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Would you ever speak to a dog like that?

self care stress

I'm poking my head up for air after a month of non-stop online workshops and webinars. 

Everyone is hurting and tired right now. 

When we're struggling and exhausted one of the most helpful things we can do is to meet our distress with self-compassion, instead of judgment.

Self-compassion means offering ourselves the same kindness and understanding that we would offer others, whether that’s a friend we’ve known for 20 years or a dog we've known for 20 seconds.

Self-compassion is complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. 

It can be as simple as talking to ourselves in a kind tone of voice when we screw up or we’re in pain. Or giving our own hand a squeeze.

We already know how to do it. 

If a dog was in pain or frightened, we would talk to them in a soothing voice and (if they wanted us to) we’d pet them gently. 

If our friend made a mistake and was beating themselves up, we might give them a hug or hold their hand or just let them know they’re not alone. 

But that's not how we typically respond to ourselves when we're struggling. 

Instead of kindness and understanding, we punish ourselves with criticism or dismiss our needs as being less important. 

We beat ourselves up for being unable to do more when we’re already pushing ourselves past our limits. 

We judge our human-ness so harshly. 

Talking to ourselves this way activates our stress response, draining our depleted energy even further. 

Self-compassion is what we actually need to keep going. 

Being kind to ourselves and recognizing our own suffering (without over-identifying with those feelings) is like positive reinforcement for humans, helping us to keep trying despite our fundamental inability to fix everything or save everyone. 

One of the more direct and effective ways to offer ourselves compassion is through soothing, supportive touch

Things like putting your hands on your heart or your cheeks, squeezing your hands, or cradling your elbows.  

The animal in us responds quickly to the warmth of kind touch. 

The other way is to shift your inner monologue and the tone of voice you take with yourself. 

When you’re upset, talk to yourself the way you would talk to an animal who is stressed, scared, or in pain. 

Responding to yourself with kindness isn’t indulgent or even just a nice thing to do, it energizes you to keep going. 

This isn’t my opinion.

There's a large body of research that shows self-compassion is powerfully linked to well-being, strongly associated with fewer negative states like depression, anxiety, stress, and shame, and in helping professionals and caregivers it's linked with higher satisfaction and reduced burnout. 

It's also an effective way to soothe our stress response when we’re activated by empathic distress. 

The next time you're tired, upset, or struggling, try a short self-compassion break

Take a moment, before you charge into fix-it mode, to offer your animal body soothing touch and words. 

You can say anything you like, but here are some phrases from Kristin Neff, self-compassion genius, that I’ve modified a bit: 


I am not the sole cause of this animal or person’s suffering,

And it may not be entirely in my power to make it go away,

even though I wish I could.

Moments like this are difficult to bear; 

may I recognize my limits compassionately

and still try to help, if I can.


Or you can give these phrases a try.  

If you’d like more, check out this practice, specifically for caregivers, led by Kristin Neff.



“...We need to generate lots of compassion — for both ourselves and the person we’re caring for — in order to remain in the presence of suffering without being overwhelmed. In fact, sometimes we may need to spend the bulk of our attention on giving ourselves compassion so that we have enough emotional stability to be there for others.” - Kristin Neff



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