The COVID-19 outbreak has drastically altered our daily routines, activities, and interactions. During these uncertain times, we are all feeling some level of stress and anxiety, and being quarantined at home likely is not helping. And while there are many things we are unable to do right now, there is one thing that could make a world of difference – self-compassion.
What is SElf-compassion?
Compassion describes our capacity to feel or connect with the suffering and struggle(s) of another person. Compassion, which comes naturally to many of us, is why we are able to experience sympathy for others. Yet, cultivating self-compassion can be a lot more difficult. Self-compassion is the ability to connect with our own pain, and approach that pain with kindness and caring.
Self-compassion is a vital skill to develop, especially during this time of quarantine. Self-compassion is shown to reduce stress levels, increase motivation, and promote mental health and overall wellbeing. There are many ways to practice self-compassion, but trying even a few of these approaches can make a big difference in the way your feel.
- Use Encouraging Self-Talk – think of how you would speak to a loved one, a best friend, or a cherished animal in their time of pain and suffering. Try to emulate this in the way you speak to your self.
- Manage your Expectations – for some people, being quarantined has provided a great opportunity to tackle the ever-present to-do list. But for others, quarantine isn’t just a break from the day-to-day routine. Many people are still working from home, or home-schooling the kids, or both. And even if you have endless free time right now, it is still essential to manage your expectations of what you “should” accomplish. Setting one goal per day is a way to feel motivated and “productive” while still maintaining realistic expectations. These daily goals can be anything, from making the bed to cleaning the entire kitchen, as long as it is practical for you.
- Be Aware of Judgment – self-judgment is the opposite of self-compassion. And although it is something we all do, it does not serve us in any way. Judging ourselves does not help us feel more motivated to make changes. In fact, it often keeps us trapped in unhelpful patterns. Through starting to notice our self-judgments, we can begin to challenge those judgments, and train our brain toward compassion. Some ways to increase your awareness to self-judgment include:
- Catch the judgmental language you are using. Words like good/bad, ugly/pretty, and even should/shouldn’t (i.e. – “I shouldn’t feel so sad) are indicators of judgment.
- Be aware of your comparing (this may be especially important for those who find themselves spending a lot of time on social media).
- Stick to the facts and bring in compassion when you notice self-judgment. For example, if you notice yourself thinking, “my eating habits are so bad,” try replacing that thought with “my eating habits have changed and that is ok.” Self-judgment only keeps us stuck feeling bad about ourselves, while self-compassion can free us to have some understanding.
- Practice Mindfulness – self-compassion is born out of mindfulness. Mindfulness is bringing attention to the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness allows us to be aware of what we are feeling and experiencing in the present moment. During quarantine, it is likely you will feel a range of emotions. And through mindfulness of current emotion(s), we allow ourselves to actually experience those emotions, which is the only way they will dissipate, and eventually pass.
- Focus on Self-care – self-care can be as basic as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. But self-care goes beyond that. Throughout the day, start to ask yourself “what am I needing right now?” Maybe you need rest, or movement, or time alone. Check in with yourself and your needs, just as you would check in with others who are struggling.