When you express compassion toward another person, you wrap them in a kind and caring energy. Within that energy, that person feels your love, empathy, and desire to ease their struggles.
For many people, perhaps even for you, it’s easy to express compassion when your loved ones are undergoing hardships.
But can you direct that compassion inward?
When you’re tired, overwhelmed, and feeling the signs of burnout, can you express love and forgiveness towards yourself?
It can be a little difficult, right?
You might even feel guilty about practicing self-compassion. This guilt likely stems from internalizing a few myths about self-compassion.
What Self-Compassion Is Not
It isn’t self-indulgent. Self-compassion isn’t a convenient excuse to “treat yourself.” Rather, it’s a deliberate practice of directing kindness inward, especially when you’re scattered, forgetful, and drained from overworking yourself. You aren’t a stone wall, immune to the daily hustle and bustle. You’re human. You feel things. You need things. You desire things. You especially need time for yourself to avoid burning out.
It isn’t selfish. Love and kindness are infinite resources. When you enjoy them for yourself, you can create more to share with the people around you. You’re entitled to appreciate and celebrate yourself. I encourage you to do so – and often. When you love and care for yourself, your improved well-being helps you recover and shields you from burnout.
It isn’t for the weak. Self-compassion is for the strong. When your inner and outer worlds pull you in every direction, highlight your flaws, and drain your energy, it’s difficult to be kind to yourself. But having the strength to express kindness and forgiveness to yourself when you’re feeling burned out…that demands incredible strength and resolve.
How Does Self-Compassion Help You Avoid Burnout?
Burning out often leads to feeling guilty because you know you can do more or do better. This adds to the frustration that accumulates after pushing yourself too hard for too long.
At this point, you’re exhausted, stressed, and desperate for a solution.
Self-compassion protects you from reaching this critical breaking point, by encouraging you to take care of your body and mind.
Expressing kindness to yourself teaches you to accept your shortcomings. Forgiving yourself gives you permission to learn and grow from your stumbles.
What are some challenges in your own life right now? What events are leaving you drained or stressed? Keep these in mind as you read through the following tips for practicing self-compassion.
4 Tips on How to Cultivate Self-Compassion
1. Practice Mindfulness.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, sit down in a comfortable chair and close your eyes.
Listen to your body. Do you feel any tightness or heaviness? How about any aches or tingling? Notice these sensations and accept them.
How about your mind? Do you feel like your thoughts are scattered? Are you experiencing moments of self-doubt or guilt? Notice them and accept them.
Be fully present with your body and mind. This self-compassion exercise helps you accept your thoughts and feelings without assigning judgment. Self-compassion isn’t about fixing yourself. Rather, it helps you notice your struggles and accept that they’re a natural part of life.
2. Forgive Yourself.
Perfection is a myth. The faster that sinks in, the quicker you’ll recover from mistakes. If you’ve set your New Year’s intention but you’ve already fallen off track, take a moment to accept that you’ve stumbled. Forgive yourself, and then take small actions to get back on track.
The trick to preventing burnout is shifting your perspective. Don’t judge yourself for the number of times you’ve fallen. Rather, celebrate each time you practice self-compassion by forgiving yourself and standing back up.
3. Make Space for Your Inner Advocate.
You’re probably deeply familiar with your inner critic. Sometimes your inner critic is helpful; she points out areas where you can improve. But sometimes she is overflowing with pessimism. She fills your mind with self-doubt and worry.
It’s time to introduce your inner critic to your inner advocate. When your inner critic faults you for unfinished errands or pushes you to overwork yourself, your inner advocate will be your voice of reason.
Each time your inner critic slings negativity at you, let your inner advocate shield you with reminders of your strengths and achievements. You’ve done so much to get to where you are today. Your inner advocate can be your spokesperson for self-kindness and encouragement.
4. Give Yourself a Break.
Try driving a car without any gas in the tank – it just doesn’t work. It’s the same when you burn out. Your body and mind won’t function the way you need them to.
Self-compassion gives you permission to take a break when you need one. And the break doesn’t have to be a week-long vacation; it can be a night to yourself.
Practice sensory self-care by running a warm bath with candles. Massage on your favorite lotion. Eat a wholesome meal. These brief moments of self-compassion teach you that breaks are necessary to your well-being.
Love Yourself Today
Self-compassion is challenging. It’s difficult to accept and love ourselves, especially when we’ve fallen short of our goals. You build self-compassion into your daily life by prioritizing it and making it a habit. To form a long-lasting habit, you practice it deliberately and consistently.
Self-compassion is no exception. When you practice the above tips every day, it becomes easier to recover from your mistakes and to forgive your shortcomings.