If you think about it, anxiety/stress comes from some perceived or unconscious low level or high level fear. So if you can change your outlook from fear to compassion for yourself and others you will change the chemicals being released in the brain to those positive calming responses we want to maintain.
I remember once on a retreat I was giving, explaining self-compassion and one woman had tears running down her face so I asked her if she was okay and her reply was ‘“This is the first time I have ever heard the words self and compassion together” – it was a light bulb moment for her.
I don’t know about you but I know I was not brought up with self-compassion, it was all about everyone else. I distinctly remember sitting in a religious education class at 14 and being told in no uncertain terms that we were always to put everyone else first no matter what. I remember it because as I sat there I thought to myself that is crazy, what is the point of living your life totally from that perspective, however I was well aware by then that you did NOT challenge the nun who delivered the RE class and so another unconscious belief was born in my psyche!
So it has been a long journey to take out the old programs around self-love and compassion and make sure the new ones are strong and healthy.
Whilst taking time out to go to the SPA for a day brings pleasant relaxation it’s not sustainable unless you can go regularly.
What is sustainable is a self-loving mindset which grows and grows and supports not just yourself but those around you.
Taking a day out to learn how to deliver self-acceptance, love and compassion to yourself is the day out I want to have.
Another tool and one of the simplest I have found to deal with anxiety is affirmations. When I first came across these I dismissed them as silly! I now understand that if we want a different mindset we have to create it and we do that by constantly telling the brain what we want to think until a new roadway in the brain is created and the brain is happy to travel down that road easily and effortlessly!
An affirmation is something you want to bring into your mindset, the only rule is it always starts with I AM… I am, sends a strong signal to the brain at a high level of neurological programming.
In other words, we make a new conscious habit which eventually joins the ranks of the unconscious habits but this time it’s is a good habit. You have to repeat it morning, noon and night to get it well lodged in your brain. So pick your ‘mantra’ and get going and when you find yourself using it without thinking, pat yourself on the back and pick a new one as that one has already been embedded in the brain successfully!
Self-compassion does mean putting yourself first when you need to, being self-loving and compassionate enough to know that putting yourself in a certain situation is not helpful for you. It often means saying no, something that may take practise but is well worth it. You can maintain a healthy and sustainable lifestyle there is no harm in learning to say no to something you don’t want to do. I personally found this hardest of all but the most liberating of all.
Choice brings with it a much more positive energy than ‘duty’ or ‘should’ or ‘must’ which can bring a sense of resentment or guilt.
Choice means freedom from social conditioning. When you do something from love everyone gains not just the other person. The more you do things from love the more you recognise that this comes with no anxiety what so ever.
Think about how you are going to feel in advance of saying yes and make a decision which considers all perspectives not just the other person. Then learn some ways of saying no compassionately. So for instance – I would love to see you, or I would love to help you… but I can’t at the minute, or I am not free, or I am tired right now or whatever appropriate authentic reason fits.
Self-compassion also involves learning to express your own needs easily and effortlessly.
Mindfulness offers us the tools of awareness to stop and pause and think about our own needs before saying yes or no to situations.
Often a response will be felt in our own body and learning to scan our bodies regularly gives us the awareness of that response. Once we start to follow our own body responses we will live more anxiety free. So for instance if someone asks you to do something and your stomach responds with a twinge, pain or an arrow like discomfort then you know there is something going on here you need to look at. For me personally this usually means this person is trying to get me to do something which is good for them but will likely not be good for me,or I am being emotionally blackmailed so I always follow my gut now when I hear it! This brings less anxiety as I know that if get that response the best thing for me is to say no, no questions asked I don’t have to dither over the decision, the possible guilt etc, I just say no. It is through regular body scanning that I learnt to pay much more attention to my body and the responses I started to discover!
Finally, the universal kindness practice which has spread over the world helps to bring that love and compassion to others as well:
Repeat these as often as you like but at least three of each is useful:
May I be safe May you be safe May we all be safe
May I be happy May you be happy May we all be happy
May I be healthy May you be healthy May we all be healthy
May I live with ease May you live with ease May we all live with ease