Anxiety is a major component in the aging of our bodies. Researchers have found that people who suffer from chronic anxiety have poor health and tend to age faster. The longer the anxiety persists, the stronger the negative effects on our health. But when the anxiety is resolved and the person feels better, our cells can restore their healthy functioning. This is a strong argument in favor of identifying and treating anxiety. Sometimes, though, it is hard to spot. Anxiety can seem normal when you’re accustomed to feeling it, when it’s the air that you breathe.
Self-compassion exercises are one of the most effective ways to get rid of anxiety. They teach you how to have kindness toward yourself, that you are not alone in your suffering, and the ability to face difficult emotions without getting lost in them. Instead of beating yourself up, you treat yourself with the same warmth and understanding you’d extend to a friend.
The Self-Compassion Scale
You can start with an objective assessment of how self-compassionate or not you are. The Self-Compassion Scale measures the degree to which people show self-kindness or harsh self-judgment, have common humanity or feel isolated by their imperfection, and are mindful of or overidentify with their suffering.
The following statements describe how you act toward yourself in difficult times. Read each statement carefully before answering, and to the left of each item indicate how often you behave in the stated manner on a scale of 1 to 5. For the first set of items, use the following scale, 1 represents Almost Never and 5 Almost Always:
_______I try to be understanding and patient toward those aspects of my personality I don't like.
_______When something painful happens, I try to take a balanced view of the situation.
_______I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
_______When I'm going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.
_______When something upsets me, I try to keep my emotions in balance.
_______When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.
For the next set of items use the following scale (notice that the endpoints of the scale are reversed from those above. 1 represents Almost Always and 5 Almost Never:
_______When I fail at something important to me, I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy.
_______When I'm feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I am.
_______When I fail at something that's important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure.
_______When I'm feeling down, I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that's wrong.
_______I'm disapproving and judgmental about my own flows and inadequacies.
_______I'm intolerant and impatient toward those aspects of my personality I don't like.
How to score your test:
Total (sum of all 12 items) Mean score = Total/12
Average overall self-compassion scores tend to be around 3.0 on the 1-5 scale, so you can interpret your overall score accordingly. As a rough guide, a score of 1-2.5 for your overall self-compassion score indicates you are low in self-compassion compassion, 2.5-3.5 indicates you are moderate, and 3.5-5.0 means you are high in SC.
We incorporate the self-compassion exercises developed by Dr. Neff into a daily regimen of skin care and massage which allows you to get synergistic positive effects for your physical body and emotional well-being. Physical gestures of warmth and self-care can tap into your caregiving system, especially if you’re calling up emotions of kindness in the same time. This process releases oxytocin that helps change your bio-chemistry. The important thing is that when you start acting kindly towards yourself, feelings of true warmth and caring eventually follow.
We will ask you to repeat certain words and phrases while using the products. Initially, these phases may sound hollow to you, like a cliché. With practice, though, you will learn to relate to them and make them meaningful. Even when just repeated mechanically, these short mantras have a powerful effect on your mind and body, especially when combined with the feel good sensation of a warm and soothing touch. Trust the process.
Self-compassion and the use of self-care products - Soothing Touch
Self-care in the midst of difficulty is self-compassion – a kindly response to stress and suffering. Self-compassion is much more than training the mind. Behavioral self-compassion is a safe and effective way of practicing self-compassion. It anchors the SC practice in daily self-care experiences such as skin care and massage.
It is useful to harness the power of physical touch to help you trigger the compassion (relaxation) response. By touching your face in a gentle and caring way – applying a soft cream or a warm LED, you can help yourself feel comforted and allow kindness to stream through your hand into your body. You need to find a manner of physical touch that feels genuinely supportive so that you can use it to care for yourself when you are under stress.
1 – Use while having a mask.
2 – Use during a massage/Chi Machine session
3 – Use when applying a cream
4 – Use when having a Alpha-Stim treatment or on an inversion table
5 – Use while having a Perfectio LED session
How to use the products and exercises together.
When using a skin care product or a massager, try to immerse yourself in the experience, savoring it to the fullest. Return your mind to the sensations again and again when you notice it has wandered away. Bring gentle, friendly awareness to the activity until it has been completed.
