I’ve spoken about self-compassion previously, including an exercise to help build self-compassion (self-compassionate letter). You can also find self-compassion exercises on sites like Greater Good In Action. We also talk about it quite a bit in the Be Well Program, that we’ve been trialing with students.
Self-compassion is treating yourself with warmth and understanding in difficult times. It is about acknowledging that making mistakes is a part of being human. It is about being mindful of negative thoughts and feelings, but not over-identifying with them, particularly the thoughts that are highly self-critical or demeaning.
Self-compassion can be used during times of high distress. It is a reminder that suffering is a part of life, that you are not broken or damaged because you are suffering, and that the first step to dealing with the situation is to be kind to yourself.
Self-compassion isn’t just about being kind to oneself. It is also a motivational strategy. Those who show compassion to self after failures or mistakes are more motivated to fix things and improve. Self-compassion isn’t letting oneself ‘off the hook’. On the contrary, it might actually be a strong basis for pushing ourselves to be better.
I can think of a number of experiences of being a student that involve significant setbacks: exam stress, getting a bad grade on an assignment, relationship breakups, being away from home and trying to juggle work and study. In all cases, our hope is that students are able to brush themselves off and get back to the task at hand. Learning how to be more self-compassionate may be an important part of the bouncing back process.
Having methods, tools and techniques to deal with this stress is part of what builds resilience and mental fitness.
One of our counsellors prepared this “self-compassion break” 1-pager. If you are going through a stressful time right now, you might want to print this out and put it somewhere where you will see it regularly: bag, fridge, study spot, or perhaps set it as the background of your mobile phone. It is also a good reminder to be kind to oneself during these strange times we find ourselves in at the moment because of COVID-19, where setbacks and failures and mistakes are more common.
To access a pdf copy click here or the image below.