During these many weeks of Covid-19 physical distancing, we are missing out on a lot of
our usual coping mechanisms and useful distractions. There is also a lot of pressure on
social media and elsewhere to be productive and do all the things you
have been putting off or procrastinating about right now! For some this proposition is
inspiring but for many, setting these lofty goals is adding self-recrimination and guilt to
their already frightening and destabilizing pandemic experience. A good alternative to all
this pressure is learning to practice self-compassion.
“How can you be so stupid?”
“You are just lazy!”
“You can’t do anything right!”
These are things that most of us would ever say to anyone (unless you are a really cruel
person) but why do so many of us tolerate a harsh inner critic that tells
us these things all of the time? So many of my clients would be less depressed and
anxious if they just could develop a better relationship with themselves. Often
though, they are very uncomfortable with the idea of practicing self-compassion- thinking,
that they don’t deserve it, that it is “conceited” or that beating up on themselves is the only
way they will find motivation. Counterintuitively evidence shows that positive feedback
and encouragement increases motivation and success in most tasks. So why continue to
bombard yourself with shame, condemnation, and negativity? If you feel like your inner
critic is getting out of control during this crisis, and you could use a break, here are some
simple ways you can introduce self-compassion into your life.
Be mindful of your feelings. Are you feeling strong emotions? For example, are you
feeling, confused, incompetent, or panicked? These may be the times that your inner
critic pounces. Instead, offer yourself some kindness. You can tell yourself, “These are
confusing times. Things are changing so quickly that everyone is having times of
confusion. I am doing the best I can. I have figured out a lot of complicated things in the
past and of course, I can do it again.” If you are having trouble thinking of what to say,
try imagining that you are talking to a good friend or even more productively, a small
Tune in to your self-talk. If you are usually self-critical, beating yourself up may be a
habit. When you notice that you have fallen into negative self-talk, try not to shame
yourself about it. Increasing self-compassion is a work in progress. Just notice and
rephrase what you are telling yourself more positively.
Connect with the physical world. Get out of your head and into the outside world.
Ruminating on self-critical thoughts is not going to help you. One of my favorite
techniques is called 5,4,3,2,1-grounding through your senses. You can do this easily
during physical distancing in the comfort of your own home.
Here are the steps:
5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling,
anything in your surroundings.
4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. (and touch them)…
3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. …
2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell (if you can’t smell anything think of two
smells that you like (lilacs or chocolate chip cookies…)
1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. (or imagine you are tasting something you like
(cappuccino, strawberries or banana cream pie…)
Give yourself nurturing physical feedback. Put your hand on your heart, rub your
temples, massage your shoulders, give yourself a hug. It doesn’t matter what the gesture
is as long as it is loving it will help you show yourself kindness in difficult situations.
Now that the parks in New Jersey are open, you might consider taking mindful walks in
nature if you feel safe doing so. Focus the sensations of walking, on the birdsong, feel
the warm sunlight, or the texture of tree bark. Experiment with different strategies and
practices to find those that are most nurturing and beneficial for you.
If showing yourself compassion is incredibly difficult for you right now It might be a
good time to video-conference with a therapist to explore where the negative feelings
come and help you manage your negative thought patterns. If you are interested in
starting treatment I have video conferencing appointments available. Let’s discuss ways
that I can help.