The topic of self-care makes me a little uncomfortable, but I just listened to an interview with self-compassion researcher, Kristen Neff, on The One You Feed podcast, that helped me to frame it more positively.
Kristen defines effective self-compassion as: “Treating yourself with the same kindness, support and care that you would show to a close friend.”
She breaks it down into three parts:
- First, you have to acknowledge that you’re suffering-instead of avoiding, resisting or being swallowed up by the pain.
- Second, you take care of yourself as you would a close friend.
- And third, you recognise that you are not alone, that suffering is part of the human condition and that, whatever you are going through, is not a personal failing.
When I have experienced acute suffering in the past, I let it swallow me up. I aggressively pursued destructive habits. And I felt very alone. Boy, was I doing it wrong!
The third part of Kristen’s self-care model struck me most powerfully. When we suffer, we’re acting under the illusion that life is supposed to be perfect and that we’re the only one suffering. Realising that pain is an inevitable part of the human condition helps us to feel less isolated and to take a broader perspective.
One of the most incredible aspects of our current crisis is that we’re all in this together. We’re all suffering in very visible ways. And it is this shared pain and loss that connects us.
ASKING THE RIGHT SELF-CARE QUESTION
Kristen says the key question to ask when we’re struggling is: “What do I need?”
She gives us two options:
- Acceptance. In the immediate aftermath of acute suffering, you may need to allow yourself some time to grieve. If a loved one has died, a relationship has come to an end or you’re afraid that your business won’t survive the economic crash, it might be appropriate to loosen up on your daily routine and snuggle up in front of the TV with a big bowl of ice cream.
- Action. On the other hand, taking action might be the more compassionate choice. If you feel yourself sliding into depression…