There is a gift that everyone working in schools deserves this year – but I wonder how many will take the time to welcome it or realise how much they need it.
It’s the gift of self-compassion, but before you groan and scroll by just take a moment to see why it is so important.
According to researcher Dr Kristin Neff self-compassion is a superpower. If you are facing difficult times, then self-compassion will help you get through. Its impact on our resilience and inner strength should not be underestimated.
Dr Neff and her team studied US soldiers returning from active duty and what they found was amazing. There was a greater link between low levels of self-compassion and developing PTSD, than there was between the amount of combat experienced. In other words, a lack of self-compassion was more predictive of PTSD than was the person’s combat experiences. Higher levels of self-compassion seemed to be protecting the soldiers from the worst effects of their experiences. That’s a very powerful tool to have to hand.
This means spending a few moments to give yourself a compassion break could be one of the most important things you do. For your self-compassion break, take a moment to sit quietly and preferably close your eyes and follow these three steps.
- Allow yourself to notice things are hard. So often we want to solve everyone’s problems without taking time to recognise how difficult things are. This step isn’t about dwelling on challenges and feeling worse. Rather it’s a simple acknowledgment that life is sometimes very hard. Phrases like: “This is hard”, “This is tough”, or even “This sucks” can work very well.
- It’s easy to feel isolated at the moment. Reminders to remain away from others are everywhere, but that does not mean we face these troubled times alone. It is good to remember that around the world we stand with millions of others who are also battling with issues like ours. A simple reminder such as: “I’m not alone in feeling this way”, “Other people are suffering too”, or “I’m not the only one finding this hard” will really help.
- Finally, there is the opportunity to offer yourself the same kindness and reassurance you would your best friend. Again simple phrases are the best. Things like: “I’m doing the best I can”, “It will be ok”, or “It’s ok to take a moment for me”, or any other phrase of reassurance will work.
These are not just empty phrases. They will help restore a sense of mental peace and calm, allowing you to reduce your stress levels (by lowering adrenaline and cortisol), help you bounce back more quickly from what you have been dealing with, and approach life with a clearer mind. That’s quite a gift, and no wrapping required.