Practice Self Compassion for Better Mental Health
By Speakeasy Peer Supporter
As a Speakeasy Peer Supporter, I would like to share my journey towards greater mental health and self-compassion with all of you because it has not been easy. This cold, gloomy weather makes me feel sad at times. The return to the routine of classes, writing papers and work makes me feel under the weather too. And, these shorter and darker days have me feeling more lethargic than usual.
Being gentler with myself – physically, mentally, and emotionally – was tough, especially because I tend to turn my anger and hurt inward. I tried to adopt an attitude to “kill with kindness” but this has a sort of dual meaning for me. I had to deal with the discomfort that arises from suffering, and kill unhealthy reactions like avoidance in order to grow. I believe that the beauty of life is being able to choose the way you relate to yourself, so you can give yourself what you need to thrive and reach your goals.
So, I decided to practice self-compassion and recognize that, I and everyone else around me, we are all deserving of health, success, and love. No terms or conditions.
So, I used some mental, behavioural, and emotional techniques that helped me deal with my fear of “ not being enough. Here are some exercises that helped me to practice self-compassion and you can try too.
In a moment of distress
Check in with your inner dialog. How are you addressing yourself? Are you denying yourself forgiveness? Are you using cruel language? To throw a little bit of psychotherapy in here, are you attributing your difficult situation to factors that are inner, unchanging, and general across all situations you will encounter?
For this first practice, think about the way you are talking to yourself, and then flip the script. How would you address a friend going through the very same situation that you are going through right now? The language probably looks very different – a bit gentler and warmer and kinder. Try to give yourself that same love when you are going through something tough and think about how you feel.
Try a self-compassion break
Take a moment to notice the feelings arising in your body. Stay with them for just a moment. If the feelings are overwhelming and causing you to panic, you can first try a stress-reduction exercise like counting 5-4-3-2-1, or do some box breathing. Then try telling yourself: “this is a moment of suffering” “this is stress”, “this hurts”.
Acknowledge your pain and choose any of these mantras: “suffering is part of life”, “others have felt the way I feel”, “I am not alone”, “everyone deals with their own struggles”
Again, this is your practice, so choose the sentence that best resonates with you: “may I be kind to myself”, “may I give myself the compassion I need”, “may I learn to accept myself as I am”
Now, check in with yourself. How does your body and mind feel?
Try a meditation practice
Leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff has several to choose from on her website. While there are many ways to achieve better mental health, taking some or all practices from self-compassion is one possible route. There are also tons of others.
But if these exercises don’t work and your mood starts severely affecting all aspects of your life, if you find yourself lacking the motivation to go to class, being less social than usual, or having trouble sleeping, come to talk to us. Speakeasy is here for you and our Peer Support team will help you to resolve your issues, give you tips and advice on how to pick up your mood and to talk about any other challenges you might have.
Tags: mental health, services, stress, student life, wellbeing