7 Tips for bringing Mindful Self-Compassion into your Workplace
As everyone returns from their summer vacations after several years of pandemic restrictions, and the fall season begins to ramp up, people are feeling more burned out than ever in the workplace. This burnout can show up as a shorter fuse and a tendency to get easily irritated, a lack of motivation to do work-related tasks, a feeling of dread, a boost in procrastination tendencies, and much more. See burnout post here.
Fall’s shorter days and colder weather are a natural reminder to cozy up, sleep more, and take care of our bodies…which is why fall is the perfect time to address burnout at work through the practice of Mindful Self-Compassion. Self-compassion allows us to acknowledge and ease our suffering through a spirit of kindness and acceptance rather than through judgment, the same way we would a friend or a loved one going through a difficult time. Mindful Self-Compassion is a specific technique. Practicing Mindful Self-Compassion entails a combination of mindfulness, self-kindness, and an awareness that our suffering is part of the human experience (referred to as “common humanity” in the self-compassion research.)
What is Compassion?
Simply put, compassion is kindness in the presence of suffering. It differs from regular old kindness, because it must be a response to feelings of discomfort and suffering.
What is Mindful Self-Compassion?
A technique developed by researcher Dr. Kristen Neff, a professor at the University of Texas, Mindful self-compassion is caring for ourselves as we would care for someone we truly love in moments of difficulty. It includes self-kindness, a common sense of humanity, and mindfulness.
When is Mindful Self-Compassion most useful?
When we are suffering or feel we are under threat, i.e. our attachment system is activated (i.e., dating + relationships and online dating/social media blues.) This can mean we are feeling shut down, disappointed, anxious, distracted, or have the urge to withdraw.
What are the Benefits of Mindful Self-Compassion Training?
Though we may have learned that being hard on ourselves is the way to make progress, research shows that negative self-talk actually puts one’s nervous system on alert, the same way as being yelled at or getting in trouble with another person, and is more likely to cause depression, low self-esteem, and procrastination than motivation via compassionate self-talk.
Contrary to the often held believe that being nice to ourselves makes us weak, practicing Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), can allow us to identify problems and maintain motivation while working on them, and also to accept negative feedback without the feelings of shame and soul-crushing defeat that self-criticism can lead to. MSC can help us modify habits that might be undermining our goals, such as procrastination and waiting till the last minute to work on a project.
Research shows self-compassion is associated with:
● Fewer negative states of mind (including anxiety, avoidance, stress, perfectionism,
thought suppression, fear of failure, shame, and depression)
● More positive states of mind (including satisfaction, resilience, optimism, confidence,
immune function, joy, healthier behaviors, motivation, and personal responsibility)
How does Mindful Self-Compassion Create Better Relationships?
Mindful Self-Compassion tends to lead to an increase in healthier behaviors in relationships such as more caring and supportive behavior towards self and others, more forgiveness, and the ability to take on the perspective of others or put oneself in their shoes. Furthermore, self-compassion increases empathy and altruistic behavior towards others, and decreases controlling and verbally aggressive behaviors.
These types of relationships can run rampant in an unhealthy workplace, but by learning to be more compassionate towards others, we start to build a healthier workplace - one with more positive feedback, altruism, empathy, and collaboration.
How do I Practice Mindful Self-Compassion?
The universal ways that all mammals express compassion are:
● Warmth: Warmth can refer to physical warmth such as the warmth of a fire, a blanket, the sun, or a cup of tea. It can also refer to emotional warmth, such as a warm tone when greeting someone. If you’ve ever wondered why you feel more open and relaxed on a warm day or sitting by the fire, it’s partly because the brain registers physical warmth much the same way as it does emotional warmth.
● Gentle Touch: Gentle touch indicates compassion and is often something we instinctively do when comforting someone (i.e. a hug or putting a hand on their shoulder.) Gentle touch can be performed on oneself by placing a hand over your heart, against a cheek, or by giving a self-hug.
● Soothing Vocalizations: Soothing vocalizations are ways that we soothe each other and ourselves through the voice (think a mom soothing a baby or a dog owner soothing a puppy). The universal vocalization of compassion is “aww!” but gently stating words of kindness like “I’m sorry you feel that way” also express compassion. As hoakey as it may sound, this can be done to oneself for great benefit - simply talking to yourself the way you would a good friend in need of compassion.
What are Some Tips for How to Have More Self-Compassion at Work?
1. Accept your emotions with mindfulness and nonjudgment, even the bad ones.
Don’t relegate emotions like anger and angst to just before bed. Welcome the feelings
with acceptance and kind validation. Work with a therapist or coach to help make sense of them.
2. Remind yourself that you are not alone
Practice common humanity: Tell yourself “Other people feel this way too. This is a
normal response to difficulty.”
3. Practice kind self-talk
Instead of being hard on yourself and self-critical, try talking to yourself gently like you
would a loved one.
4. Practice fierce compassion
Compassion doesn’t always have to be warm and fuzzy, sometimes it can be standing
up for ourselves and our needs. Set a boundary when you need to, and be fiercely
protective of your self-care
5. Practice soothing touch
Try out some of the different self-touch techniques mentioned above, including one hand over your heart, both hands over your heart, a hand against the cheek, or a self-hug. See how they feel, and practice using these in moments of difficulty.
6. Practice behavioral self-compassion
Try out kind behaviors like giving yourself a cup of tea. At Lovewell, we work with clients to create their own self-compassion toolkit, a list of personalized resources that work for them to feel taken care of. You can do this on your own and add to it whenever you discover a new tool that soothes your body and mind
7. Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to reach out when you get stuck. Ask a manager or peer for support at
work, or a friend, family member or therapist for emotional support when you need it.
Hope you found these tips helpful. At Lovewell, our certified wellness coaches and licensed clinicians offer corporate workshops and compassion skills training, both one-on-one and in group settings.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q.1 Why is mindful self-compassion important?
A. Lower levels of anxiety, shame, self-criticism, and depression are only a few of the advantages of practicing self-compassion. People who self-compassionate are aware when they are struggling and are kind to themselves during these moments, which leads to greater feelings of well-being and motivation.
Q.2 What is the opposite of self-compassion?
A. Self-criticism is the antithesis of self-compassion. Self-criticsm impacts our physiology and nervous systems much the same way as receiving criticism from someone else and is associated with physical and mental health challenges. The most self-critical people may find self-compassion the hardest but will benefit the most from it.
Q.3 Where does lack of self-compassion come from?
A. In the United States, lack of self-compassion is common as self-criticism and perfectionism are culturally lauded and promoted, and being hard on oneself is encouraged.