Quarantine birthday parades, family dance parties, workout challenges, balcony sing-a-longs, puzzles, and BANANA BREAD… it seems as though this pandemic has been nothing but fun for the people I see as I scroll through my social media feeds and tune in to the news.
Almost without hesitation, the message that we were being told about quarantine is that we should “make the most of it”, whether that means transforming our bodies by spending our days working out, or squeezing in as much quality family time as possible. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for a good re-frame; taking this situation that has so much uncertainty and elicits anxiety and fear in many of us and finding a silver lining gives us some comfort. However, I also can’t help but recognize how this narrative around how we “should be quarantining” is creating an atmosphere of self-criticism.
So, with all of this going on around us, it can be helpful to find ways to mindfully practice something called self-compassion. Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as, kindness toward the self, which entails being gentle, supportive, and understanding; “rather than harshly judging oneself for personal shortcomings, the self is offered warmth and unconditional acceptance.”
Self-compassion is challenged when we live in a place of comparing ourselves to those around us. “Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” It is almost too easy to feel inadequate as we scroll through social media. Notice how you feel after spending time on social media. If you are recognizing that it is draining your energy, or negative self talk seems louder after seeing how your “friends” are spending their days, then perhaps it is time to create some distance there. Limiting time on social media, or reframing negative thoughts could be helpful.
Self-compassion is challenged when we invalidate ourselves, and live in should have’s and ought to’s. Another type of comparison that we might find ourselves engaging in, is comparing ourselves to our own unrealistic or idealistic expectations.
“I shouldn’t feel so overwhelmed after spending a day with my kids.”
“I ought to get those projects done around the house.”
“I should be able to get all of my work done without being distracted.”
Neff addresses this specific type of thinking in the second element of self-compassion, common humanity v. isolation, saying, “Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation – as if “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes.” To help with this kind of unhelpful thinking, we first want to become aware when we are engaging in this thought pattern.
The third element of self-compassion is mindfulness. “Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.”
Remember, this is new to ALL of us. There is no “right way”, and your feelings during this time are valid. We will get through this! Feel free to reach out to one of our therapists at The OCD & Anxiety Center if you would like some extra support during this time. You can reach us at 630-522-3124.