Practice Self-Compassion for Your Anxiety
It's important to develop self-compassion when you live with anxiety. One of the things I have found challenging about dealing with anxiety is feeling as though I should simply be able to stop feeling anxious. When I can't stop the endless string of intrusive thoughts and fears, or I can't stop worrying, I feel even more anxious and upset with myself because I feel like I should just be able to change my feelings.
I have several coping strategies that I have learned about, practiced, shared with others, taught to others, and successfully used myself at some point in my life. But, when the strategies don't seem to help, or when I give in to my anxiety, I feel disappointed in myself.
Why Self-Compassion for Anxiety Is Important
Rather than being hard on yourself and being self-critical, when you practice self-compassion, you are kind to yourself when you are anxious. You refrain from beating yourself up and allowing yourself to feel guilty for feeling anxious. You also stop yourself from struggling against your anxiety. I have found that the more I struggle against my anxiety, the more I feel anxious. The more I fight against what I am feeling, the more the anxiety symptoms increase.
On the other hand, acknowledging that I feel this way and allowing myself to recognize that it is okay to feel this way actually helps me feel better. If you can allow yourself to feel what you are feeling in the moment, you can also then recognize that your anxiety is not your fault. In reality, different factors -- such as genetics and past experiences -- may contribute to anxiety.
Practicing self-compassion for yourself due to anxiety can have a calming effect. It can also help prevent you from feeling guilty or ashamed of what you are feeling. Additionally, practicing self-compassion may help you reach out for help from others.
How to Practice Self-Compassion
When you set certain standards and expectations for yourself, it's easy to berate yourself when you feel you don't meet those expectations. It's easy to be unkind to yourself when you feel like you should be doing more to stop anxious thoughts. The more you lean into your anxiety and the less you fight against what you are feeling, the more you may find you can find ways to feel better.
Here are some suggestions for practicing self-compassion:
- Acknowledge what you are feeling. When we practice mindfulness, we allow ourselves to be self-aware of what we are experiencing. Recognize your worries, your fears, and what it is that is troubling you. Acknowledge that it is okay to feel this way and know that this is a normal part of being a human being and that all humans suffer at some point in their lives.
- Think about what you would say to a friend in the given situation. When I've worked with others on stress and work-life balance, one thing that I often hear is that the person easily offers a helping hand to others but has a hard time helping themselves. If we are so willing to help others when we know someone is hurting, why can't we be this kind to ourselves? Think about the things you would say to help a friend or family member who is anxious feel better. Think about the compassionate words you would share.
- Use self-talk that is compassionate. Share those compassionate words with yourself. This is not meant to be pity, advice, or judgment; rather, it is simply meant to be calming and self-soothing. Rather than struggling against your anxiety, using compassionate self-talk allows you to calm yourself so that you can use strategies to feel better or so that you can problem-solve peacefully. Furthermore, using compassionate self-talk can help prevent your anxiety from worsening.
Share below any strategies you use to practice self-compassion and stay calm when you are anxious.
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2021, April 27). Practice Self-Compassion for Your Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 6 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2021/4/practice-self-compassion-for-your-anxiety
Author: Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez
Beautifully written and so important. This is a key part for people to remember, "Rather than being hard on yourself and being self-critical, when you practice self-compassion, you are kind to yourself when you are anxious.". Oftentimes, when someone begins to feel anxious they also begin to feel guilty for it or beat up on themselves, rather than being gentle! Which is exactly what is needed at that time, compassion and understanding.
Absolutely! It is important that we are kind to ourselves, as we would be for someone else feeling that way.
I appreciate your comments!