By Nataly Kogan

The power of self-compassion during challenging times

As I write this, we are going through such unprecedented and challenging time of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

We all feel so much stress, loss, grief, worry, and fear and it can all be overwhelming, along with new work schedules and arrangements, kids not being able to go to school, and not having an opportunity to see friends or colleagues in person.

It’s a LOT to deal with and it’s easy to feel like you’re not handling it well. I’ve heard so many people and leaders share that they constantly feel like they are not getting work done, they are frustrated to not be at their best, or they are having a hard time staying motivated.

If you feel like this, you are not alone. Everything has changed and yet, it’s easy to expect yourself to somehow magically adjust and be able to do everything just like you did before. And if you can’t, it’s too easy to berate yourself or react harshly. 

Believe me, I know this so well. I spent most of my life believing that the only way I would ever improve was if I treated myself with harshness. It was only after I completely burned out that I learned to practice self-compassion – and it wasn’t easy.

But self-compassion is one of the most important practices for us to commit to when we’re going through a tough time so I want to share it with you.

First, a definition: 

Self-compassion is the practice of recognizing that you’re a human being, that you’re imperfect, that you are struggling with something and that you want to help yourself struggle less. 

It’s the practice of treating yourself as you would a good friend.

Notice I didn’t say that self-compassion is about letting yourself off the hook. Or giving up. Or doing nothing. Or saying to yourself that you don’t have to get your work done.

The goal of practicing self-compassion is to reduce your own struggle and suffering so that you have more emotional and mental energy to move forward.

Did you know that research shows that practicing self-compassion actually increases your motivation to work harder and improve?

It does and that’s because you’re not wasting your valuable emotional energy berating yourself and have that energy to use to figure out your best next step.

Self-compassion is not the end, it’s the beginning.

It’s not about throwing your hands up in the air, but rather, it’s the recognition of your true humanity and desire to help yourself struggle less so you can get through this challenge with greater resilience and bring your best self forward.

One of my favorite ways to practice self-compassion is by shifting from harsh to kinder self-talk. So many of us cause ourselves suffering through harsh, unkind, berating self-talk. This practice will help you change that.

3 Steps to Kinder Self-Talk

Step 1: Become aware when you’re being harsh in your self-talk. 

Be mindful of the words and tone you use when you talk to yourself. Practice witnessing your self-talk as it happens. What is the tone like? What words or phrases do you use when you talk to yourself?

Step 2: Pause and be grateful that you noticed.

Take a breath and pause for a second. In this pause, connect to your inner witness. Feel the depth of your capacity to be aware of your thoughts and emotions without the need to immediately react and be grateful that you can do this.

Step 3: Imagine you’re talking to someone you really love and care about. 

Visualize this person and hold them in your heart’s attention. Now begin to reframe what you said to yourself and how you said it, imagining that you’re talking to this person.

I usually imagine I’m talking to my daughter or my best friend and every time I do this practice, I am reminded how much kinder we are to people we love than to ourselves. By doing this practice you’re learning to treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness as you show towards others.

This has been one of the most life-changing practices for me and it’s really improved my relationship with myself. It’s also made me a more compassionate person and leader, because how we treat others is rooted in how we treat ourselves.

I hope you will give it a try, especially when you’re struggling or facing a challenge – you deserve your own compassion and kindness!

Next up: 41 tiny huge lessons for living happier

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