Last week I guided nurses in a self-compassion exercise during my keynote address at the 24th annual Med-Surg conference held in the San Francisco Bay Area. For those of you that couldn't attend, here is the inside scoop so you can do it at home (or in the break room, on the bus, or standing in line at the DMV...).
Six easy steps to self-compassion
1) GET QUIET - Find a quiet room or go outside, so you can be uninterrupted and away from distractions, such as other people, pets, phones etc. Turn your phone off completely for 10 little minutes.
2) FIND YOUR UNCONDITIONAL LOVE PERSON- I hate to break it to you, but it's not your spouse. Chances are that partner does things or doesn't do things, that hamper that unconditional love feeling. Try grandma or grandpa on for size. Young children, babies or pets are also a good source.
3) REPEAT THESE LOVING-KINDNESS AND COMPASSION PHRASES FOR 5 MINUTES- (imagine this person you love, in front of you while doing this).
1. MAY YOU BE HAPPY AND PEACEFUL.
2. MAY YOU BE KIND AND PATIENT WITH YOURSELF.
3. MAY YOU HOLD YOUR JOYS AND SORROWS WITH AN OPEN HEART.
4. MAY YOU LOVE AND ACCEPT YOURSELF EXACTLY AS YOU ARE, IN THIS MOMENT.
Notice this expansion of love in your heart after sending these phrases to your loved one. Now it is time to turn it inward, toward yourself.
5) REPEAT THESE PHRASES TO YOURSELF FOR 5 MINUTES
1. MAY I BE HAPPY AND PEACEFUL.
2. MAY I BE KIND AND PATIENT WITH MYSELF.
3. MAY I HOLD MY JOYS AND SORROWS WITH AN OPEN HEART.
4. MAY I LOVE AND ACCEPT MYSELF EXACTLY AS I AM, IN THIS MOMENT.
6) REFLECT- Each person will have a different experience. It is important to honor your own experience and not try to get it "right". There is not a "right" way. These reflections may bring up emotions for you. At the conference, many nurses reported tears of joy, while others described challenges with loving and accepting themselves.
The simple act of repeating the phrases, even without an emotional feeling attached, can bring progress. This process requires practice and cultivation. Just like a plant - what we cultivate, will grow. If we feed our bodies self-criticism - we strengthen those harmful neural pathways.
If we dedicate a little time to develop self-compassion, we will reap those benefits. We all can agree that we are challenged by increased acuity, advancing technology, challenging co-workers and as one nurse added, the occasional hot flash!
Every once in awhile we need to take our superhero cape off, pop a squat and give ourselves some loving. So, how about now?