Compassion as Self-Care
Last time, we introduced the topic of self-care and its importance for your well-being. We looked at how connecting to nature, whether from home or when out-and-about, is an excellent resource for your self-care. This time, we will be looking at another fantastic personal resource than can support your resilience and well-being: self-compassion.
What is self-compassion?
Self-compassion forms the basis of your self-care. It concerns the way we think about ourselves, which then affects how likely we are to treat ourselves well. It involves being compassionate towards yourself in times of challenge and has three components:
How can it support my self-care?
The benefits of self-compassion for mental well-being include improvements in life satisfaction, emotional intelligence, optimism, positive mood, and social connection. It is also known to lower depression, anxiety, and rumination of negative thoughts.
Physical health is also positively impacted by self-compassion, as it increases the likelihood of engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviours.
One of the main ways that self-compassion is an important aspect of self-care is through its ability to promote adaptive coping strategies and resilience in response to stress.
Self-compassion and self-esteem
An important distinction is made between self-compassion and self-esteem. In the latter, self-worth depends on a comparison with others and can be affected by perceived setbacks. Instead, self-compassion does not base self-worth on external evaluation, and promotes awareness and acceptance of your unique personal strengths that define you and help to build your resilience.
This distinction makes self-compassion a stable and reliable resource for your self-care.
If you would like to have a go at identifying your own personal strengths, you could try out our free interactive strengths profiling page.
In our MST4Life™ programme, the mindfulness component of self-compassion is an important part of building young people’s resilience. For example, mindfulness helps you to build key mental skills, such as emotional awareness and forward planning. Mindfulness can be developed through practising useful grounding techniques.
Activities to try
Now that we have looked at some of the ways that self-compassion can support your self-care, you might like to try out some compassion-boosting exercises.
Begin by slowing down and taking a moment out, using the infographic below:
Become aware of how you talk to yourself in moments of stress. Compare your words and tone to how you would talk to a friend or family member you care about if they were under stress. Might you say ‘You’re only human… everybody makes mistakes… you’re not alone in this’? What would that friend or family member say to you in your time of stress to soothe or support you?
Have a go at a body scan to release pockets of tension and stress. Notice what it feels like when your muscles relax.
Connecting to your emotions is the first step to expressing yourself in a healthy way and looking after yourself. It can also help to build your relationships with others.
Practise cognitive reframing. What is another way of interpreting a perceived setback or challenge? Instead of saying ‘I got a low mark for my exam, I’m a failure’, could this be viewed instead as an opportunity to work hard and improve? You could change this perception to ‘I gave it my best attempt under the circumstances and will be able to try again’.
How did you get on?
We would love to hear how you got on with these activities. Which one is your favourite? Let us know over on Twitter using #MSTtoolkit #MST4Life. If you would like to find out more about some of the mental skills related to self-compassion, you can check out our interactive pages and download our free Mental Skills Training Toolkit. You can also read our blog post on grounding techniques and download the infographics for tips on how to slow down and become more aware.
Photo credit: Reshot.