Small Ways to Practice Self-Compassion Right Now

Instead of judging yourself for feeling less productive or for being an imperfect parent, it’s important to accept that you’re doing your best to manage your stress.

Albina Glisic/ Shutterstock
Albina Glisic/ Shutterstock

Adjusting to our new normal means keeping up with constantly shifting expectations. We are being asked to go above and beyond in a lot of ways right now, so instead of judging ourselves by impossible standards when it comes to parenting, work productivity, or anything else, focusing on self-compassion is critical for our health and well-being.

We asked our Thrive community to share the small ways they’re being more compassionate with themselves right now. Which of these will you try?

Savor the time to slow down

“A couple weeks ago, I was laid off from the company that I was at for four years. This is the first time I’ve been unemployed since I was fifteen, and I’m now 53. The first few days were tough, as I have always been on the go — juggling family, a full-time career, and high expectations for myself. This shift has forced me to slow down, and I am now taking time each day to journal, reflect, pray, and connect. I am allowing myself the time to heal both physically and mentally before taking on my next big role.”

—Michelle Smith, account executive, Boston, MA

Start a “joy journal”

“I’ve recently slowed down my frantic work pace after creating and launching two websites, and I’m now focusing more on my well-being. Since I’ve been quarantining in my home, I’ve added joyful activities to my day. For example, I started writing in my ‘joy journal’ this week. It’s been sitting in my nightstand drawer for a few weeks, but with my new balanced pacing, I now write about my day before I go to bed. This ritual is helping me become more balanced. It’s essential to me during this time of isolation.”

—Julie Spira, virtual dating expert, Los Angeles, CA

Take a PTO day

“Even though we can’t go anywhere, I’ve found it so important to take time off through this time. On a recent day off, I packed up my bike and explored a new trail nearby, which helped me disconnect surrounded by mountains and streams.”

—Grant Gurewitz, corporate marketer, Tacoma, WA

Read a book aloud 

“In this time where practicing self-compassion lightens my emotional burden, I’ve started reading aloud to myself. Before my partner wakes up in the morning, I grab some coffee and settle into my chair, joined by my cat. I find that reading books aloud helps to bring the stories alive, and it also helps me to really absorb what I’m reading. Reading this way takes a little more time, but my memory and comprehension of what I’ve covered lasts longer. They evoke memories of reading to my own kids, and of my mother reading to me. Each day, I sit by the same window, in the same chair, and drink from my favorite coffee cup. It’s like meditation in a way, because my voice slows my brain waves and allows my imagination to emerge.”

—Katie Wright, freelance writer, Bellingham, WA

Nourish your body

“Learning to practice self-compassion has been a silver lining in this pandemic — and for me, that includes prioritizing my nutrition. I have a subscription to Blue Apron to ensure three delicious, healthy meals a week that require no thought, no shopping, and minimal preparation. I also order twice-a-month boxes of fresh meat and produce that is delivered from a nearby farm. This also minimizes trips to the store and safe access to healthy food.”

—Elizabeth Cottrell, freelance writer and blogger, Shenandoah Valley, VA

Let yourself sleep in

“These days, I have been caring for myself by allowing myself to sleep in without setting my alarm. It is the best form of self-care to let your body decide when you are fully rested.”

—Diane Bartell, healthcare strategist, New York, NY

Create a realistic to-do list

“As a self-employed person, I’ve really focused on assigning myself less work during this time, even though I feel like I should be doing more, as times are so uncertain. I’ve tried to be more realistic with what I can accomplish to accommodate for the fact that with kids, spouse, and other family members around all day, there are more interruptions. If I am going to get three things done doing a given day, I’d rather assign myself those three things only, rather than assigning myself ten things and only accomplishing three. The outcome is the same, but the feeling is much better.”

—Alexis Haselberger, time management and productivity coach, San Francisco, CA

Give yourself a pass

“I’m giving myself a ‘pass’ if things aren’t done on my to-do list. The pass doesn’t expire and can be used more than once a day. It’s helped me put less pressure on myself, and instead treat myself with compassion.”

—Kristin Meekhof, author and life coach, Birmingham, MI 

Incorporate positive self-talk

“I’ve been doing a lot of positive self-talk and meditation as my self-compassion. I’ve actively directed my loving kindness meditation towards myself and have reminded myself that this will pass, both verbally and through my thoughts. Reminding myself that I’m simply doing what I can is incredibly helpful. It’s helped me reframe instead of getting mired in self-doubt. After all, doing anything is good enough at the moment!”

