By: Sherry Hole RN BN MN
Hard-wired to Protect!
We come into this world hard-wired to protect ourselves from danger. Then, as we experience the ups and downs of ever-day life, we learn how to build even stronger barriers to pain and suffering. In the wake of COVID-19, many are feeling more vulnerable than ever before. In fact, feeling safe and protected has all but fallen to the wayside having been replaced with worry, anxiety, fear and exhaustion.
This couldn’t be truer than it is for healthcare professionals.
As a healthcare professional, I understand what it is like to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I understand what it feels like to put the health and well-being of others before my own.
I have experienced what it is like to be mentally overwhelmed and exhausted. I have experienced how physical feelings of stress and anxiety lead to negative or stressful thought patterns. The result can be a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions that only serve to exacerbate the problem.
When we exercise self-compassion, we suffer less and become more resilient. This allows us to cope better, not only when faced with significant challenges like that of COVID-19, but also with the challenges of everyday life.
What exactly is Self-Compassion?
What if I told you that our innate ability to protect ourselves from outside threats can be used, in turn, to protect ourselves from the threat and harmful effects of inner dialogue? Let’s explore this a bit more!
Self-compassion is about how we treat ourselves. It is about forgiveness. Our Western culture holds forgiveness in high regard—forgiveness for others, that is. Imagine the last time your friend, child or spouse made a mistake or was struggling emotionally. How did you react? Most will respond that they forgave the mistake, exercised patience, or that they reached out to offer comfort and support. Sadly, we often lack the same forgiveness, patience and compassion when it comes to ourselves.
Self-compassion is about honoring our vulnerability.
Self-compassion is about returning the favor. It is about showing the same compassion, forgiveness, and patience to ourselves that we show to others.
Self-compassion teaches us to change our inner dialogue so that we become our own alley, especially in times of need.
When we honor ourselves, we are recognizing our human interconnectedness. We are recognizing that we are all a work-in-progress, that everyone including ourselves makes mistakes and experiences hardships.
Is Self-Compassion Selfish?
To the contrary! Self-compassion and self-care are acts of self-responsibility. Neff and Germer (2018) would argue that self-compassion is actually the antidote to self-pity. Self-compassion is recognizing that we all experience hardships. When self-compassion is exercised, the focus is on perspective, rather than one’s own distress. In other words, self-compassionate people remember that everyone suffers; and, thus they don’t exaggerate the extent of their own suffering.
Mindfulness & Self-Compassion
Having self-compassion requires self-awareness and self-awareness requires mindfulness. The two can actually be seen as one in the same. To be mindful means to be aware. To engage in self-compassion, we must first understand what it is that we are to be compassionate about. We must be aware of what we are experiencing—our thoughts, our feelings, our emotions, our sensations, our pain, and our joy.
However, instead of acknowledging what we are experiencing, especially when it is painful, we often choose to bury it…until one day we can’t.
To show self-compassion, we must be aware of our suffering. This means we need to tune in to what we are experiencing.
Let’s talk about our human nature again. When faced with challenges, suffering, or pain our innate response is to put a stop to it, to problem-solve, to find a solution.
Does this mean we don’t find solutions to our problems? Of course not! However, when problems are mindfully approached using self-compassion, we are more likely to acknowledge our discomfort, without judgement, and face the truth around our experience. Rather than being swept away in a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions that only serve to narrow our focus and exaggerate the experience, being mindfully self-compassionate allows us to be focused and calm.
How Self-Compassionate are You?
The path to self-awareness and self-compassion begins by taking stock, or doing an objective assessment, of our own level of self-compassion. If you are interested in seeing where you sit, follow this link to do a free assessment:
Developing a practice in mindful self-compassion increases our resiliency, our ability to cope with stress and adversity, as well as our ability to show compassion to others.
As the old saying goes “you can’t pour from an empty cup”
S. Hole RN BN MN BC-HN BC-HWNC IHC
Founder & President at TheCIINDE
A registered nurse and educator for 30 years, Sherry has found her passion in holistic nursing and coaching and the connection between mind, body and spirit.
Her journey to rediscovering joy amidst her own life and health challenges led her to holistic nursing, and as she says, “the rest is history”. When she started applying what she was learning through holistic nursing and coaching into her daily activities she experienced a profound shift in not only her health, but also in her overall perspective and approach to life.Sherry believes that anyone can learn mindful practices; and, that mindfulness coupled with subtle changes in how we perceive our world can have an unfathomable effect on our physical and mental health and well-being.
Sherry’s mission is to share her knowledge, experience and compassion with others so that they can experience more joy, peace and calm in everything that they do!
Neff, K. & Germer, C. (2018). The mindful self-compassion workbook: A proven way to accept yourself, build inner strength, and thrive. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.