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Community Health: Education, Prevention & Inspiration

Embrace the end of the year compassionately

Woman holding a heart made of white light

As we approach mid-December, you may feel the hustle and bustle of the season weighing you down. For some, it may be the stress of extra social engagements; others might be feeling the financial pinch of purchasing gifts; many can relate to the added responsibilities of wrapping up commitments before the year comes to a close.

As you think about your struggles during this time, how do you respond to yourself? If you hear that harsh voice of the inner critic, you are not alone. Now, what if a close friend shared the same concerns? Would you use that same harsh tone in responding to them? Probably not.

It is not uncommon to treat your friends and loved ones more gently than you treat yourself. Research demonstrates that 84% of people are kinder to their friends than themselves. So, how can we give ourselves the kindness and care we would give a friend?

Three strategies for awakening self-compassion:

  • Soothing touch: The next time you speak unkindly to yourself, place one or both hands over your heart and take a few breaths. Physical touch releases oxytocin (the hormone associated with love, empathy, and trust) and soothes distressing emotions.
  • Softening words of self-criticism: When you catch yourself saying something like “I never get anything right,” you might try “I will get it next time” or “I’m learning and growing every day.” Experiment with what feels right for you.
  • Loving-kindness meditation: There are three stages to this meditation. Offering words of loving-kindness to yourself, a neutral person, and a challenging person. Start slow.

The practices above can be used anytime and as often as needed. While this may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, I encourage you to choose one technique and stick with it for a week or more. You will likely find more ease with time and maybe even begin to make friends with your inner nurturer.

The practice of self-compassion benefits oneself as well as others. In addition to building inner strength and self-reliance, nurturing self-acceptance also increases the ability to understand others and make compromises in relationships.