Self-Compassion in the Time of COVID-19
There is no shortage of articles on the impact COVID-19 has had on mental health. This last year has been an unprecedented onslaught of anxiety, uncertainty, grief, isolation and disruption. And, though the tide seems to be turning in our favor, the mental and emotional impact of COVID-19 lingers.
Below are some tools that can help you manage your mental and emotional health as you return to normalcy.
Stop shoulding all over yourself. Pay attention to the times you tell yourself what you should be feeling. Try to note how often you are judging yourself for your emotional state. If you want to blow your own mind, keep a scrap of paper on you for a day and make hashmarks on it every time you find yourself saying things like “I should be grateful for this time with my family,” or “I should have done more for my career,” or whatever flavor your self-judgment takes.
Keep track of how often you give yourself subtle or not-so-subtle reprimands for how you feel and act. Oh, and the hard part, don’t beat yourself up when you catch yourself. That’s right: the most natural response to paying attention to negative self-talk? Being upset with ourselves for negative self-talk.
Great. I’ve paid attention and noted that I kick myself for something almost constantly. My hashmarks took up the whole scrap of paper and now I feel really bad. Great advice, now what?
Part of the subtext to our negative self-talk is the unchallenged belief that there is a better/righter/stronger way to face a challenge and due to our personal deficits we failed (or are failing, or will fail) at our approach. Developing new ways of seeing ourselves and talking to ourselves can lead to helpful shifts in emotional health but it takes some work. A lot of diligent work, in fact. But getting started can be easy. Think of it like training for a marathon: you start with a step and you build up over time. Being kind to yourself, speaking kindly to yourself, can take intentionality and effort, so lets start with a step. Here is what I want you to do: after you’ve learned to catch yourself (even if only occasionally) being self-critical, add the following should, “I should be kind to myself” or “I should be patient with myself.”
That’s it. No magic tricks to get that negative, nagging voice to leave you be. No naval-gazing or wondering why it is so easy to be mean to yourself. Simply get into the practice of one additional cue to be kind to yourself. No matter how valid you feel some of the criticisms might be, no one ever shamed themselves into meaningful self-improvement. Compassion for yourself, not criticism, will get you wherever you need to be on the other side of this crazy period in our lives.