A theme that’s been coming up in my client meetings this week (peer development groups) has been how to calm down and re-center when we are feeling anything but calm and centered. These are situations where we are emotionally triggered and tend to behave in a way we later regret. Where we feel negative inside, and cast a negative shadow towards others. Where we are treating people badly because we feel bad. Where we feel depleted, burned out, and are pulling others into our undertow.
I find self-compassion to be such a powerful practice in these situations. It takes so little time, yet changes the quality of our time. It costs nothing, yet is priceless. It is regenerative, not depleting. It is the equivalent of experiencing a drop in cabin pressure, placing our own oxygen mask on first, and then being about to help others put on their oxygen masks. But how do you do it?
Practicing Self Compassion
Kristin Neff, in her book Self-Compassion, outlines four simple statements.
- This is a moment of suffering. (Or: This moment is hard for me.)
- To suffer is a part of being human. (Or: Other people, just like me, are suffering this very moment).
- May I be kind to myself in this moment.
- May I give myself the compassion I need.
I recommend saying these three times to yourself any time you are feeling any negative internal state — from mild anxiety, irritation, frustration, or the like, to very strong emotions such as sadness, fear, or anger. All negative internal states are forms of suffering, whether we notice them or identify them as suffering.
I put together a simple one-pager on this for my clients and shared it with them this week. If you’d like to download it, I’d be happy to share it with you, too. You can snag it here and download the PDF with some useful links and a second book I really like, also related to the same topic. I hope you find it useful.
Action: I recommend following the two-fold practice strategy in the one-pager for five days. See how you feel, and observe whether and how it affects your internal state and sense of well-being. See whether and how it changes your energy and your behavior towards others. See if it is worth it to continue your practice.
I can’t imagine my life without this simple practice, always in my back pocket. I go to it when I’m anxious. When I’m triggered. When I’m in conflict. When I’m irritated, frustrated, insecure, or feeling overwhelmed. It is amazing to become “a friend unto myself”. Play around with it, would you? And see whether it becomes a part of your strategy for flourishing in this magical thing we call life and doing more good and less harm.
Make it a good week!