Reviewed By Cara Swanston - Registered Member MBACP Adv. Dip.
Anxiety? Kill it with compassion
02 February 2024
Dive into the importance of self-compassion and how it is the foundation of anxiety-busting superpowers.
Catherine Wells, Occupational Therapist explains how self-compassion is the foundation to tackling anxiety head on.
In this series we intend to cover body based practices for anxiety too, because we know that it’s not always possible to think our way out of an anxiety response. So keep an eye on the Inspire Me Blog for those soon!
Catherine explains that the first, most important step is to get comfortable practising self-compassion.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is an understanding embrace of our own humanity. It’s a gentle acknowledgment that, like everyone else, we are beautifully flawed and inherently deserving of kindness.
If you really struggle with that, let’s think about how we would react to a good friend that is struggling: then extend the same warmth, understanding, and encouragement that we’d readily offer to them in their moments of struggle, to ourselves.
Wikipedia includes this more in-depth definition that we thought was worth sharing:
"American psychologist Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main elements – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
- Self-kindness: Self-compassion entails being warm towards oneself when encountering pain and personal shortcomings, rather than ignoring them or hurting oneself with self-criticism.
- Common humanity: Self-compassion also involves recognizing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience rather than isolating.
- Mindfulness: Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to one's negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Negative thoughts and emotions are observed with openness, so that they are held in mindful awareness."
An anonymous Find Help NI user Joined the Conversation by submitting their poem about self compassion that we feel defines self-compassion beautifully:
To really embrace self-compassion,
Is to accept our imperfections,
A recognition that perfection is an unattainable,
And our worth is not contingent upon flawlessness.
It’s the comforting voice that reassures us,
That mistakes are not defining,
But rather, they are stepping stones,
On the path of growth and self-discovery.
When we really embrace self-compassion,
We become architects of our own resilience,
Constructing bridges of loving understanding,
Spanning between our aspirations and reality.
Let it be a gentle revolution,
One that transforms our inner voice,
From critic to comforting ally,
Whispering, "You are worthy, you are enough."
So, what’s the opposite of Self-Compassion?
If showing ourselves compassion feels super duper uncomfortable or alien to us it may be that we are so used to practising:
- denying emotions
If this list sounds more familiar, then it's crucial to work on recognising these patterns of thought. When you become aware of these patterns of thought or behaviours, shift towards a more compassionate mindset by cultivating more understanding, kindness, and patience towards yourself.
If self compassion feels new, or even icky to you it might be that you might have been practising the above patterns for much of your life.
No wonder it’s so easy! With that in mind, acknowledge too that you aren’t going to be able to just change that inner voice right overnight. And acknowledge that practice makes progress.
How to tackle anxiety when it arises with compassion
If anxiety is something that troubles us regularly, it’s common for us to feel frustrated when it visits again. If it’s something you’ve not experienced before, it can be frightening.
Self-compassion allows us to reframe how we feel about our anxiety, whilst showing ourselves loving understanding. Being open to the fact that feelings come, and they go.
It’s important to find a few helpful statements that you feel comfortable using. Below are just a few examples to get you started.
We suggested you note down at least 3 that you can start using in times of need, obviously adapt the wording to suit your needs so that it feels authentic to you.
- "It's okay to feel anxious; emotions are a natural part of being human.”
- “I acknowledge and sit with this feeling without judgement."
- "In moments of anxiety, I extend the same kindness to myself that I would offer a dear friend.
- “I am here for myself, with understanding and compassion."
- "Anxiety doesn't define me. It's a passing wave, and I have the strength to navigate through it.”
- “I honour my feelings without letting them overshadow my worth."
- "I recognize the courage it takes to face anxiety, and I commend myself for that.
- “I am resilient, and every step I take is a triumph in its own right."
- "Just as the clouds pass, so will this moment of anxiety.”
- “I am not alone in my struggles, and I am capable of weathering this storm with self-compassion and grace."
6 more ways to boost self-compassion
- Constructive Self-Talk: Challenge negative thoughts with constructive and compassionate self-talk. Treat yourself as you would a supportive friend.
- Positive Affirmations: Counter negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Remind yourself of your strengths and capabilities.
- Self-Care Rituals: Prioritise self-care by indulging in activities that bring comfort, relaxation and make you feel good about yourself!
- Journaling: Start a self-compassion journal. This can help you gain insight and become a great reference for the days where self-compassion feels hard.
- Gratitude Practice: Cultivate a gratitude practice by reflecting on positive aspects of yourself and your life. Focusing on what you're grateful for can shift your perspective of yourself.
- Set Realistic Expectations: Acknowledge that it's okay not to be perfect. Set realistic expectations for yourself, recognizing that everyone has moments when self-compassion is difficult.
Be kind and understanding to yourself, give yourself the same care you would give to a loved one that is struggling with trying something new.
We are all perfectly imperfect, and we’re all just humans trying our best.
Remember, fostering self-compassion is indeed a practice, and finding what works best for you may involve a bit of exploration. The world is a whole lot nicer when you are friends with yourself.
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