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Practicing Self-Compassion During Difficult Times

Lady Sipping Tea

When it comes to our mood, winter is not always our best friend. Dark mornings and early sunsets, cold, blustery weather, and the mounting pressure of the holiday season can lead us to experience a drop in mood, feelings of inadequacy, and even social anxiety.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can occur due to the change in our circadian rhythm, causing lower energy, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of depression and anxiety. We are also often naturally compelled to reflect on the past twelve months — what we have and haven’t achieved — and feel the inevitable pressure to make positive changes in the new year. No matter how the winter months may affect you, it is a crucial time of year to consider how we can be more compassionate to ourselves.

The power of self-compassion in the workplace:
Self-compassion is often overlooked in the demanding environment of the workplace, despite being a crucial aspect of our overall wellbeing. It involves treating oneself with kindness and understanding during times of stress and hardship, adopting a mindset that acknowledges imperfections without harsh self-judgment. With the ever-increasing demands of work, personal responsibilities, and the impact of global events, cultivating a practice of self-compassion can become a powerful tool for resilience. The workplace is inherently challenging, with deadlines to meet, high expectations, and a constant pressure on oneself to excel.

Practicing self-compassion to prevent burnout:
Self-compassion may help to serve as a buffer against burnout, allowing us to acknowledge that we are human and making mistakes and facing setbacks are a normal part of life and can be overcome. Shifting our perspective from imposing impossibly high standards on ourselves, can create a more positive work environment and prevent the destructive cycle of self-criticism often associated with burnout. Practicing self-compassion contributes to improved mental health, reduced stress, and enhanced overall wellbeing. Treating ourselves with the same kindness we extend to others helps us break free from the grip of perfectionism and the fear of failure. This shift paves the way for greater creativity, resilience, and adaptability in the face of challenges.

How self-kindness unlocks the power of self-compassion:
Practicing self-compassion can take many forms; the most important being self-kindness. One example involves offering oneself the same understanding and encouragement that we would extend to a close friend. Imagine how you would treat a friend struggling with feelings of failure or burnout. How would you respond to your friend in this situation? Write down what you would typically do or say as well as the tone of your communication. Now, think about a time when you have felt challenged or bad about yourself. How do you respond to yourself in this scenario? Take note of the tone and words you use. How does this differ from how you would speak to your friend? Consider why you might act differently in how you treat others versus how you treat yourself in a similar difficult situation.

Practical ways to practice self-compassion:
We can also practice self-compassion through self-reflection, with activities like journalling, meditation, or mindfulness.

Another approach, is to practice gratitude and celebrate small moments of positivity, sometimes known as glimmers. This can help to create a space to process emotions, celebrate achievements, and reinforce a mindset of self-compassion. We are often overcome by negative things that can happen during our day, but we can build a habit of remembering the positive things too. At the end of your workday, try to remember at least one positive thing that happened - a compliment from a client, progress or completion of a project or simply enjoying coffee or lunch with a friend.

While there are many other exercises, we can do to practice self-compassion, it begins with self-awareness. Recognising the self-critical voice is the first step towards building a more compassionate, resilient, and emotionally healthy mindset.

Why not reach out to your dedicated Irish Life Account Manager or Wellbeing Consultant or contact us at wellness@irishlife.ie  and find out how we can help you in this area.

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