EXERCISE 1: Acceptance (1, 2, 4, 5)
Stress is a part of being a medical professional and it’s a healthy attitude to acknowledge it as such. Say:
I encounter suffering every day and it is perfectly normal to feel pressure, sadness, or to be overwhelmed by my work day. Many caregivers are going through similar situations. I accept this as part of my role of helping others. I am not going to be hard on myself but rather agree to take every part of my work with understanding of the whole. May I be kind to myself. I am kind to myself by taking care of myself.
Perfectio: Focus on the pleasant sensation of sliding the Perfectio unit on you skin. Focus on the warmness. Imagine that this is the warmness you feel for yourself and for others.
Take a deep breath, and say to yourself, “May I be kind to myself.” You can use a different statement that reflects your needs in the moment, including any of the following:
• I accept myself as I am, a work in progress.
• May I learn to accept myself as I am.
• May I forgive myself.
• May I be strong.
• May I be patient
I• will be as kind to myself as possible.
EXERCISE 1A: Say this phrase every time you apply a cream or use any other product (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
I am kind to myself
You can ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation?
EXERCISE 2: Taking care of the caregiver (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
You work in a care-giving profession so you’ll need to recharge your batteries and have enough energy available to give to others. Give yourself permission to meet your own needs, recognizing that this will not only enhance your quality of life, it will also enhance your ability to be there for those that rely on you. For instance, while applying a cream, remind yourself that you are taking care of your skin and appearance. This will allow you to keep your heart open, and increase your capacity to care for and nurture others.
EXERCISE 3: How would you treat a friend? (1, 2, 4, 5)
Think of a situation that is stressful or causes you discomfort. How do you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when he or she is suffering?
First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation (especially when you’re at your best)? What would you typically do or say (note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends).
Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations? What do you typically do and say (note the tone in which you talk to yourself).
Did you notice a difference? If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that lead you to treat yourself and others so differently?
Please consider how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you’re suffering.
EXERCISE 4: Exploring self-compassion through the eyes of another (1, 3, 5)
Think about a friend who is unconditionally loving, accepting, kind and compassionate. Imagine that this friend can see all your strengths and all your weaknesses. Reflect upon what this friend feels towards you, and how you are loved and accepted exactly as you are, with all your very human imperfections. This friend recognizes the limits of human nature, and is kind and forgiving towards you.
Perfectio: Imagine that your friend is giving you the facial treatment that you are experiencing now. The warmth and smoothness of the Perfectio represent the love and acceptance your friend feels for you. Relax fully and immerse yourself in this pleasant and soothing sensation, in the same time allowing your heart to open for all the love and kindness you deserve.
EXERCISE 4A: When applying a cream or serum
Think of someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally, who is kind and compassionate towards you. Feel their compassion as it pours into you, soothing and comforting you like a cool breeze on a hot day. Love, connection and acceptance are your birthright. To claim them you need only look within yourself.
EXERCISE 5: (1, 2, 4, 5)
Think of 1-3 things you appreciate about yourself. The first few things that come to mind may be somewhat superficial. See if you can open to what you really, deep down, like and appreciate about yourself. Please take your time and be honest.
EXERCISE 6: The three components of self-compassion (1, 2, 4, 5)
There are three distinct elements of the self-compassion practice that have shown tremendous benefits for stress reduction and improved well-being. The first one is validating the negative emotion you are experiencing (“I am scared”, “This is painful”). The second one is acknowledging the common humanity of this experience (“everyone else goes through pretty much the same”). The third element is kind and positive self-talk (“May I be kind to myself”). This particular one is the hardest to master because initially most people feel stupid repeating ready-made phrases to themselves. The fact is that this works and it’s all a matter of practice for these phrases to come to life and become full of meaning for you.
Instructions: Recall a situation in your life that is bothering you, such as a health issue, a relationship conflict, or perhaps a work problem.
Say whatever word or expression that feels true to your situation: “This is painful.” “This is stressful.” “This is really hard right now.”
Acknowledge the reality of suffering: “Suffering is a part of life.” Say something that reminds you of our common humanity and that this pain is not unique to you: “I’m not alone.” “Everyone feels this way sometimes.” “We all struggle in our lives.” “This is part of being human.”
