By: Maryann Quigley
The start of each school year brings new experiences, feelings, and challenges. During the fall semester, many students are working on final-year externship applications, midterm and final exams, and graduate school applications, all of which can evoke feelings of excitement and optimism, as well as stress and fatigue. It can be difficult to remember to take time for yourself when there are so many things to study for and big decisions to make! As you work through this semester, and all the feelings that accompany that journey, I encourage you to practice self-compassion and learn how it can boost your overall well-being.
According to Neff (2023), Self-compassion is the exercise of relating to yourself in a kind and, of course, compassionate manner. To get in the habit of self-compassion, it needs to be practiced, especially in those moments when you are feeling uncomfortable or experiencing other painful emotions like shame, guilt, or failure. It is a tool to build your emotional resilience and well-being as you move through your life. The benefits of practicing self-compassion are immense; it has the potential to greatly improve your personal well-being! There have even been studies showing that practicing regular, intentional self-compassion can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. You cannot always control the way that things are, but with the practice of self-compassion, you have the opportunity to embrace yourself with kindness and foster the circumstances for personal growth.
1) Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your thoughts, emotions, and actions in a non-judgmental way, without trying to suppress or exaggerate them. Mindfulness can be practiced through observing your breathing, taking time to be still, and focusing on the physical sensations of your body rather than whatever activity you have been doing. This can be practiced during a period of meditation, or during an everyday activity, such as walking the dog or cooking dinner.
2) Care for your body. This can look different for everyone! Go for a walk. Take a rest. Have a cup of tea. Pet a cat. Massage your own neck, arms, and feet. Take a shower or bath. Put on comfortable clothes. Caring for your physical body is a critical part of self-compassion. Do something pleasant and take a moment to think of how enjoyable it is and what good it is doing for your body.
3) Journal. Take time to write as a way to understand your experiences and emotions. As you write, be intentional in processing, embracing, and accepting your experience. Describe your current emotional state without blaming anyone, including yourself. Remember to practice compassion in your journaling.
4) Spend time with loved ones. Set aside time to be with the people who can care for you and show you love. Building and maintaining a support system can aid you in your journey towards making a habit of self-compassion. As the saying goes, it takes a village!
5) Practice positive self-talk. One of the best ways to cultivate positive self-talk is to think of what you would say to a friend if they were experiencing what you are going through. Then, turn those same thoughts and sentiments inward. Positive self-talk has been shown to encourage a growth mindset and reduce anxiety and stress.
It’s easy to be tough on yourself during this season. Take time to show yourself kindness and best of luck this semester!
Check out these similar articles from the national SAA:
Neff, Kristin. “Exercise 6: Self-Compassion Journal – Self-Compassion.” Self, 10 Mar. 2017, self-compassion.org/exercise-6-self-compassion-journal/.
Neff, Kristin D. “Self-compassion: Theory, method, research, and intervention.” Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 74, no. 1, 2023, pp. 193–218, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-032420-031047.
Sparks, Dana. “Mayo Mindfulness: Overcoming Negative Self-Talk – Mayo Clinic News
Network.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 May 2019, newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-mindfulness-overcoming-negative-self-talk/.
Tarrant, Jeff. “Mindfulness for Beginners.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 31 July 2023, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/choosing-your-meditation-style/202307/mindfulness-for-beginners.
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