Stress — the feeling of being overwhelmed by your to-do list, social media, politics, multi-tasking, being ever available via your phone, judging yourself harshly… the list goes on… indefinitely.
So, what to do? Next time you’re feeling particularly frazzled, try this new stress hack: Be compassionate to yourself.
Sounds too easy, right? It’s actually harder than you think to be kind to yourself. Turns out that judgy voice in your head is strongest when it’s judging you!
A new study in the Clinical Psychological Science found that practicing self-compassion has great health benefits, including reducing:
- heart rate
- blood pressure
- anxiety levels
The above symptoms are triggered by the body’s threat response system (adrenaline surges) that chronic stress can cause. Being in a state of constant chronic stress is terrible for your brain, your heart, your digestive system, your ability to keep from getting sick, and your overall wellbeing and longevity.
However, learning to be more self-compassionate appears to put the body in a state of safety and relaxation — which shows up as a slower pulse (heart rate) and slowed breathing. Both can be regulated by sending loving thoughts inward.
Try it for yourself:
- Take a moment to stop what you are doing and close your eyes
- Slow down and deepen your breathing
- Mentally scan your body from head to toe
- Bring awareness to and give gratitude for each body part and what it does to keep you healthy and active.
This may be difficult at the start, so give it time. As Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback says, “We believe everyone can train themselves to be self-compassionate. Being kind to yourself is like flexing a muscle. The more you practice, the easier it will become.”