, and exhaustion. But instead of telling yourself: “I’ll feel better in spring,” why not start reversing this trend now. The reward will be for you, and also for your loved ones.

Kristin Neff, leading researcher in self compassion, shares “Having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to go. You will encounter frustrations, incur losses, make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, and fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition…a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.”’

Have you made or kept many plans this year? No? We can relate. But, let’s change that. One plan you can make and keep during this intense time is your self care. Feed your spirit by quieting your inner critic, embracing mindfulness, and reinforcing your rest and recharge button.

Here’s how to start now:

Quiet Inner Critic

You know the voice, right? It nags…“I can’t believe you said that.” Or, “You look so fat in those pants.” Or, “You’re never going to get an invite to that meeting/party/event.” The inner critic is relentless! We talk to ourselves in ways we would never talk to a friend. I have heard some say that self-criticism is what motivates them. Instead, we should go with a shot of encouragement over criticism any day for lasting motivation. 

Moods are directly connected to our thought patterns. If you exclusively pour in negative self-talk, criticism, and judgment, it will be difficult to feel happy or calm—which then hinders our ability to be productive and provide love to ourselves and others. I am not discounting productive criticism, but how one goes about the process is the key. Detach from harshness and embrace a more positive approach. Allowing your inner critic and negative self-talk to be in charge increases overall anxiety and depression.  

Begin by noticing how often your inner voice goes in this unhelpful direction. Journaling can assist this process when you’re in a negative spiral. It can be difficult and unrealistic to jump quickly from the extreme of a negative mood to the extreme of a positive one. Start with something more neutral such as “I will figure this out”, “I am able to try a new plan”, or “I can trust myself.”  Think of how you would respond to a friend in need of a boost in confidence. Now, extend yourself the same gift.

Embrace Mindfulness

I know you keep seeing this recommendation over and over. The reason why you cannot get away from mindfulness meditation is simple—the research overwhelmingly supports this habit in any stress-reducing and self-care plan. Jon Kabat- Zinn, developer of MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction), shares research stating, “There is a strong link between meditation, positive emotions, and a healthier immune system.” 

I hear clients say all the time, “I can’t meditate because my mind never stops!” This is not about clearing your mind and having no thoughts. Mindfulness is about noticing, helping to break common rumination cycles we find ourselves in, and interrupting our knee-jerk reactions to life.  The goal is finding a stillness and quiet within you. You take in so much information every day.  Between the news cycle, social media, or family and friends, plan the time to sift through the noise and find your inner quiet. You make better decisions from this place, connect deeper to loved ones, and work more productively.

There are numerous videos online to help you walk through a guided meditation or experiment with an app.  I like to simply set a timer on my phone for five minutes, and just sit and focus on my breath going in and out.  

Reinforce rest and recharge

There are many ways to go about recharging your batteries. Start with asking yourself, “What would make me feel better today?”  It is important to get in touch with how you’re truly feeling. Perhaps it’s more rest, cultivating connections with others, or extending yourself some patience which will be nurturing at that moment. 

Pure isolation is not beneficial for mental health. Extend yourself some patience and grace right now. We’re all in this together, although everyone’s exact circumstance looks different. Let’s face it, all of our lives have been turned upside down. It would be abnormal for you not to feel somewhere between uneasy and completely overwhelmed. Acknowledge wherever you are today, and also acknowledge that this moment will not last forever.

Author Shauna Niequist encourages us by saying, “Now I know that the best thing I can offer this world is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, and a wise and brave soul.”  If you can tweak a few of your daily practices to tend to your spirit, not only will you be brave to face the day, but it will be contagious to those around you to do the same.  

(Image: Shutterstock)

About Kelly Cunningham
Kelly Cunningham is a professional counselor, integrative health coach, holistic health practitioner, and Nutritious Life Certified nutrition coach. She currently resides in Southern California providing services to a national client base.

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