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Practicing Self-Compassion Amidst the Chaos and Unknown

More times than not, discussions about life tend to be accompanied by the word "balance." The past two years have been described by many as exhausting, challenging, and emotional, but at the same time has overall ignited resilience and creativity. The practice of rebalancing and resetting has been a daunting task for many simply because it involves consistently finding the space and energy to incorporate hope and positivity amidst the steady stream of unknowns and difficult emotions.

Decision fatigue continues to be arduous to escape. Some have responded by simplifying and redefining themselves. Pausing and taking a step back has allowed them to mindfully sift through how their relationships, roles, and the items in their space truly affect and impact them. It has been viewed as a time to cleanse and embrace the fact that we do in fact have control over what and how we allow information, interactions, and pressures to enter our space.

Others have reached for distractions or perhaps new connections to people, activities, or mindsets to occupy their time and generate growth. Regardless of the route taken, there has most likely been a time (or more realistically several times) that were devastatingly hard or triggered intense symptoms associated with depression or anxiety. These chapters, though, are the times that ultimately challenge our character, our purpose, and encourage the highest levels of learning.

“I never have to do that day again” is a validating, comforting statement I have not only used myself, but also with clients. It is a way to embrace the here and now while adapting a mindset that integrates disciplined progression with reasonable expectations and affirms the efforts involved. This is a form of self-compassion, a practice that for some is not modeled or nurtured in childhood and must be learned and consistently implemented while living in a high-pressure society that tends to glorify stress and perfection.

Practicing self-care involves deliberate activities or practices that encourage rejuvenation and relaxation. They aim to reduce stress and support the idea that we need to nurture ourselves and validate the efforts and energy expended on a daily basis. Self-compassion involves a mindset that combats anxieties, doubt, and unrealistic expectations. Being compassionate to ourselves requires connection and self-love. It involves learning to forgive mistakes and imperfections and view them as opportunities to learn. It is a worthwhile shift that takes consistency and practice, but ultimately helps clear emotional clutter and create space for deeper connections with ourselves and the world around us.

Regardless of how well we implement certain coping skills or take care of ourselves, there will be tough, complicated situations that impact us emotionally and compromise our stability or balance. Although not typically welcomed, this is normal. “Such is life.” Living under the belief system that supports that if we live proactively and incorporate "best practices" we will ultimately avoid pain, illness, and negative experiences only encourages unrealistic expectations and fuels a sense of control that ultimately results in confusion, disappointment, and shame. Life tends to be unpredictable and our story is impacted by others and their choices simply because of our intense level of integration as a species. We are social creatures that have the ability and need to foster and maintain relationships. This is a wonderful phenomenon that can also get messy at times.

Self-compassion requires self-connections and forgiveness. Avoid using phrases like "I always" or "I never." Circumstances vary and conversation or events stimulate new feelings and thoughts. We must also embrace the fact that we do not show up or wake up feeling exactly the same way. Our energy levels are impacted by a number of factors, some in our control and some not.

We tend to forgive others and give them the benefit of the doubt, but fail to give ourselves the same courtesy and operate by the same standards. We often forget that many external and internal sources influence how we feel, think, and therefore behave. The tone of our internal chatter truly matters. When we approach our day or a task with an open mind, we tend to avoid engaging with thoughts patterns that support negativity, doubt, and apprehension.

Rather than categorizing life as "pass or fail" or "good or bad," view it as fluid and something that involves taking ownership when necessary. We tend to grow and learn the most when we experience uncertainty and discomfort. Continue to take positive risks and embrace the development and progression that will undoubtedly follow.

Practicing self-compassion requires us to adopt a framework that welcomes imperfection and embraces the importance of taking positive risks. It confirms that we are not to be defined by the negative mishaps, decisions, or reactions that we’ve had and will continue to have from time to time. Remember that we possess the incredible capability to recover and learn, especially when we surrender control and refer to our past experiences in order to access the resilience we have already acquired. It is important to live proactively and make deliberate efforts to be healthy and balanced, but at the same time understand that these steps do not ultimately result in consistent success, safety, or good fortune. This journey of life is a dance, one that involves deliberation and perhaps a bit of luck.

One thing is for certain: We will continue to accompany ourselves throughout every step of our journey. Kindness and forgiveness should be prioritized. We are not supposed to have it all figured out at all times. Remember to validate and cherish all that you have navigated and achieved thus far.

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