An important part of mental health recovery is compassion for yourself. We often have compassion for others. Imagine a crying child enters the room you’re in. What would you do? You’d probably try to comfort the child, offer to listen or understand the issue, and maybe even try to resolve whatever is affecting them. Now, imagine instead of a child, it’s you that’s suffering. Do you treat yourself the same way?39763169_ML
Often when we are struggling, we forget to treat ourselves with the same level of care that we offer to others. Instead, we can judge or shame ourselves, perhaps force the feelings or emotions away or even beat ourselves up by piling on all the things we’ve done wrong.
Having self-compassion is a key component of mental health and recovery. Sometimes this is referred to as being your best friend. If your best friend felt or experienced similar things, how would you react?
For some, self-compassion is harder than others. It can go against what we’ve been taught and how we normally express emotions. With that in mind, we’ve put together three ways to start practicing self-compassion from Dr. Kristen Neff. Through this, you may begin to understand your own feelings and recognize that you are not alone in your emotions or experiences.
1) Practice self-kindness
No one in life is perfect. No matter how hard we try or how hard we work, things in our lives will not always go perfectly. There may be times you fail and experience difficulties out of your control. Practicing self-kindness involves identifying and understanding that no person is perfect. If you feel as though everything is not perfect in your life, or you have made mistakes, self-kindness involves remembering that these things are all part of life. If you spill your coffee on your shirt before work, you might automatically think “great, look what I did now. I always mess everything up. I can’t do anything right.” Instead of this, however, try self-kindness. That may look like telling yourself “Oh no, I’ve spilled my coffee. That makes me frustrated, but things happen.”
Self-kindness involves a nonjudgmental state about your abilities and mistakes. You are not a failure for making mistakes. This is not a part of your self-worth.
This process may also involve self-care, as well. How can you be kind and nurture yourself when you’re feeling frustrated or sad? You may have a favorite activity you could engage in or you may want to take a few minutes to meditate or sit quietly. Find the things that comfort you and engage in them when needed. There isn’t any guilt associated with self-care and self-compassion.
2) Embrace common humanity.
It can often feel like you’re the only one suffering or in pain. Sometimes we look around the world and see the external view of others. Our friends and family may seem happy. Maybe your co-worker just got a promotion. Clearly, his life is more rewarding and stable. It’s easy to feel this way, but it’s not often true. All humans — no matter how happy they appear — have and will experience pain. Feeling pain and loss is one of the qualifications of being human. When you’re suffering, it’s important to remember that you are not alone and you are not the only one experiencing pain. This view of a “common humanity” can help keep you from feeling isolated.
3) Take moments for mindfulness.
We all experience a plethora of emotions — good and bad. Mindfulness involves being curious about these emotions and not judging how you feel. Mindfulness means not suppressing or stuffing down your feelings. Instead of ignoring your pain, be aware of your thoughts. What do you feel? You may want to practice naming your feelings. “I feel sad” or “I’m feeling overwhelmed by work.” You can even begin journaling these thoughts as a way to express and better understand them. Remember, you don’t have to solve any issues you have or over-identify your feelings, instead work to embrace and understand them.
If you’re suffering from mental health struggles, such as depression and anxiety, we’re here to help. Our approach takes a deep look at trauma, pain and addiction. Through a deeper examination, we can find effective coping strategies and treatments. Visit our website to learn more about our services and clients.