Apply a product (Perfectio, facial cream/mask, massager) that feels soothing and comforting. Take a deep breath, and say to yourself, “May I be kind to myself.” You can use a different statement that reflects your needs in the moment, including any of the following:
• I accept myself as I am, a work in progress.
• May I learn to accept myself as I am.
• May I forgive myself.
• May I be strong.
• I will be as kind to myself as possible.
EXERCISE 7: Self-Compassion Break (1, 2, 3, 5)
This practice is similar to exercise 1 and is a way to help remind ourselves to apply the three core components of self-compassion – mindfulness (validating our emotions), common humanity, and kindness (self-talk) when difficulties arise in our lives. It also harnesses the power of soothing touch to help us feel safe and cared for. It's important to find language that is effective for you personally – you don't want to have an internal argument about whether the words make sense. For example, some people prefer the word struggle to the word suffering, or prefer the word support or protect to the word kindness. Try out a few different variations and then practice what works for you.
After reading through these instructions, you may want to try them out with your eyes closed so you can go inward more deeply.
Think of a situation in your life that is causing you stress, such as a health problem, relationship problem, work problem, or some other struggle. Choose a problem in the mild to moderate range, not a big problem, as we want to build the resource of self-compassion gradually.
Visualize the situation clearly in your mind's eye. What is the setting?
Who is saying what to whom? What is happening? What might happen? Can you feel discomfort in your body as you bring this difficulty to mind? If not, choose a slightly more difficult problem.
Now, try saying to yourself: "This is a moment of suffering."
That's mindfulness (validation). Perhaps other wording speaks to you better. Some options are:
• This hurts.
• This is stressful.
Now, try saying to yourself: "Suffering is a part of life." That's common humanity. Other options include:
• I'm not alone.
• Everyone experiences this, just like me.
• This is how it feels when people struggle in this way.
Now, offer yourself the gesture of soothing touch with a cream, LED, or a massager. And try saying to yourself: "May I be kind to myself" or "May I give myself what I need." Perhaps there are particular words of kindness and support that you need to hear right now in this difficult situation. Some options may be:
• May I accept myself as I am.
• May I begin to accept myself as I am.
• May I forgive myself.
• May I be strong.
• May I be patient.
If you're having difficulty finding the right words, imagine that a dear friend or loved one is having the same problem as you. What would you say to this person? What simple message would you like to deliver to your friend, heart to heart? Now see if you can offer the same message to yourself.
EXERCISE 8: A Living Being That Makes You Smile (1, 2, 4, 5)
Bring to mind a person or other living being who naturally makes you smile -someone with whom you have an easy, uncomplicated relationship. This could be a child, your grandmother, your cat or dog-whoever naturally brings happiness to your heart. If many people or other living beings arise, just choose one.
Let yourself feel what it's like to be in that being's presence. Allow yourself to enjoy the good company. Create a vivid image of this being in your mind's eye.
Now, recognize how this being wishes to be happy and free from suffering, just like you and every other living being. Repeat silently, feeling the importance of your words:
• May you be happy.
• May you be peaceful.
• May you be healthy.
• May you live with ease. (Repeat several times, slowly and gently.)
You may wish to use your own phrases if you have ones you normally work with, or continue to repeat these phrases.
When you notice that your mind has wandered, return to the words and the image of the loved one you have in mind. Savor any warm feelings that may arise. Take your time.
Now add yourself to your circle of goodwill. Create an image of yourself in the presence of your loved one, visualizing you both together.
• May we be happy.
• May we be peaceful.
• May we be healthy.
• May we live with ease. (Repeat several times, slowly and gently.)
Finally, repeat the phrases only addressing yourself.
• May I be happy.
• May I be peaceful.
• May I be healthy.
• May I live with ease. (Repeat several times, slowly and gently.)
EXERCISE 9: Love yourself (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Focus on the pleasant sensation of the skin treatment or massage. You are caring for yourself because you deserve it. Choose one or more of the following phrases depending on your preference:
• I love you.
• I'm here for you.
• You're a good person.
• May I love myself just as I am.
• May I feel safe and secure.
• May I know my own goodness.
