Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been grappling with what seemed an intractable problem. Part of the difficultly around ‘fixing’ or ‘solving’ it was due to my inability to recognise and accept the current situation. The other part of it was I was being very self-critical over not being able to ‘deal with it’. After all in my line of work it should be a piece of cake, right? No, wrong.
Self-criticism and its sibling Shame, hold a huge amount of energy, and if we can find a way through them, we can build skilful ways of working with these two devils.
No matter who you are or what you do, you have to have a variety of skills you can call upon in these frustrating everyday life occurrences.
In order to break this deadlock, I reminded myself of a simple exercise I learnt during compassion training (yes, it’s a thing, and a good thing at that). So here is my go-to version of the self-compassion break:
- Place one hand into the palm of the other (this is an anchor that reminds the brain we are in ‘soothing mode’. The more you do it, the more the association is logged in your brain and you can do this any where — like a your own built in app).
- Take a few, conscious deeper breaths in and out (no hyperventilation please)
- Say to yourself (in your own head or you might frighten other people in your train carriage or supermarket) “Difficulties are part of everyone’s life. I am not alone.”
- Move onto “May I treat myself with kindness, as I would a good friend (a small puppy, a newly born baby, my childhood teddy, Captain of the English Rugby team — insert your own focus here. One that conjures up a warm and compassionate feeling).
You might find these phrases are just the job, but it is worth playing around with them to see if you can find the wording that works best for you.
Once you have settled on your particular set up, why not write them on a small card or add them into your phone. Then, the next time the old self-critic pops up to give you a hard time, you can give it a run for it’s money.
It really is a handy tool to help soothe and calm troubled states of mind.
Why not let me know how you get on? Leave a message below and don’t forget to give this piece a clap (see little hands image below) — I really can’t rely on myself all the time to keep my spirits up. I’m human after all.
Sue Wright is Director, Operations and a Wellbeing and Recovery Coach at walnuttreehealthandwellbeing.co.uk, headquartered in Norfolk, UK. She served with the Royal Navy and is now studying for an MSc in Mindfulness Studies at University of Aberdeen. Sue is powered by tea.