Self care sounds like such a good idea. In an ideal world, we’d all look after ourselves really well, wouldn’t we? But how many people actually do?
Many of my clients say that if they practice self care, for example by taking time out from work, they’ll feel guilty, or end up coming back to more work – so they just work harder to keep up. The trouble with this is that they end up burning themselves out.
Self compassion researcher Kristin Neff says that we need to start treating ourselves with the same kindness, care and compassion that we would a good friend. If your good friend was burning out at work, would you tell them to just keep thrashing themselves, or would you tell them to take a break? If they said they weren’t sleeping properly, or were having panic attacks, would you tell them to just push on? Most of us would tell our dear friends to slow down; to talk to their bosses to reduce their workloads; to go out for a walk during the day; to shout themselves a massage once a week; do a short yoga session or meditation; or take a mental health day. We’d tell them that their health is precious and that they deserve happiness.
According to Kristin Neff, all the research says that when we are compassionate to ourselves, just like we would be to a friend, our mental well-being improves, our happiness increases and we start to make healthier lifestyle choices. So, treat yourself like you would treat a good friend, and start now.
Here’s a short mindfulness meditation to help you get started:
Sit quietly in your chair, with your feet flat on the floor and your hands softly in your lap. Make sure you’ve turned the phone off and that you’re sitting in a quiet room. Close your eyes or look at the carpet or floor, in front of you. Begin to notice the breath coming in and out of the nostrils. Allow your lips to form a gentle half smile.
Think of an issue you’re having difficulty with. If your good friend had the same issue, what would you tell him or her? What sort of strengths would you tell your friend that he or she has, to help them overcome this difficulty? As you’re doing this, check back in with your breath – allow it to be soft and gentle. Sit in this way, breathing slowly and gently for as long as you need, allowing the half smile to remain on your lips.
When you’re ready slowly open your eyes and come back into the room.
Well done. You’ve taken the first step in showing yourself compassion.