Silva Neves

Silva Neves
Psychosexual, Relationship and Couples Therapist

Monday, 3 September 2018

How to be self-compassionate

The world that we live in is a stressful one. There is the pressure to work harder and to earn more money to meet the demands of an ever increasing cost of life. There is the pressure to look good, have children to have a happy family, to exercise five times a week, to live in the right desirable area in the right house, and so on and so forth. 

Charity organisation Mind says: ‘approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week’. 

On top of the stress that we face in our every day lives, there is also the stress of social media. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you are bound to see other people who appear to do better than you: better body, better job, better money, better holiday, better life. We can’t help but feeling inadequate when bombarded with so much unattainable perfection, all of it being an illusion.  

The stress of modern life that we face can go unnoticed for a long time, yet it accumulates, and can cause significant mental health issues if we don’t look after ourselves well enough. In the imperfect world that we live, looking after our mental health should not be a luxury but it should be an every day consideration, much the same as looking after our personal hygiene or looking after our diet/ exercise regime. 

You may think that you are invisible or stronger than others. Perhaps you are. But I would argue that everybody should look after their mental health as it is a crucial part of general well-being. Behind closed doors, many people don’t feel so good about themselves. 

The secret to looking after your mental health is self-compassion. Here are my easy five top tips to practice self-compassion: 

1-   Validate your difficult emotions.Speak outloud: ‘This is difficult for me’, ‘It is painful’, ‘it hurts’.  

2-   Bring kindness to your emotional pain:Speak outloud: ‘Go easy on yourself’, or a single word such as ‘gentle’. 

3-   Do an act of kindness:lay a hand on the emotional pain. For example, if you feel the pain in your chest, you can lay a hand there and breathe. Or you may want to lay your hand on a soothing part of your body like your abdomen or your forehead, and breathe. 

4-   Defuse judgemental or unhelpful thoughts.You are bound to have some unhelpful or critical thoughts springing up, that’s what our mind usually does. When you have a critical thought, notice it and say: ‘this is my mind trying to beat me up again’, or ‘My mind is telling me something unhelpful’. It is a helpful defusion technique to remind yourself that your critical thoughts are not truth. They are just thoughts engineered by your mind, as it does with everybody else. 

5-   Connect your experience with others.You are definitely not the only one having a stressful moment, or difficult and painful emotions and critical thoughts. The entire human population does. Speak outloud: ‘this is something I have in common with everyone else’, ‘this shows I’m human’, ‘we all screw up and make mistakes sometimes’, ‘it’s hard to be human sometimes’. 

Does your judgemental mind say self-compassion sounds silly? Or it’s too easy? Or it won’t work with you? Or you’re not that type of person to do that? Listen to what your mind is telling you, and challenge yourself to be more self-compassionate. There are only five easy steps, which can be done in five minutes: validate your emotions, bring kindness to them, following by a kindness act, defuse your critical thoughts, and remind yourself that your experience is a human one, common to the rest of us. 

Regular and consistent self-compassion is one of the most important tool for mental health well-being. Practice for yourself and share your experience with others. Our world needs more of it. 

Silva Neves