In American culture, it has always been easier for us to be compassionate towards others than it is to ourselves, whether it be a close friend or someone we don’t even know. We feel immense compassion even for people that we do not know that we see on the news that are suffering from this horrible virus. It is important that we don’t forget to be compassionate towards ourselves as we go through this crisis. You might be saying to yourself, “Well, that sounds selfish, I don’t have it as bad as some people…think of the people in New York or Detroit.” Actually, being compassionate to ourselves is the opposite of selfishness. Self-compassion is the antidote to self-pity and while self-pity says “poor me,” self-compassion recognizes that life is hard for everyone. While it is true that certain people and places will be more harshly affected by this virus and we feel terrible about what they are going through, it is important to remember our common humanity.
Common humanity involves recognizing that suffering is part of the shared human experience and is something that we all go through rather than something that just happens to “you” or “them.” You may experience a sense of isolation through this crisis, such as thinking that you are the only one having a hard time in Calculus during online classes. When a family member is at home and not able to see their loved one in the hospital, they may feel a sense of pervasive isolation and worry. No matter the situation, try not to judge our situations as “It’s not that bad compared to others” or “Wow, things are terrible for me.” Instead, we need to recognize that we are all in this together – as Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff, as Americans, and as a world full of humans. The good news is that we are not alone even if we are not together in person in this day in age. All emotions are real to each and every one of us. We can all relate to the emotions of fear, happiness, anger, and the list goes on. This is something we all share as humans no matter what our situation is.
Take the time to focus on a person, pet, thought or object that stirs up some positivity within you. FaceTime a friend or family member. Our sense of hope, happiness, fun and creativity can continue on even through the pandemic because we are all in this together.
Be kind to yourself. Say to yourself “May I be kind to myself in this moment” and support bringing kindness to yourself. Talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend in a compassionate voice, saying “It’s going to be okay,” “I can get through this,” and “I am doing the best I can given the circumstances.” It is okay to be just as you are in this moment. Mindfully allow your thoughts, emotions, and sensations enter your awareness without resistance or avoidance. It is common to feel anxious, confused, overwhelmed, and powerless about this pandemic.
Research shows that people who practice self-compassion are more likely to engage in broadening their perspectives instead of focusing on their distress. Practicing self-compassion by using mindfulness, being kind to ourselves, and recognizing our common humanity makes us less likely to ruminate on “how bad things are.” This is why self-compassionate people generally have better mental health.