Who would have thought that we would find ourselves in the position of being shut in our homes nearly 24/7 with no escape from the grim reality surrounding us? Not only is it nearly impossible to be alone in this “new normal” (which for all the introverts out there is pretty much a nightmare), but it’s also impossible for us to gather with our friends and peers other than via technology (which for extroverts is equally nightmarish). These are challenging times, highlighting the need to practice “pandemic self-compassion.”
Earlier this year, I read an old article in Forbes online that is very relevant in our current times: Self-care is Not an Indulgence: It’s a Discipline. The article argued that self-care is a necessity – something we must engage in regularly and rigorously in order to survive. We typically think of self-care as an indulgence or a treat (spa days, long baths and fancy coffee drinks). In reality we need to take care of ourselves all the time if we are going to survive tough times like those we are in now. Regular self-care helps us stay resilient.
Words are important and I am not a fan of the term “self-care.” I prefer to think of it as “self-compassion.” I also contrast acts of self-compassion with acts of self-indulgence. We often confuse the two, so it’s worth taking a moment to tease that out. Self-compassion is about being good to yourself in the moment in ways that don’t cause damage longer term. Self-indulgence is about doing whatever feels good in the moment without regard for the longer-term consequences of your actions.
Self-Compassionate, Not Self-Indulgent
A self-compassionate act would be watching an episode of your favorite binge-worthy show while a self-indulgent act would be watching yet another episode of that show even if that means staying up way past your normal bedtime.
How can we show ourselves self-compassion in this challenging time? Better yet, how can we practice what my colleague, Vicki Hudson, calls “Radical Self-Compassion?”
Practicing Radical Pandemic Self-Compassion
We need to find those activities that bring us moments of joy, the ability to escape and time to do something other than work, cook, clean and care take. Whether it’s listening to music, baking bread, tending a garden, coloring, reading or whatever else you can think of that brings you pleasure and helps you escape, we need to incorporate moments like those into our day-to-day life.
We’re in this for a while so we need to consider what living with radical self-compassion looks like if we are to not only survive this challenging period but learn to thrive in the midst of it and beyond. I am reminded of a quote from novelist, Iris Murdoch — “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” What small treats can you incorporate into your every day during this difficult time? What does radical self-compassion look like for you?