There is a crisis of overwhelmed, over-worked, exhausted women right now. We’re confusing self-compassion with being selfish and it’s damaging not only to us, but also to those around us.
You deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion, and it needs to start with YOU. If we aren't compassionate with ourselves, then it's virtually impossible for us to: (a) have the energy to take care of others, and (b) model this for our children or anyone else.
You can’t give to others what you don’t have yourself. Here are seven tips to cultivating self-compassion with ease. Treat yourself this Mother's Day by practicing these tools:
1. Take a 15-minute time out.
When a child says awful things, one solution is to give that child a time out to calm down. Guess what, we are saying awful things to ourselves ALL THE TIME in our own heads. When you start to feel overwhelmed, give yourself a 15-minute time out. Go on a nature walk, read a good book, lie in the sun, get a pedicure — whatever helps you relax. Ironically, when you feel the most overwhelmed, is when you need a break the most. So take it.
2. Just say no.
We have a culture of over-commitment. Many of the women I support say yes to things they don’t really want to do, and this feeds their exhaustion. Stop putting the needs of others in front of your own needs. Think of one thing you don’t want to do — it could be going to a birthday party or serving on a board that you don’t really have time for, and commit to just saying no.
3. Cultivate leisure and play time.
A study shows that working mothers have about 30 hours of leisure PER WEEK. The study counted the short periods of time in between activities as “leisure” time, but most women are spending that time thinking of what we need to do next on our To Do List. In addition to taking a 15-minute time out EVERY DAY, try to block off a bigger chunk of time at least once a week to do something just for you. If your house is chaotic, find a place you can escape to, such as a park, a day spa, or sit in a cafe and read a book that feels indulgent.
If there is a voice in your head telling you “I’ll never have time for that!” or “That would be selfish,” simply notice that voice and choose to do it anyway. I do this for a living and I STILL feel guilty. But I've come to recognize that voice and how much pain it has caused me so I don’t let it run my life anymore.
4. Be patient with yourself.
It takes time to change these patterns. If after years of never taking a break, you actually take a five minute break for yourself, consider that a major accomplishment and applaud yourself for doing it.
5. Treat yourself.
Find a way to do something for yourself every week. It could be as simple as making a nice cup of tea or buying yourself flowers. (I’m looking at some bright orange tulips as I write this and they put a smile on my face every time I see them!)
6. Connect and share.
Kristin Neff, a leading researcher on self-compassion, says that self-compassion includes a sense of our common humanity, that we are not struggling alone and others have also had difficult experiences. Find someone else and open up to them about your struggles. Being vulnerable opens the door to shared compassion.
7. Use an affirmation to change your inner script from, “I’m selfish” to, “I deserve this.”
It’s important to train your mind to think differently and build new neural pathways. The subconscious mind likes rhymes. A great affirmation to use is, I am taking care of me, guilt free.
Practicing self-compassion and taking care of yourself is vital, so the next time you are thinking of allowing your husband to clean up or do bedtime stories with the kids while you lie down with a good book, say to yourself, “I am taking care of me, guilt free,” and then DO IT.