Have you ever looked at your calendar for the week and had an instant stress response, wondering when you would have time amongst it all to catch your breath? How you can ensure that your own needs are met amongst the many demands and responsibilities of daily life?
The expression, “me time”, that has become a popular phrase, is perhaps an indicator that you may need to create a space to encounter yourself compassionately, rather than being swept away on the tide of demands. Just like the tide, these demands come and go and it seems wise to have strategies in place that will prevent you from ‘losing your footing’.
Kindness and the Self Encounter.
When it comes to empathy and compassion, you may have focused on how to extend kindness to one another, but it seems that kindness must start closer to home, by encountering yourself. Before you can offer an open, compassionate stance towards those around you, you need to meet yourself, in the moment, with the same understanding.
The word, compassion, means to ‘suffer with’ or to ‘suffer alongside’. The first step to self-compassion is noticing and acknowledging pain, suffering and emotional states. In order to tune in to these, you must first, encounter yourself. In mindfulness terms, that means noticing, without judgement.
Sometimes, to simply acknowledge a feeling or a difficult situation can make a difference to how you handle challenges. With a close friend or relative, you might say, “I understand you are feeling hurt by what has happened.” Such acknowledgements can go a long way to alleviating suffering by accepting that it exists and validating any painful emotions that are encountered.
Dr. Kristen Neff gives us three elements of self-compassion:
- self-kindness rather than self-judgement,
- common humanity vs isolation and
- mindfulness instead of over-identification.
Being warm and understanding with yourself doesn’t necessarily come naturally, but you can learn to handle yourself with greater kindness through your self-talk and being more mindful of your thoughts.
Neff states that suffering and imperfection are part of the human condition. Recognizing you are not alone in your experiences lifts you out of the temporary isolation you may feel when going through difficulties. Mindfulness can play a major part in alleviating your suffering by firstly giving you pause to consider whether your self-talk is kind and whether it will help or hinder.
When you are mindful, you are encountering. You have a listening ear to what your inner self wants to express about the situation. You can listen, as you would if a person you love was experiencing what you are going through. You would reflect: “I hear that you are finding this difficult right now.”
Journaling is a form of externalizing that may help you to encounter your inner world mindfully, allowing yourself to express and meet painful emotions, without judgment and with kind validation.
As you do this, you will be filling up your own ‘love-tank’ to overflowing, with plenty left over to give to others.