“Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.” -Pema Chodron
Even as we enter the era of social distancing, the spirit of kindness and compassion has never been more evident in the Fox Cities. Over the weekend, I witnessed cheerful chalk drawings, pop-up parades, and extending a loving hand to our neighbors through porch drop offs of toilet paper and gallons of milk.
And yet, I can feel the weight of the pandemic on my heart. Worries circle in my mind. How will I home-school my children? How can I protect the health of my loved ones as this virus begins to circulate in our hometown? These were worries that didn’t exist two weeks ago, and now at times, they are all-encompassing.
And then I hear the giggle of my kids in the kitchen, and I pause to listen and to breathe. In that breath, I am reminded we are living in unprecedented times. I am reminded to be ever so gentle on my kids and myself as we navigate these uncharted waters. I reminded to be kind to myself so that I too can serve our family and community from my own overflowing cup.
Over a decade of research from the American Psychological Association has shown that practicing self-compassion increases psychological well-being and emotional resilience. That means we are stronger, gentler, and kinder on ourselves when we practice self-compassion.
So, what exactly is self-compassion? According to Kristin Neff, professor and pioneer in the field of self-compassion, there are three core components to self-compassion.
- Showing ourselves kindness rather than self-judgment
- Embracing connection with others even as we are physically distanced
- Practicing mindfulness by being fully present in this moment versus worrying about what may happen in the future
Tips for Cultivating Self-Compassion at Home
- You are enough. As we log onto Google classroom or see other families’ home-school experiences documented on social media, we often feel we are not doing enough. Go easy on yourself and your kids during these difficult times. Change your inner monologue, and take time each day to remind yourself “I am doing the best I can given the circumstances.”
- Start a gratitude jar with your family! Gratitude has been proven to change the lens through which we see the world from one of lack to one of true appreciation. Each evening as you sit down at dinner, have each family member write down something they are thankful for and place it in a jar (A canning jar works great!). It could be as simple as the carton of eggs a neighbor left on your doorstep or afternoon snuggles on the couch.
- You are not alone. Take time each day to connect with friends and family. In this hi-tech era, we are blessed with so many tools to facilitate connection. Hop on a video call with Grandma and show her your latest craft creation! Message a friend and share the worries on your heart! The time to reach out is now.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness calms our hearts during these uncertain times and helps us focus on the present moment. There are many free mindfulness meditations and apps you can find online for both you and your kids.
- Get moving. Exercise is a way of showing yourself kindness, and bonus, it provides natural endorphins that diminish the effects of stress. Bust a move on your kitchen dance floor with your kids or stream an exercise video.
For more resources to cultivate self-compassion and mindfulness in your home, visit:
Be kind to yourselves, now more than ever! As we embrace self-compassion in our lives, we are more able to extend kindness to our family, community, and the world. Be well.