Kindness and Compassion Toward Self Reduces Stress and Improves Health
How you treat yourself mentally affects your health and well-being. Being able to relax, sleep well, and have fun with “unfinished” tasks and imperfections is a skill many of us don’t have. This is rooted in our belief system about ourselves. Many of us are stuck in a vicious cycle of performance. We don’t know how to “be”, because our worth based on how much we accomplish. This false belief system stresses out the brain and nervous system, literally beats you down physically.
Geez, am I writing this article for myself? My dear friend and colleague, Stephanie Ecke, wrote this amazing article on compassion towards self during this busy time of year. It’s a great time of year to start being nice to you, even if you don’t eat perfectly or miss a work-out. Stephanie is a licensed therapist in San Antonio. Her expertise is trauma resolution and addiction counseling. Enjoy!
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING…
SELF-COMPASSION THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS
by Stephanie Ellis Ecke, LPC, LCDC
I know you’ve read hundreds of articles on stress and the holidays with lots of tried and true techniques for handling stress during this time of year. So what makes this one different? In this article I will help the reader learn the connection between empathy and handling stress and hopefully give you THE one new tool that will dramatically help you through the holiday season.
Self-compassion is made up of two components. The first characteristic is self-kindness, being as kind to yourself as you would a friend. Do I really need to stay out until 2 a.m. when I have to get up early the next day? What would be the kind thing to do for myself? Self-compassion involves radical self-care!
But say, if I do overeat or overdo, I need to be kind to myself with my words. Watch how you are talking to yourself. Would you talk to a friend that way? If not, change your inner dialogue to one of empathy and you’ll see a turnaround. For instance, instead of saying, “How could I eat that? I feel so fat.” Try this: “I ate more than I planned tonight at the party. Tomorrow I’ll be more aware and do better.” Do you notice a difference in how you feel with the first response vs. the second one? With the self-compassionate response, your body relaxed a little, didn’t it? Hence, the need to eat or do more than your body needs, might just tone down a smidge.
In addition to self kindness, one must also practice the second aspect of self-compassion — mindfulness. Mindfulness has two important parts to it. The first component is being in the present moment. Just doing this will calm down the nervous system significantly. The simple act of breathing in and out and being aware of the breath has a distinct calming effect. No matter where we are we can always do a few deep inhales and full exhales. The more you practice this simple move, the more you will experience the benefits of it and how it so effortlessly can move us into the present moment.
Lastly, mindfulness involves being aware of what we are thinking and feeling. Being mindful means not judging ourselves, our thoughts or our emotions and at the same time, catching ourselves when our thoughts and emotions go to extremes. The old saying “HALT – don’t let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired” could be very instrumental in helping us stay mindful of our emotions and on track this holiday season. If we do find ourselves moving to extremes in thought or emotion, we can use empathy and self-kindness, to self-correct and get ourselves gently back in the center.
During this holiday season give yourself the gift of self-compassion. You’ll see that as we cultivate self-compassion, it truly has remarkable stress relieving benefits that will last all year! What a great Christmas present that doesn’t cost a thing!
To learn more about self-compassion, you can go to www.self-compassion.org, or read Kristen Neff’s book “Self Compassion.”
Stephanie Ellis Ecke, LPC, LCDC has been in private practice for over 20 years. She focuses on addiction, codependency, love addiction/love avoidance, childhood trauma and healthy relationships. Her current emphasis is on positive psychology and regenerating images to change memories. She is a basic certified RIM facilitator and has studied extensively with Pia Mellody at the Meadows. Find her on facebook at The Trauma Queen or on her website at www.thetraumaqueen.com