Tips to get us through those tough moments during the festive season…

Posted by Karen in mindfulness | Personal Development | Reflections | Self-compassion | Wellbeing

We often experience the end of the year as a very busy, full and stressful period with many demands on our time and energy. For many of us, it is also the most emotionally charged time of the year. We sense the spoken and unspoken family expectations in the run-up and during the festive season.

It’s a time of year when knowing how to be self-compassionate can make all the difference.

Although many of us look forward to spending time with our loved ones at Christmas, it’s not always easy to get it right for everyone. Sometimes we find ourselves being grumpy or snappy with someone or someone treats us in this way. These can be tough and difficult moments that can lead to major arguments or feeling low, sad, annoyed or resentful. What often makes matters worse is our own harsh, self-critical inner judge.

When we begin to listen to the inner voice, we discover that it is far from playing the role of a supportive friend (treating us with empathy and understanding). It is instead a constant critic, pointing out personal failings and leaving us feeling upset, demotivated and unhappy.

This discovery often comes with an understandable sense of sadness. The discovery that we are standing in the way of our own happiness. However, once we come to terms with how harshly we often treat, belittle and undermine ourselves, there follows some relief because we can make sense of what’s been going on for us and we can start to do something about it.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and show self-compassion – treating ourselves with kindness, love and forgiveness, in the words of Kristin Neff, a pioneering self-compassion researcher, “we feel safe and accepted enough to both see ourselves clearly and make the changes needed to be healthier and happier.”

Here is how we can practise self-compassion

Self-compassion has three core components:

Mindfulness – the ability to hold painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness; i.e. experiencing and seeing them for what they are rather than over-identifying with them. To do this, we need to pay attention to how we feel when something difficult happens even if we feel uncomfortable. Be with the feeling. For example: “Ah, I feel frustrated, I feel upset, I feel anxious. That’s how I feel. It’s difficult, I don’t like it and that’s how I feel right now. It’s okay to feel like that.”

Common humanity: We need to remember that other people feel this way, that we are not the only ones that experience difficulty – rather than your experience making you feel separated and isolated from others. We all struggle at points in life and can relate to frustration, disappointment, anger, sadness as well as feelings of joy and contentment. “Yes, I feel frustrated and sad that I behaved in that way. It’s human. In that moment, I didn’t know any better. I can learn from it and do something different next time.”

Self-compassion – being kind and understanding towards ourselves when we experience pain or failure rather than being harshly self-critical. We need to ask ourselves: “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness, warmth and understanding to myself?” And we can continue saying for example: “Christmas is a difficult time of year for many people. Spending time with family members is not always easy. I did the best I could. It’s not about me personally.”

We can learn to be more self-compassionate so that we can be kinder and more understanding of ourselves when we most need it, i.e. in tough moments.

Here is a powerful, helpful and one of my favourite self-compassion exercises – The self-compassionate break: (from Kristin Neff).

And if you want to read a previous post about self-compassion please click here.

On a slightly different topic, I was delighted to be asked to comment on an article about Life After 40 which you can read here

Wishing you a self-compassionate and enjoyable festive season!


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