Give yourself a break: Practicing self-compassion as a resource for resiliency.

Life is busy, often messy, and sometimes challenging, but after the annus horribilis that was 2020, we have had a solid start to 2021. However, the transition back to full-time on-campus teaching and learning has provided an exciting learning landscape, particularly in terms of social & emotional wellbeing. As if time moved on and the predicted understanding, developing, and strengthening relationships were interrupted or setback.

As we embark on the Easter school holidays, I encourage everyone to take the time to reflect, rest & reset, to give yourself a break before we begin again!

An explosion of research into self-compassion over the last decade has shown its benefits for wellbeing. Individuals who are more self-compassionate tend to have greater happiness, life satisfaction, and motivation, better relationships and physical health, and less anxiety and depression. 

According to preeminent researcher Kristin Neff, people who respond to life’s challenges by practicing self-compassion become more resilient. They also have the resilience needed to cope with stressful life events such as relationship breakdowns, health crises, academic failure, and even combat trauma. 

“It is only when we take care of ourselves that we can take care of others.  Self-compassion provides an island of calm,  a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment.”.

Instead of becoming defensive, blaming others, or shirking responsibility, none of which is conducive in responding to setbacks or unmet expectations, and undermines personal development, Neff suggests responding with self-compassion entails these three behaviours to promote resilience:

  • Practicing kindness & understanding rather than judgment and criticism about failures and mistakes; 
  • Acknowledge shortcomings and failure as experiences shared a shared human experience
  • Being mindful, they take a balanced approach to negative emotions and keeping things in perspective

How is self-compassion related to parenting? 

Self-compassion is rooted in centuries of the Buddhist tradition. Still, it’s been only within the past decade that researchers, led by Dr. Neff, have subjected the concept to empirical scrutiny. Numerous studies have shown that self-compassion is strongly linked to overall wellbeing. Recent studies of parents found that self-compassionate parents tend to have lower levels of stress and depression, which, in turn, positively influences relationships, productivity, and more life satisfaction, hope, happiness, self-confidence, and re-engagement with life goals.

Here are three ideas to build compassion for yourself (and role model to your children. )

  • Take routine self-compassion breaks by treating yourself as kindly as you would treat a friend who needs support. Simply ask the question, “What do I need now?” and allow yourself a moment of self-compassion, even if you can’t find an answer or can’t meet your needs at the time.
  • Practice loving-kindness meditation:
  • Write a Letter to Yourself: You can find your compassionate voice by writing a letter to yourself whenever you struggle or feel inadequate or when you want to help motivate yourself to make a change. It can feel uncomfortable at first but gets easier with practice. 

Mindfulness and self-compassion are resources that give us the safety needed to meet challenging experiences with less resistance. The reality is that by being kind to ourselves, we become stronger, more resilient, and less focused on our problems which in turn serves to make us more present for our children and energized to engage with our communities.

Acknowledgements & further resources

On behalf of the Counselling team, Happy Easter!

Director of Counselling