I have been reading some of the research and work done by Kristin Neff at the University of Texas, in Austin. Her research identifies three keys to practicing self-compassion: being aware of your own pain, recognizing that all human beings experience suffering, and discovering how to best care for yourself in the midst of your pain and struggles.
These are givens when we extend grace and compassion to others who are hurting. You notice someone is in pain, you feel a desire to care for them, and you give kindness and gentleness and casseroles to comfort them! We know how to help others who are suffering. But how often when we know we are in pain, when we are suffering…do we just keep pushing through?
I have read that a suicidal brain isn’t able to remember that others are suffering too. So if we can practice reminding our brains that other people suffer too, when the feelings of isolation begin, we are more likely to remember that we are not alone in this. By practicing this often–even in the smaller stuff, it becomes more natural to help us move in the direction of promise and hope when things are difficult.
Human beings are going to have struggles. Jesus knew this. He modeled self-care and he modeled the importance of community. We are a human community. As people of faith, we are commanded to love one another and care for one another every step of the way. You are never alone. Remember to talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend. In the same way you would pour out love and compassion on someone else who is suffering…love yourself with the same kind of compassion!
So in your times of sadness, grief or despair I want you to practice saying things like this:
This hurts so bad. It makes sense that I am sad. Other people feel this way too. I need to take a deep breath and get some sleep.
I made a mistake and I feel like there is no way to fix it. Other people make mistakes and feel hopeless too. What can I learn from this?
I am overwhelmed. I need to go for a walk and think thru my options.