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Self-Compassion Practices to Cope with COVID-19

Everyone has been affected by the coronavirus in some way. Some people are experiencing more anxiety, others are feeling extreme loneliness, and some are experiencing economic hardships. Dr. Kristen Neff, an associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin, and Dr. Chris Germer, a co-founder of the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, share 10 self-compassion practices to help stay sane during this difficult time.

  1. Self-Compassion Break: the 3 components of self-compassion can help you to regulate difficult emotions:
    • Mindfulness – helps you disentangle from what is bothering you.
    • Common Humanity – an antidote to the loneliness that may come with social distancing.
    • Self-Kindness – an antidote to fear.
  2. Soothing Touch: you can still experience comfort through physical touch during quarantine, such as offering yourself a hug or gently placing your hand over your heart when you need it most.
  3. Giving and Receiving Compassion: although you need to physically distance during this time you do not need to emotionally distance. You can stay in compassionate connection with others by following your breath – breathing compassion in for yourself and out for others.
  4. Being with Difficult Emotions: being alone with yourself for an extended period of time is likely to bring up challenging emotions. Labeling what you are feeling when you are feeling it calms your body, finding the emotion in your body anchors your experience, and responding to yourself with compassion will create needed connection.
  5. Soles of the Feet: when you are feeling overwhelmed, trying anchoring your awareness in the sensation of your feet on the floor. You can redirect your attention away from your thoughts to the point of contact between your body and the earth, helping to ground and settle yourself.
  6. Affectionate Breathing: another helpful practice to turn to when feeling overwhelmed is to tune in to the soothing rhythm of your breath.
  7. Self-Compassion in Daily Life: simply asking yourself, “How do I care for myself already?” is an act of self-compassion, and actually doing something nice for yourself is even better, such as listening to music, reading a book, or talking with friends over Skype.
  8. Compassionate Body Scan: this is a way to become more intimate and comfortable with your body, no matter what condition you may be in. You can find free body scan practices online, such as through Headspace.
  9. Core Values: the usual ways that you have found meaning in life likely have been interrupted by social distancing, such as providing for your family or meeting up with friends. During this time, you can find creative ways to remain connected to your core values and find ways to stay true to them, such as providing for your family in other ways until you can return to work or setting up gatherings with friends online.
  10. Savoring and Gratitude: give yourself permission to enjoy the simple things that you still have, such as savoring a nice meal or going for a walk in the fresh air. Gratitude is another way of cultivating joy, which can be achieved by noticing the small things that enrich your life but that you tend to overlook such as running water or the morning sunlight.

Self-compassion practice will not immediately change your life and as is inherent in the word practice, self-compassion is something that is learned slowly through repeated exposure. The important thing is to learn how to hold your struggles and yourself in a loving embrace, and accept yourself and your current circumstances just the way they are.