Self-compassion and self-care
Updated: May 3
Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, concern and support you would show to a good friend. When faced with difficult life struggles, or confronting personal mistakes, failures, and inadequacies, self-compassion responds with kindness rather than harsh self-judgment, recognizing that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.
In order to give oneself compassion, one must be able to turn toward, acknowledge, and accept that one is suffering, meaning that mindfulness is a core component of self-compassion.
(Neff K.D., Dahm K.A. (2015) Self-Compassion: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Relates to Mindfulness.)
When you have a friend who has a problem, observe what you say to them, observe and remember your kindness towards them. When you go on to experience a challenging situation, apply that same level of kindness and compassion to yourself.
Ask yourself, what would I say to a friend who was experiencing what I am experiencing? Is it really all your fault? Is it even within your control? Are there mitigating circumstances which you’re not allowing yourself to accept played a role in what happened?
Being our own worst critics, self-compassion can appear easier said than done. However, if you can learn this technique and apply it, you’ll treat yourself less harshly. Challenges and the negativity surrounding them will dissipate more quickly.
Self-compassion is something that when understood, has helped untold numbers of people cope better with negative emotions.
Self-compassion and self-care go hand in hand. One of the best skills you can learn as a human being is to take care of your mind and body. We’ve put together a list of things that you can do to improve your self-care.
Most importantly, do things you enjoy and dedicate time to them. This can be anything from sports and exercise to hobbies and crafts.
Touch treatment: Whether male or female, it’s relaxing to take care of our bodies. Facemasks, manicures, massages, haircuts and spa treatments are excellent ways to treat your body with kindness.
Meditation or finding 30 minutes a day to have to yourself and breathe, empty your mind and relax is a great way to express self-care. Use scented candles and a calming environment to separate this time from the rest of your normal day.
Even though research cannot prove exactly how touch positively affects us, it has shown that those who are physically touched on a regular basis experience higher levels of the hormone oxytocin. According to the National Institutes of Health, oxytocin lowers stress hormone levels and, by doing so, plays a part in lowering blood pressure, maintaining good moods and increasing pain tolerances. No one can deny the warm feeling we experience when we are touched. Hugs, holding hands and other physical gestures of affection have the potential to ease our minds, make us feel less isolated, and reduce stress and anxiety. (www.comfortkeepers.com)
There are hundreds of things you can do to care for yourself but it’s a completely individual experience. For some, a monthly trip to the hair salon calms, relaxes and reinvigorates them. For others, a daily run or walk refreshes the senses and can make you feel energised. Find what works for you and ensure you practise self-care on a regular basis.
In the current climate, social distancing is in place and is preventing our usual interactions with friends and family. When normality returns for us, it’s important to remember the social self-care that we can implement to help with our emotional and mental health.
Set boundaries with people. This is often overlooked as we want to be liked, talked to and feel needed among those we interact with. Sometimes though, that’s not the best thing for us. Look at your relationships with others and assess if any are too intense, if they leave you feeling drained or overwhelmed and limit interaction with those people. This can be difficult to achieve but it is important if you want to maintain a healthy relationship with that person.
Support systems: surround yourself with positive, caring people. Recognise those who are supportive of you at your best and at your worst.
Positive social media: Try not to be deflated by negative news stories and limit your exposure to social media posts encouraging unachievable standards (this can include topics such as wealth or beauty).
Ask for help: One of the best ways you can practise self-care is by knowing when to ask for help. Choosing counselling doesn’t have to seem like a big step or any sort of failure. Choosing better mental health is a positive step and you can do this by asking for help when you need it.