Self-Compassion: Treating Yourself Well When You’re Down

You know those moments when you feel completely lost, stressed out and unsure what to do, where to go? When everything overwhelms you and you feel like it’s all falling apart?

Yeah, me too.

We all go through these periods, they’re a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do to get through those times more easily

Often we tend to criticize ourselves, thinking that will make us “pull ourselves together” or “just get over it”, but it doesn’t really work that way.

tenderness

According to the New York Times research has shown that people who score higher on a self-compassion test “…have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic.” But what can you do, to treat yourself with more compassion?

Things You Can Do in the Moment

  1. Talk kindly to yourself
    How would you talk to your best friend? Would you be speaking harshly and criticize your friend?
    Probably not. Most likely you would talk to her kindly and gently.  Encourage her to look after herself, and tell her she’s going to be okay. (And this goes for your male friends too).
    Do the same thing for yourself. Remind yourself that this is just one bad moment, and you’ll get through it. Speak to yourself kindly. When I’m feeling my worst I remember to call myself ‘darling’ and ‘honey’ instead of ‘idiot’ and ‘stupid’. It might seem silly at first, but it actually works.
  2. Remember to eat
    Often when I feel the worst it is because my blood sugar is down and I haven’t eaten. However, when you’re feeling down or stressed out you might not want to eat (alternatively, you might start eating for comfort). Try to bring awareness to what you’re doing or not doing.
    If you realize you haven’t eaten today, ask yourself: “Sweetheart, what would you like to eat right now?” It doesn’t have to be anything big, it doesn’t even have to be particularly healthy. At that moment, you just need to look after yourself, and get through that rough spot until you feel a bit better again.
    Alternatively, if you’re comfort eating (and I do both, depending on the situation), just try to be aware of the situation. “I’m feeling upset, so I’m eating this bowl of candy. It’s okay. ”  Acknowledge that this is just one moment where you’re feeling upset, and stop judging yourself.
  3. BREATHE
    Just take a deep breath – or several. Taking a deep breath and holding it for a moment actually “forces” your nervous system to relax, bringing your pulse and blood pressure down and helping you to calm down and think clearer.
    Personally I need something very simple, so I know exactly what to do, when I need it. I use a simple breathing exercise:
    - Breathe in while slowly counting to six. Make sure to breathe all the way into your stomach and really fill your lungs with air.
    - Hold your breath while slowly counting to six again.
    - Breathe out while slowly counting to six for a third time, making sure to really empty your lungs for air.
    In the beginning you might find it difficult to count to six, so start by counting to four, and work your way up to counting to six or even eight.
    If you want to do a more thorough exercise I find this technique for letting go of stress very helpful as well.
    If you’re used to meditating that would most likely calm and soothe you as well, but personally I find my mind can’t settle down, and I think it is important to not push yourself too hard, when you’re feeling fragile, as you don’t want to add another feeling of “failure” to the experience.
  4. Call a friend
    If it’s not in the middle of the night, see if you can call a friend for a chat. Just talking to someone else can be a great way to remind us that we are not alone, and once we remember that, things usually seem a bit easier and not as scary.
    Even better, see if you can spend time with someone in person – and get a proper hug. And hugging your pets count too. Hugs and other affectionate touches release Oxytocin, aka the Love Hormone, which makes you feel better.
    By the way, connecting with people online totally counts as well, my online circle of friends has helped me through a lot of tough situations – and best thing is they’re spread across the world, so I can usually always find someone who’s available.
  5. Get enough sleep
    If you haven’t had a proper night’s sleep it is easy to feel overwhelmed by everything around you.
    Would it be possible for you to take a nap? Otherwise, definitely try to get some extra sleep tonight.
    In the meantime, go easy on yourself and keep in mind, that you might be feeling everything a little more strongly than usual.
  6.  Take a bath/shower
    Not because I don’t think you’re clean already ;)
    Having a bath or taking a shower gives you a break, time to slow down, breathe and get back into your body instead of living in your head.
  7. Go for a walk
    Getting outside, a bit of fresh air and if you’re lucky some sunshine, is a great way to clear your thoughts and to feel better.
    When feeling angry or upset about a situation, taking a walk with some loud music in my headphones has often helped me to clear my head. Plus research has shown that the vitamin D we get from sun exposure can help deal with and lower the risk of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
    Of course the walk can be substituted for a run, bike ride or any other exercise, which you enjoy (although getting outside really is a great thing for lifting your mood, so if the weather allows, give it a go).
  8. Watch a movie
    Or a show you enjoy, or read a great book. This might be a good time to return to an old favourite, something which you know puts you in a good mood. This again gives you a break from your thoughts and hopefully a laugh.
If you want to learn more about treating yourself kindly and loving yourself as is, I greatly suggest you check out Medicinal Marzipan, her blog is a treasure trove of excellent articles on these topics, such as Learning to Love Yourself Even When You Feel Awful.

Questions

What do you do when you’re feeling stressed out or upset? Do you treat yourself with compassion?
Any other questions or comments, please share, I love hearing from you!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it.

9 Comments

  1. Walking tends to help me. And maybe talking with a friend or family member.

    • Yeah walking can be really great, I find the mix of fresh air and physical movement really beneficial.
      Talking really depends on how you feel that moment – and who you’re talking to.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Susanne!

      • Yes true! Sometimes I just want to be alone and some people actually bring me down. But sometimes the reason I’m down is because I’m a bit lonely so being around certain people (like my nephews :) ) is helpful.

      • Yeah I suppose it really depends on why you’re feeling down – if you’re stressed you might need time by yourself, if you’re feeling lonely that’s when you need other. And kids are always great!

  2. Very good post! Particularly the first points I tend to forget when I feel down.

    For me, it particularly important to slow down and do enough things for myself that enjoy me to feel better. It’s true that when you treat yourself with kindness and compassion, you feel more like a person who deserves kindness of compassion. (And you deserve it anyway.)

    • Thank you Kath! I definitely think you are right, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It took me a while to learn to be kind to myself, and to speak kindly to myself, but it really make a huge difference.

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