—Priya Jindal, transition coach, Washington, D.C

Set the table for yourself

“While I love connecting with others in my Zoom meetings, I’ve realized I’d been overbooking myself, resulting in unnecessary anxiety. Now, I’ve toned down the pace and feel more balanced. This week, I decided to set my table on my outdoor patio for a dinner party, even though I’ve been dining alone. Gazing at how cheery the table looks always makes me smile.”

—Julie Spira, virtual dating expert, Los Angeles, CA

Spend time recharging

“Being compassionate with myself is not easy for me. I am a self-driven individual, so I am always competing with myself to be better. However, I have recently learned to hit the brakes. I allow myself to slow down a bit, feel every emotion, and simply lie in bed when I feel like it. All of this helps me rejuvenate and recharge. Somehow, working from home and being indoors seems more exhausting to me than socializing and being outdoors. My extroverted personality is being challenged right now, but I am letting myself naturally adapt to it. I’ve started meditating, opening my window, and spending more time on self-care. I’ve also been spending more time writing, drinking water, and listening to music.”

—Jaishri Ramnani, C.P.A., New York, NY

Make a worry list

“I find it helpful to make a list of anything that is worrying you or distracting you. Then, go through each item and ask yourself ‘Can I control or change this?’  If the answer is yes, then just do it. If it’s a no, then the next question you have to ask yourself is, ‘How can I manage this and cope with it, so it does not knock me off course?’  By stopping and writing down both the concern and the solution, you are creating a gap between stimulus and response — that conscious gap that gives you control and gets your head in the right place.”

—Manley Hopkinson, founder and author, UK

Take breaks throughout the day

“I find that one way to be more compassionate with myself is to take constant breaks during my day. Sitting at my desk and not being able to go home after a long workday is stressful. When I take a break, I put on my gardening gloves, go to the backyard, and pick some of the flowers that are blooming. Bringing living things into the house feels comforting and gives me a chance to breathe. I use these breaks as check-ins with myself to make sure I’m being self-compassionate and feeling my best. The only thing we can control right now is our mental health, and we need to be good to ourselves.”

—Phylis Mantelli, life coach, author, and podcaster, Gilroy, CA

Let go of expectations from social media

“Living in a country that has been severely affected by COVID-19 since the very beginning, I got stuck at home early on. At first, I could keep up with my job and that helped to get through the day and stay busy. But over time, even with work, ballet classes, grocery shopping, and calls with family and friends, I felt alone. Plus, being on social media constantly reminds you of the pressures we are constantly exposed to, even during a lockdown. You’re told to be a mother now that you have time to conceive a baby, be free but committed, be extravagant, be original, and run the extra mile. I felt weak and unaccomplished, but after a few days of bad sleep and some crying, I came to the conclusion that I can only do what I can as one person. I run as much as I have been able to. Now, I remind myself that I won’t be able to do much as the rest of the world right now, but I know that all the experiences I’ve had mean something. I may not be outstanding, but I am authentic.”

—Alessandra Riccardi, business analyst, Rome, Italy

Try a five-minute meditation

“I’ve had some moments catch me off guard in the past couple of months, and they’ve reminded me how important it is to give myself more self-compassion. I first had to stop setting expectations of what I ‘should’ be doing, with regard to my creativity, meditation, work productivity, and exercise. I then increased by meditation, which is a non-negotiable part of my life more so than ever.  As a trained facilitator, I know how imperative this is, but I was resisting. So, I practiced like a beginner would for about five minutes each day, and committed to do this more frequently. My mindset shift about expectations had a ripple effect, reigniting my creativity, and how I was caring for myself.”

—Angela Palmieri, meditation facilitator and marketing executive, Los Angeles, CA

Bookend your day with gratitude

“It all starts with my morning routine. Prior to getting out of bed, I remind myself that I am great and that everything is going to be OK. Every night, to end my day after giving thanks, I  ask for an extra hug from my kids while reminding them that they’re loved and we are grateful.”

—Giancarlo Molero, innovator and entrepreneur, Miami, FL

Listen to your body

“My body was getting anxious with the news and media, so I stopped consuming it. I needed positive things to focus on, so I started practicing gratitude, and decided I would try out exercise and meditation. When I made the decision, the deal was that I wouldn’t judge myself, I would leave my perfectionistic beliefs at the door, and that I would listen to my body and practice what felt right every day. Some days, that means ten minutes of exercise and ten minutes of meditation, while other days it means an hour of exercise and two minutes of meditation. Placing pressure on yourself and or comparing your experience with others won’t help. Being compassionate with myself reminds me that I’m human, and that it’s completely OK to listen to what your body needs each day.”

—Marjan Oloumi, human resources, Sydney, Australia

How are you exercising more self-compassion right now? Share with us in the comments!

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