How Self-Compassion Heals Anxiety
Warm greetings fellow mindful travelers! Happy July! This month I am going to speak to the power of self-compassion and how it can heal an anxious mind.
Most anxiety can be seen as a persistent worry about something bad happening in the future.
Our mind meets uncertainty by trying to predict what is going to happen and tries to make sure the worst possible outcome does not happen.
For example, if you have a job interview coming up, the night before you might have butterflies in your stomach, and you might try to predict all the questions the interviewers could ask. You could stay up all night worrying how it will go.
Your mind is trying to protect you from the worst: you will answer all the questions wrong, the interviewers will criticize you, you wont get the job, you will be broke and starve.
It might seem extreme, but this is what anxious minds do.
Most notably, your mind is trying to protect you from feeling bad about yourself.
“If the interview does not go well, what does that mean about me?”
“That I am a loser? Unemployable? No one will like me?”
Self-criticism and anxiety can go hand in hand.
What’s more is that you might even criticize yourself for having the anxiety in the first place.
“What’s wrong with me for feeling so anxious?”
Unfortunately, self-criticism will just add more fuel to the fire and give the anxiety more energy.
So, what can help heal this whole big ball of anxiety, self-criticism, and fear?
Self-compassion and self-love. Or really, true compassion and love from anyone.
Let’s look at how this works.
When we are children, we instinctively need a safe nurturing home in order to face challenges and grow.
If we have a test in school, how helpful is it to our anxiety to have a parent say “if you fail this test, I will never love you?” Not so much.
What about a parent that says “I will love you no matter the outcome of the test. If you are stressed we can talk it through and know that I care about you.”
How would that affect your anxiety?
Now, as we grow up, we get to self-parent ourselves.
If we use mindfulness practices to step back and observe our minds, we can choose to speak to ourselves in a loving and kind way.
If we feel nervous before that job interview, how about saying to yourself:
“I see you are nervous and that’s OK. It shows you care about this job and your life. You are a great candidate for the job and I know you will do your best. No matter what happens, you are worthy of a great career and will make a positive impact on the world.”
How might that self-love affect your anxiety?
The more we can treat ourselves with love, understanding, and compassion, the more we can begin to heal our anxiety.
We are not trying to get rid of the anxiety, just loving it for what it is, a part of us that also deserves love.
A simple practice is to hold your hands over your heart space and say kind phrases to yourself, such as:
“May you be happy.”
“May you be safe.”
“May you live with ease.”
Use whatever compassionate self-talk works for you.
So to sum it all up:
1. Notice the anxiety in your body or mind.
2. Breathe, take a step back, and see it as a part of you asking for attention.
3. Offer it love and compassion with words or actions.
How might practicing this transform your life?
Until next time, may you have a loving and compassionate July.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with anxiety and could use the support of a professional, it would be an honor to be of service. I offer Therapy for Anxiety and Mindfulness Workshops in Oakland, California.
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