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  • Katie Davis, RDN, CD

Self Compassion in Times of Crisis



I have a pink sticky note in my home that says “How can I be kind to myself in this moment of pain?”


I initially put this note up as a reminder to practice self compassion while dealing with chronic pain. But I believe self compassion is useful during any trying time such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, illness, loss or any physical or emotional pain.


It is my honor to watch clients valiantly give themselves space to practice self compassion in their own moments of pain. My clients are strong. They are resilient. Their resiliency increases further as they practice self kindness in their struggle.


Some people think that self compassion shows weakness, selfishness or self-pity. This is not the case. Research shows that self compassion increases resilience by allowing you to bounce back more quickly from setbacks or mistakes.


Self compassion also increases mindful awareness of your feelings so you can thoughtfully attend to your own needs and other’s needs as well. Research further shows that people have less depression and anxiety when they practice self compassion.


Here are a few ways you can nurture self compassion:


First, take a moment to think of a nurturing figure in your life. It could be a family member, friend or loved one. Let it be someone that has comforted you previously.


If you described to them what you were currently going through, what would they say to you? Try using these same words when talking to yourself.


Or think of what you would say to comfort a friend. Dr. Kristin Neff emphasizes this point by saying, “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we'd give to a good friend.”


Self compassion also helps silence and soften the inner critic or negative self talk.


INNER CRITIC SAYS: SELF COMPASSION SAYS:


I am not enough. I am good enough.

I am unlovable. Everyone feels this way sometimes.

I am a failure. I am doing the best I can.

I won’t get through this. Everyone makes mistakes.

The critical self talk “button” is often on repeat without being noticed. Times of crisis are hard enough without beating ourselves up for the way we react to it. A wise mentor taught me, “this is as hard as it feels.” I find that phrase helpful in softening my inner critic.


In her book, Sick Enough: A Guide to the Medical Complications of Eating Disorders, Dr. Jennifer L. Gaudiani discusses how saying “that was painful” can immediately invoke self compassion. It helps shift our mindset from a place of self criticism or despair to a place of self compassion.


This kind of work takes time. It is helpful to remember that “when we practice self-compassion we need to allow ourselves to be slow learners, gently and patiently supporting ourselves along the way” - Center for Mindful Self Compassion.


Learn more about Self Compassion here:


  1. The Self Acceptance Project: How to Be Kind and Compassionate Toward Yourself in Any Situation edited by Tammy Simon

  2. Self Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises by Dr. Kristen Neff

  3. Guided Meditation for Times of Pandemic by Tara Brach

  4. The Mindful Self Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff, PhD and Christopher Germer, PhD

  5. ACT with Compassion Website: fantastic compilation of videos and TED talks

  6. Center for Mindful Compassion Guided Meditations

  7. The Mindful Path to Self Compassion Book by Christopher K. Germer, PhD


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