Everything I do is built around these three words: nurture then manage.
We need to nurture ourselves in small, regular, sometimes creative ways before we can successfully implement any plans or strategies to handle the stress in our lives.
Why? Because when we’re stressed our emotions divert our brain’s resources. We end up starving the rational part of the brain that takes more considered decisions.
Until our fight-or-flight response is reduced, trying to manage ourselves is like trying to turn down the oven in a kitchen that’s currently on fire; misguided, inefficient, and somebody’s gonna get burned. Luckily, self-compassion is our emotional fire-brigade.
Building stress resilience through self-care involves the three areas of self-compassion which Dr Kristen Neff has identified; self-kindness, mindfulness and common humanity.
- Self-kindness: Being friendly, generous and considerate towards ourselves. Unlike numbing, which often leaves us feeling guilty, self-kindness and comfort leaves us feel restored, renewed and peaceful.
- Mindfulness: Which can be summed up in one word: notice. By noticing our thoughts and how we feel, without being caught up or impressed, we can see that we’re something separate from our thoughts and emotions. Meditation is simply giving ourselves the time and space to notice while we put our more usual distractions on hold.
- Common humanity: Accepting that we’re only human, and that we’re not alone in being human. We all feel scared, a failure, too much or not enough in various areas of our lives. The shame of those feelings keeps us isolated and disconnected from ourselves and others. Common humanity helps us know that what we fear set us apart from others actually connects us to others through shared feelings and experiences.
Life happens, and just keeps happening. I can share simple strategies to be kinder to ourselves when it does.