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Practising Self-Compassion during COVID-19

Practising self-compassion can help you manage your response to COVID-19. These are anxious times, many of us are experiencing exponential change. We need to grapple with it, adapt and respond, and it seems all at lightning pace. And it’s tough. The virus has thrown us into a sea of anxiety and we are swimming in it daily. It has impacted our contact with friends, our autonomy, our ability to work and travel reduced or eliminated our incomes, made us fear for our health and the wellbeing of those we love.

So what can each of us do?

What can each of us do? This is where self-compassion comes in. Self-compassion boosts the immune system, it reduces anxiety, and it’s the easiest way to keep our hearts open to others. Some measure of fear is a healthy response to a contagious virus, of course. We want to respond to the contagion in a wise manner – with preventive measures that benefit ourselves and others.

Leading experts on self-compassion Drs Kristen Neff and Chris Germer, recommend a daily self- compassionate practice in response to the COVID-19 epidemic which looks something like this,

Mindfulness: Become aware of how you feeling? Are you feeling anxious, disheartened, confused? Can you feel it in your body? If so, where? Is your mind preoccupied with the virus? If so, what are your thoughts? Can you validate for yourself how you think or feel in a kind and understanding manner? For example, “Yes, this is hard.” “This is difficult.” “This is really stressful.” Can you offer yourself a little space around your feelings, knowing that it’s part of the current situation we’re all in?

Remembering you are not alone – we’re all this together: When you hear news of people struggling with the virus, can you allow this to enhance your sense of being part of a global family rather than feeling separate? Can you imagine yourself in their situation and say, “Just like me.” Or when you reflect on your own distress, can you remind yourself, “Others feel as I do—I am not alone.” “Sickness is part of living.” “This is how it feels to be a human being right now.”

Self-Kindness and Self-Talk: Try putting your hand on heart, helping to calm some of your anxiety through touch. What words do you need to hear to comfort or reassure yourself about the virus right now? Can you talk to yourself in a warm, compassionate voice?What actions do you need to take to protect yourself, or to provide for yourself? Can you encourage yourself to take these steps, in a supportive manner?

Notice if this practice makes you feel more relaxed and compassionate or encourages you to take positive action.