London 6-7 MARCH 2020

ARTICLES

Time for the mind

Kathryn Lovewell - Give me a break

Give me a Break! by Kathryn Lovewell

Ever had a plan? You know, a great plan, a really great plan? A plan where you know what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it and what outcomes you’re going to get?! Mmmm me too. I made a great plan today. I knew exactly what I needed to get done and the order in which I was going to do things. It was a perfect plan of action, a plan of productivity and ultimate satisfaction. I was in a great mood. I felt clear and on purpose. I had carved out the perfect space and time to create what I needed, to achieve what I wanted to achieve.

Kathryn Lovewell - Give me a break

Photo by Plush Design Studio

Alas, the universe had other plans. Well, the world around me had other plans. Unexpected visitors making demands on my time… Uninvited interruptions thwarting me from getting into my flow… Undesirable technical hitches that stopped me from producing what I wanted… Aaaaaagh! Frustrated doesn’t even come close to describing how I was feeling. By 3o’clock, when the ONE thing I REALLY wanted and intended to get done was still not achieved, I was at screaming pitch. Nothing had gone my way. My perfect plan was aborted.

So, what to do when you’re thrown a curve ball or two? Think positively some would say… Take a break, others would encourage… Let it go, well-meaning friends would suggest. But I had a great plan and it didn’t happen! In these moments of frustration and annoyance, what options have you got?

Put on a brave face…?
Throw a hissy fit…? (slamming a door or two usually hits the spot for me!)
Punish those around you…?
Punish yourself…?
Drop into self-pity or despair?

Well, all those options were available to me, and I dallied with a few for a moment I admit, but thanks to my Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) practice I chose another option. In the moment of suffering (frustration, anger, disappointment) I gave myself what I needed.

I needed to let off steam – release some of the emotions that were growing throughout the less than perfect day. I must confess, my partner did receive a little outburst (swiftly followed by a genuine apology.) Then I began to tend to my needs…

I gave myself a Self-Compassion Break. This is an informal MSC practice created by Drs Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff, world leading experts in the ground-breaking work of mindful self-compassion. It’s really simple. You can do it in the moment of ‘suffering’, and you don’t need any special equipment, training or designated cushion!

This is how it goes. You simply offer yourself some kind words of validation, reassurance and compassion. Find your own words, make it your own. This is the basic structure:

“This is a moment of struggle.”
“Anyone in my situation would find this a struggle right now.”
“May I be kind to myself.”

Kathryn Lovewell - Give me a break

Photo by klimkin

So, what are we doing as we practice this simple informal practice?

Firstly, we notice that the moment is hard. We employ our mindfulness skills. This is the first component of Kristin’s Mindful Self Compassion Model: “This is a moment of struggle.” “This is really tough.” “This hurts a lot”

Then we acknowledge that we are not alone – a vital component to reduce isolation which can induce depression over time. This is common humanity. Recognising we are human, not perfect and suffer, just like everyone else on this planet. “Anyone in my situation would find this a struggle right now.”

Finally, we offer ourselves some kind words. We respond in a compassionate and friendly manner; the way we would if a friend was struggling when something had gone wrong. This is the self-compassion element. “May I be kind to myself.” “May I give myself what I need.” “May I be gentle with myself right now.”

This practice is such a simple and effective way to bring balance and kindness into your moment of suffering. You can validate your feelings, recognise you’re human and that anyone walking in your boots would also find it hard and then comfort yourself. We do this, not to make it better or magically go away, but simply because we feel terrible in that moment.

This is the potency of MSC. You can give yourself what you need in the moment of suffering. It cannot make the annoying/difficult/painful experience go away, but it can bring you comfort and solace.

We like to think we are in control of our lives and that we can execute things the way we want to, but sometimes, (oftentimes) that’s just not the case. We cannot airbrush our lives the way media does. We are by our very nature messy, flawed and imperfect (darn it!). So next time you have a day like mine, I invite you to bring kindness and friendliness to yourself, embrace being a compassionate mess and give yourself a (self-compassion) break!

Kathryn Lovewell
Founder of Kind Mind Academy
Author of The Little Book of Self-Compassion
Certified Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher

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