A lot of my posts and stories recently have been focused around self-compassion. I am not expert in it, nor am I saying everyone should be nicer to themselves NOW or else. But Actively Autoimmune is about sharing what I'm going through and find helpful, as well as helping use movement with chronic illness. I have started seeing a pain psychologist because I felt my resilience of pain, medical procedures, infections and chronic illness life basically was getting worn down.
As a physiotherapist and a patient with chronic pain for over 15 years I thought I knew most things about pain management. I understand the physiology and the fact it is affected by our experiences, fears etc. I know mindfulness/meditation, relaxation activities and movement are all good in managing pain. However what I didn't know was this link between self-criticism and the ongoing affect this has on our body.
When you say you should speak nicely to yourself? I am sure you are like me and agree thats great and easy to suggest but find its a lot harder to do. You wouldn't tell a friend who was struggling she is being lazy, useless, not trying hard enough would you? But yet this kind of negative talk is often the first thoughts we have if we make a mistake or when we don't like our appearance, or things go wrong for us. I then found that I was being even more critical because I was being critical..it seemed like I wouldn't break this cycle!
However the more I have learned through this 'journey' about WHY we are so self critical and then WHY it actually its better for us both mentally and physically to be kinder to ourselves, the easier I've found to implement it.
What is self-compassion?
Compassion is a basic kindness with a deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living things, coupled with the wish & effort to relieve it. It is made up of 4 components: 1. Awareness 2. Normalising 3. Kindness 4. Alleviation
What does this actually mean?
Self compassion is about doing all four of these things for ourselves when we are struggling. To be aware of our pain, understanding that whilst this pain is hard, it is a normal experience , not a failing on our part and we are not alone. It then involves directing feelings of kindness and care towards ourselves, just as we might to someone else we care about who is struggling. And finally focusing our attention and energy on how we might improve our pain and move through the struggle we are facing.
Why is it important?
1. It has an evolutionary importance - care of ourselves and others is vital for our survival
2. Self-compassion is linked to our mental health and well being. Studies show those who are more self-compassionate have less mental health issues