“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” It’s what we often tell ourselves to rally strength in a crisis. Your version of “tough” may look different than that of others. Long days of business and family demands, the financial fallout of the downturn, coping with isolation and loss, the energy it takes to be there for others, the hard work of social change, or the effort just to stay calm and positive …in whatever form, this year most of us are carrying a lot. The ability to be tough is good. And necessary.
But non-stop toughness is not healthy. We need self-compassion too. When we expect too much of ourselves, insist we can somehow do it all, not for a sprint, but indefinitely for as long as it takes, and continually put our own needs last, we put our well-being at risk. We know what we’re supposed to do—exercise often, eat healthy, sleep lots, spend quality time with loved ones, and as if that’s not enough, devote time to a cause we believe in and actively engage in building a better world. Sound advice. But sadly, in unusual times, self-care goals can turn into yet another set of ‘shoulds’ and high standards we can’t possibly meet with all else going on. Some of us keep going in overdrive on all fronts while some of us give up completely and berate ourselves for what we didn’t do well enough or do at all. There is a better way.
This moment is about compassion, a self-care essential. Simple when we think of compassion toward others. It’s kindness, understanding, not judging harshly and gentle support through a challenging time. Not so simple when it comes to treating ourselves with the same care. Maybe it’s time we do. A growing amount of research shows self-compassion benefits overall mental health and well-being. It results in less anxiety and reactive anger and most significantly, boosts emotional resilience. When we treat ourselves with gentle compassion, we’re better able to handle stress and responsibilities.
The good news? Self-compassion is about what to stop doing instead of yet another chore to start.
Push pause on perfection and pressures, for a day or a whole weekend if you can. Even an hour will do you good. Set aside the demands you put on yourself (and inevitably on those around you). Silence your inner critic and taskmaster. So what if there’s too much screen time, Oreos instead of organics, stuff piling up, projects neglected or whatever your personal picture of unacceptable might be. Just to be clear, this is not slacking off. It’s cutting yourself some slack when the going gets tough— the opposite of what we might be inclined to do, but sometimes all we can do, and that’s okay. Actually, it’s often the best way to sustain energy and focus for the long haul. Turns out it’s good for business too.
So please, take a moment to take it easy. Be mindful of the pressure you’re under and what you need. It’s not selfish. In fact, the research also shows that when we’re compassionate with ourselves, we’re more compassionate toward others. We judge less, understand others more and our capacity for kindness and tolerance grows. Doesn’t that sound like something the world needs now?
If you’d like to know more about self-compassion:
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