Lately, I’ve been swimming in overwhelm. Occasionally, we all go there. Particularly when we’re navigating too many transitions at once (moving/relocating, career/job changes, health challenges, shifts in our financial state, etc.) and our brain shuts down from attempting to process more than it can handle.
Yesterday morning I woke up feeling particularly taxed. I could feel my heart racing and my body tightening. I inhaled deeply, I exhaled, and I paused. I headed to my forest-based morning workout and touched the trees, watched the clouds in the blue sky and smelled the fresh pine. After gaining some perspective, I reminded myself that I’m navigating some of the most stressful life transitions a human can; it’s time for me to make myself a giant “self-compassion” peach smoothie. With a big dollop of gentleness.
One time when I was leading a retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Berkshire Mountains (join me here in two weeks Jan. 19-21), during our conversation on self-care, a mother from Amsterdam shared with our circle of women that her three-year-old daughter calls herself “little sweetie.” The mom remarked, “I often hear my daughter roaming around the house saying … it’s ok little sweetie, you’re tired, you need a nap … it’s ok, little sweetie, you’re hungry and need some strawberries.” Or to her mom, “Little sweetie is sad, she needs a hug.” The only way this young girl knew to treat herself was with loving kindness; she hadn’t been taught there was any reason to act otherwise. (She inspired the rest of us to refer to ourselves as “little sweetie” for the duration of the retreat!)
I wonder what our culture might be like if we taught self-compassion as a sought-after skill to be developed and honed–as equally valued as hard work and perseverance? Can you imagine hearing teachers and other influential mentors regularly remind their students and peers, “Be gentle with yourself.”
Wondering where to begin? Here are four ideas that have helped me cultivate self-compassion:
1. Find and post a picture of yourself between the age three to five and see how this image shifts your perspective and ability to be easier on yourself; you’re still that same little person! (This is little Renee, above, at age four.)
2. Take a 30,000-foot view and find perspective. We’re all juggling so much: fallout from the pandemic, health challenges, career changes, parenting woes, divorces, so many big life changes—give yourself a break. You have a lot going on and are doing the best you can. Sometimes we lose sight of how much we’re navigating.
3. Reach out for support: have a heart-to-heart with a dear friend who holds the highest and best for you. A kind conversation can help us loosen our hold on what’s “right or wrong” and help us see things with softer, gentler eyes.
4. Practice modeling this for your family members, friends and coworkers: if you’re a parent, instilling in your children the value of being kind to themselves supports them in lowering stress levels, developing strong self-esteem and heightening resiliency. Let them hear, “I had a challenging day, I’m doing the best I can.” The same goes for coworkers.
Often when I’m being hard on myself, I will take a long, slow deep breath, place my hands over the center of my chest and invite in self-compassion. When I can remember to soften and open my heart–and be gentle with myself–it helps me see others in a whole new light. Greater compassion for others starts with greater compassion for myself.
I’D LOVE TO SUPPORT YOU! NEW/UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIES FOR SELF-RENEWAL:
- January 19th-21st Women’s Retreat ~ Ready to step into 2024 with intention and to explore new ways of being? Join me for Sing, Dance, Pray: Romancing the Beloved a women’s self-renewal retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (Berkshire Mountains, MA). Packages start at just $635 for this deeply restorative winter retreat. The women who come to these retreats are amazing! Learn more/register.
- *Available for a limited time* ~ Still, Dark & Quiet: A Deep Rest Virtual Retreat ~ Winter is here. You’re invited to slow down, go inward and relax in silence. Enjoy this 2.5 hour meditative virtual retreat 24/7 from the comfort of your home. Includes a long Yoga Nidra session. Learn more/download today. Only $49
- Wild Souls Nature Adventures (based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC): authentic movement classes, community song circles, full moon hikes, meditation workshops, women’s circles & more. New offerings are listed each week; have me design a custom experience for your team/friends. Join us Sunday, Jan. 14 from 9:30-11 a.m. for Wild Souls Authentic Movement class near Asheville, NC. Learn more.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by mindfulness coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art/science of self-care, Renee has been facilitating high-impact, interactive workshops for Fortune 500 companies, national nonprofits/conferences and organizations/teams worldwide for 25 years. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Fast Company, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, AARP, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 450 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups/retreats based on her pioneering self-care curriculum. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. She and her husband live in Western North Carolina and Austin, Texas; her latest venture is Wild Souls Nature Adventures. More on Renee here.