EXERCISE 10: Relate to your good qualities (1, 2, 4, 5)
Send kindness and appreciation to yourself by focusing on the good you bring into the world by helping your patients. Note everything positive that you did that day – a moment of kindness, a success, a small accomplishment. Being a medical professional allows you to experience many moments like this - when you helped someone heal or made them feel better. Remember these moments and savor the sensation of relief and gratitude the patient experienced as well as the smile on their face. Try to say something appreciative about it, such as "That was well done."
EXERCISE 11: Finding Loving-Kindness Phrases (1, 2, 4)
This exercise is designed to help you discover loving-kindness and compassion phrases that are deeply meaningful to you. If you already have phrases and wish to continue using them, try this exercise as an experiment and don't feel you need to change your phrases.
Take a moment and allow your heart to open gently - to become receptive - like a flower opens in the warm sun.
Then ask yourself this question, allowing the answer to arise naturally within you:
"What do I need?" "What do I truly need?"
If this need has not been fulfilled in a given day, your day does not feel complete. Let the answer be a universal human need, such as the need to be connected, loved, peaceful, free.
How do we know when we have found a good phrase? Gratitude! With gratitude, there is no more longing. We are complete. The heart is at rest. It may take a while to find phrases that work for you like that, but it's worth the effort.
EXERCISE 12: Intention to forgive (1, 2, 4, 5).
Medical professional work in a stressful environment where interactions with colleagues and patients may sometimes escalate into conflicts, a sense of resentment, or even anger and frustration. Use the following phrase to shake all negativity off:
May I begin to forgive (name) for what he/she did, wittingly or unwittingly, to have caused me pain/discomfort/other negative sensation.
EXERCISE 13: Removing pain (5).
If you find yourself in a difficult situation that causes you physical pain or discomfort, take a self-compassion break to soothe yourself. Place the Perfectio unit over the part of your body that feels uncomfortable and just feel the gentle touch of its warm head. Imagine the warmth as kindness flowing into your body. Maybe even thinking of your body as if it were the body of a beloved child. You will feel better soon.
EXERCISE 13A: Lower back pain (2).
Bring your awareness to your lower back while having a massage - a lot of stress is stored in the lower back. If you notice any discomfort or tension, you might imagine your muscles relaxing, melting with tenderness. Feel ease and well-being in this body part. If you have judgments or unpleasant sensations there, perhaps you can let your heart soften in sympathy for the struggle, imagine the massage as a gesture of compassion and support.
Think of the wonder of walking on two legs. The lower back allows that to happen and suffers the most. Send some gratitude to this part of the body and fill it with warmth and kindness.
EXERCISE 14: Embracing our bodies with self-compassion
Having compassion for physical imperfection, especially with the aging process, is difficult in a competitive culture that is obsessed with appearance. We are surrounded by unrealistic media images, making it almost impossible not to be dissatisfied with how we look. Our only option is to accept the fact that we aren't perfect, do the best we can, and love ourselves anyway. This exercise is designed to help you accept yourself:
Say in a compassionate voice while using the Perfectio unit or applying a cream/mask:
"I love you and I don't want you to suffer." Or if it feels more authentic, say something like "I deeply care about you and that's why I'd like to help you make a change and look better." Or "I'm here for you and will support you."
EXERCISE 15: The power of association
If you found a product that you enjoy a lot, one that works well together with the practices, try using it whenever you feel stress or emotional pain in everyday life. By helping your body feel cared for, you will make it easier for your mind and heart to follow. This practice comes from EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) training and is based on the psychological principle of classical conditioning. In layman terms, you start associating the physical pleasure and relaxation a product produces with the mental relaxation and calm from an exercise. At some point, the use of the product will automatically activate the associated response even without the use of the exercise.
Try not to criticize yourself if your attention wandered during these exercises or if you found some parts frustrating, or even boring. Some people are not very rested in their bodies, or they prefer not to linger in their bodies for very long. Other people have the experience of being finally "home". Everybody is different. Allow yourself to have whatever experience you had and allow yourself to be just as you are, with great kindness. That's mindfulness and self-compassion.
Dr. Neff’s website, offers an 8-week self-compassion course along with a variety of exercises and guided meditations.