Self-Compassion

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I have been through some serious changes since last Summer:  a breakup, starting grad school, and my one and only daughter going off to college have topped the list, and more recently the start of dating someone new.  As I near mid-terms in grad-school our professors often encourage the importance of self-care.  In the field of counseling we are inundated with client worries and concerns throughout our work day on top of navigating our own personal and professional stress.   This can quickly cause burnout in my career field but this can be true in many other career fields and life situations as well.  When we are experiencing a lot of changes it can be overwhelming even if they are positive changes.

I changed my job and started this new career path just within the last couple of years and even though it has mostly been rewarding, there have been times when I felt overwhelmed and unsure.  I love to read and have a bit of a magazine addiction, its one of my guilty pleasures and you can find stacks of magazines by my bed, bathtub, and couch.  Being a big fan of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, I love to receive my Yoga Journal magazine and as I was reading through one of the most recent issues I came across an article recommending a book by Tara Brach called Radical Compassion.  I am also a member of Audible and decided to use my monthly book credit to check it out.  I love to listen to audio books on my drive to work each morning and this one is definitely worth the read!

Self-compassion is a little different than self-care but I think both are required in order to truly take care of yourself.  I think most would agree that we are all our own worst critic in life and many of us overachievers focus constantly on what we should be or could be doing better and even shaming ourselves for our areas of struggle.  Monday I had a bad day, I felt like I was just going through the motions and basically not really accomplishing much of anything that day.  Then on Tuesday my day was better but my significant other was out of town on business and our evening conversation consisted of him relaying to me his extremely complicated day!  Here we are on Wednesday and we both have high hopes that it is only going to get better!  After my manic Monday I woke up determined to get my shit together and not let my Tuesday be a replay.  I often push myself to work through lunch and Tuesday I chose to have lunch with a friend and I even bought a plant in a beautiful container to put on my desk.  I allowed myself to just enjoy my lunch hour and not rush back to the office.  That afternoon I accomplished more than I would have if I had stayed through lunch and tried to push through.

Normally, I would have beat up on myself for taking time for myself after having such a non-productive day on Monday, but I have come to realize it is necessary to let go and just be every once in a while.  We were not put on this planet to trudge away with work, school, paying bills and raising kids day after day.  Having a wonderful job, furthering your education, being able to pay the bills, and raising a healthy happy family is all joyful but we all know there is more to life.  It is not selfish to have things that just bring you and only you, joy.  Allow yourself grace to have a bad day and allow yourself time to just be and do something you enjoy that only benefits you.  Recognize and train yourself to be self-aware when you feel stressful, hurt, and angry emotions and how those negative feelings feel in your body.  Accept & allow those feelings and understand they are normal.  Sit with those feelings for a bit, really allow yourself to feel them.  Investigate where those feelings come from, how they came about, and why they feel so strong in that moment.  Then nurture yourself by understanding the emotional ups and downs of life are not only normal but necessary.  This concept of  recognize, allow, investigate and nurture are known as RAIN and is more deeply explained in the book by Brach.  We need to be reminded what it is like to struggle and have a bad day every now and then because it helps us learn, grow, and truly appreciate the good days.

It may be hard to see it and believe it in some situations but even life at its worst is still a positive experience because there is opportunity for learning and growth through self-awareness; opportunity for acceptance and connection through self-compassion, and opportunity for moments of joy and freedom through self-care.  So as we move through the rest of this week and find ourselves getting closer to Spring remember better days are ahead and you don’t have to have it all figured out, all together, all the time.

With love, health, and happiness,

Stacy

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