The Value of Self-Compassion in Times of Crisis
As we adjust our daily routines during the coronavirus lockdown, some days are likely to be more challenging than others
Clinical psychologist Dr Patapia Tzotzoli explains how self-compassion can help you reduce negative self-talk and face these challenges during lockdown
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We have all been affected by the recent coronavirus outbreak, either by contracting the virus or by experiencing disruption to our daily lives. As we face these unprecedented challenges, it’s important to remember that being kind to ourselves can help us keep it together until we reach the other side of this unfortunate situation.
Feeling “not good enough”
We have been doing all we can to settle into a new routine while following government guidance to stay at home as the UK attempts to contain the spread of coronavirus. But during this lockdown phase, there will inevitably be days that we find particularly challenging.
Whether we struggle to balance our work commitments with family time, or we find ourselves watching our child (or partner) having yet another meltdown. Or perhaps we’ll struggle to find ways to avoid boredom or keep up with chores around the house.
Whatever the challenge, there will be days on which we feel we aren’t doing a “good enough” job.
This feeling of inadequacy is often accompanied by shame, which in turn can cause us to feel stressed or low. We may start neglecting ourselves, initiating arguments with others, or turn to maladaptive coping mechanisms such as excessing drinking.
At times like these it’s even more important to stay connected with yourself and the simple practice of self-compassion can help.
Self-compassion in a crisis
Words have the power to define the nature of our reality. So when we engage in self-talk, we shouldn’t be reckless with the words we use. Rather, we should be mindful of both our own perception of reality and the broader view – this help us be more compassionate toward ourselves.
The following three steps can help you to assess the story you are telling yourself about your reality, and to be more compassionate by changing the language you use in self-talk:
1) Remember you’re not alone
Although people don’t always talk about it, we all experience feelings of inadequacy and shame. This doesn’t just happen to you – it’s part of our shared human experience. Recognising this may help to ease the feelings of shame.
2) Use gentle words
So, when you feel you’re not “good enough” or as if you’re failing, don’t suppress those feelings. Don’t numb your pain and try hard not to criticise or compare yourself with others. Use gentle words to refer to yourself. Be kind and understanding as if you are your own best friend who loves you unconditionally.
3) Be balanced and fair
Finally, try not to over-identify with your worrying thoughts as this can draw you into negativity. Be fair. Take a more balanced approach by acknowledging your failings but also celebrating your successes.
You may find it helpful to come up with a phrase to say to yourself when you feel you’re not doing a good enough job. Here is an example:
I am not alone in this. Everyone feels the same at times. I am trying my best. I didn’t have time to play with my kids today, but I did cook lunch and dinner for them. I didn’t respond to all my work emails, but I finished my report. All I need to do is just be here and do all I can. And this is good enough.
For more techniques on how to take care of your mental health during the coronavirus crisis, click here.