I am writing this director’s corner from my kitchen table a full 8-months after we began our fight against the Pandemic. We are in the middle of a significant surge that is challenging our resolve and the important organizations that are there to keep us healthy. I recently spoke to one of these organizations about how we can effectively cope during these difficult times. One word kept coming to me when I was preparing that presentation: Compassion. When people are stressed we tend to become more self-focused and less empathetic. We have all seen this for sure in other people (we are good at this when we are stressed), but we are also experiencing this ourselves. Compassion offers us a way forward that can directly improve our relationships with ourselves, our loved ones, and others in our community. Resilience is defined as the ability to recover after serious individual or community level setbacks. I would argue that compassion is at the center of this ability. Compassion has been studied in terms of healing from stress and trauma and has predicted effective coping. Compassion includes self-compassion and “other” compassion. Self-compassion is the application of empathy to oneself.
It is the act of non-judgment toward oneself when we act or experience things that suggest we are not perfect. It is the connection of ourselves to a sense of common humanity versus isolating ourselves due to our own limitations. I highly recommend folks refer to Dr. Kristin Neff’s website here. During the pandemic we are in the exhaustion phase. Early in March and April we were all running on adrenalin trying to adapt to a threat that we just didn’t understand. Now we understand a lot about the virus yet it is an on-going challenge for our community and people around the world. Having to be in “adaptation-mode” for this long pushes our capacities to adapt and creates exhaustion. When we are exhausted we often don’t function as effectively sparking self-criticism. “What’s wrong with me?, I’m messing up all over the place!”. We need to combat this cycle by being caring to ourselves, including giving ourselves a break from shaming ourselves, increase our rest, reaching out for support, and making sure our self-care is still online (eating well, exercising, limiting substances). Other compassion is also essential and definitely more difficult when we are tired. The pandemic has pushed this challenge in some ways by not knowing if our neighbor or person on the street is a threat to us getting the virus. We need to fight this urge to think of others as a threat and instead reach out to be as supportive as we can to those who make up our community. Find a person or group to offer a caring comment or text. Teachers, healthcare workers, first responders, restaurant workers, sanitation workers, public health professionals, etc. are all working at maximum levels! Let’s revisit the energy we saw at the beginning of the pandemic to support these folks! The GRIT program that we developed is designed to help with this support effort. It is a 5-hour FREE training that is all automated that you can do at your own pace (find info at letstalkgrit.com). There are tools and information on coping in this training that you can use to help others that will also have a benefit for yourself in your effort to increase self-compassion. In closing, we all need compassion during this time and I wish you all a loving safe holiday season.