Off the Record:  Self-Compassion

With the New Year underway, many of us – teens and parents included – struggle to adapt back to the daily grind of school or work.  Add a couple of noble yet impractical New Year’s resolutions and we’ve got a recipe for disaster.   It’s ironic that we are better at counting our faults and our failures and less capable of remembering the good things we do, the joyful people we are.  

Self-compassion is an essential tool to ease this pitfall.  It is not about “keeping score”, it’s about acceptance.  Acceptance of who we are and who we aren’t.  It’s about being realistic about what we can actually do, rather than trying to attain an unrealistic goal.

The first step in practicing self-compassion is the willingness to actually do it.  This sounds silly, but often times we forget to even try to be kind to ourselves.  It helps to put a To Do list together to remind us to indulge in self-care- somehow it seems more valid.  Everyone’s list is different but there are some essential areas we could all practice.  Here are just a few:

Sleep– Teens need at least nine hours a night; adults need at least seven.  While that seems like a lot, it is necessary for us.  Not only does sufficient sleep allow for clear and effective thinking and decision making, it also affects our mood.  

Eating well and exercise–  Quality meals and exercising regularly have proven to stabilize our mental and physical well being.  We all know it.  We are worthy of actually doing it.

ME time– It’s always important to take an hour or two each day to do something you love- whether it is reading, walking with a friend, going to a movie, or just taking a nap.  Again, we are worth it.  

Connection– We are social beings and connecting with others helps us feel apart of, rather than isolated and lonely.  Whether we laugh or cry together, that essential element of fellowship and friendship is key to our well being.

Other practical tips–  Leave 5 minutes early to everything.  It’s amazing how being late robs us of any sense of well being.  Plus the hectic drive time allows ample opportunity for negative self-talk.  Best to just avoid this all together.  Or my personal favorite, “fake it till you make it”.  I make my kids call me Goddess- it reminds them and me that I am special, even when at my worst. If I pretend I am a goddess, I actually act like one.  This sometimes gets me through on even the most challenging of days.

Most importantly, practicing self-compassion has a ripple effect.  It offers a positive model for our kids to observe.  They see more than we think.  Case in point, on a particularly bad day, I came home to a little package from my daughter.  In it was a keychain that had Goddess printed on it and a note that said, “for those times you forget who you are.”

So yes, settling in and hitting the daily grind is a marathon, not a sprint.  But we can enjoy each day more by being gentle with ourselves.  The more we practice, the better we’ll get.  And pretty soon, the daily grind becomes more of a daily gift, if we choose to make it so.


Danielle Kelmar, LCSW,  SafeSpace Clinical Youth Mental Health Specialist
Liesl Moldow,  Director of Business Development and Board Member