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Parents take a Mindful Self-Compassion Break

Mindful Self-Compassion Break
Parents take a Mindful Self-Compassion Break
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About the Author

Eileen Beltzner

Eileen Beltzner

Eileen is a Child and Youth Counsellor, a Registered Social Worker, a Psychotherapist & a Certified Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher offering MSC training to both adults, teens and healthcare communities.

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As wonderful and magical being a parent can be … dealing with a hungry, screaming newborn; or a biting two-and-a-half-year-old; or a barrage of four-letter words from your sixteen-year-old; or even an irritable, worried adult child is tough at the best of times.

Now add the extreme financial worries and multiple challenges to our lives that have been added because of the need to shelter-in-place and to physically distance ourselves from others not living in our nuclear family.

Then ask yourself this question, “Is it any surprise that anyone of us can turn from being the most loving and patient parent into a frenzied and short tempered one?”

When it happens, anyone can lose it and have their worst – self show up. And then, it can be a downhill slide from there, ending up with thoughts like, “I have become that parent; the one I promised myself never to become.”

You then begin remembering the other parents you see on Facebook and the comparison and measuring up thinking begins. “Everyone but me is:

  • home schooling seamlessly or
  • keeping their kids off screens or
  • providing nutritious meals or
  • keeping up with whatever paid work they can get at this time.”

 

As quickly as these thoughts come, so do the words of your inner critic. The words your inner critic uses doesn’t  encourage or build you up, but rather tears you down so you feel even worse about yourself and your parenting abilities.

Following close behind are thoughts with themes around how your offspring are deserving of someone better than you, or thoughts about wishing you were single and childless!

Then come the feelings of guilt.

Your inner self-critic hurls a few more words at you like:

Do you know how lucky you are to even have a child or a job or a roof over your head or food on the table or your health (add your own)?

And then feelings of shame might even come up.

Who needs to be carrying around all that toxic baggage at a time like this? No one.

The good news is this; thoughts are not facts and are quite normal at a time like these.

To quote the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz,

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house;

I would like to see you living in better conditions.”

In the most recent article, I wrote for OakvilleNews.Org, I introduced the reader to the Soften-Soothe and Allow practice. In this article I will introduce the Mindful Self-Compassion Break. This practice is from the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) training course I teach along with another MSC teacher through the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in both Oakville and Toronto.

Mindful Self-Compassion Break

The Mindful Self-Compassion Break or Papa’s Comforting Friend Practice (when I am teaching it to parents) helps take me out fear and puts me into “the better living conditions” that Hafiz’s words encourage. But, before I explain it to you, I want you to know something important I learned about fear.

A small fear could be inside you without you even knowing it. I learned that even before I know fear is present, my body knows. Practicing mindfulness helps me to notice certain reactions in my body …

  • my breath is shallow or
  • my chest feels tight, or
  • my heart is beginning to beat a little faster than normal.

 

The first thing I do, if I happen to notice these bodily sensations, is to name what might be present in me.  “I ‘m feeling afraid.”  Naming it to tame it brings the executive functioning part of my brain on-line.

Then I decide what I need to do … right in this moment.

I might decide to listen to the sounds around me or pay close attention to my surroundings… maybe look through a window… and if a tree is around or a building, really spending time looking at all the different features of the tree or building if I am feeling too activated.

Mindful Self-Compassion Break Steps

After reading these steps I encourage you to listen to these guided recordings.   mindfulselfcompassiontraining.podbean.com

Step 1

Bring forward in your mind a situation that is causing you stress such as a relationship problem, a health problem or some other struggle.

In the beginning, as you become familiar with this practice choosing a problem in the mild to moderate range (not more than a 4 out of 10).

Why?

Because the idea behind this instruction is to have you become familiar with this practice in a safe way and not to put you in overwhelmed state.

Step 2

Visualize the situation clearly in your mind.

  • What is the setting?
  • Who is saying what to whom?
  • What is happening?
  • What might happen?

 

If you notice you can’t feel discomfort in your body as you bring the difficulty to mind please choose a slightly more difficult problem.

Step 3

The next step is acknowledging to yourself that you are struggling. Try finding words that might express what you are feeling such as:

  • “this hurts”
  • “this is hard”
  • “this is stressful”
  • “this really sucks”

 

When you come up with your words saying them to yourself in as kind a voice as is possible … “I’m hurting right now” for instance or “I finding this really hard.”

Step 4

Now, saying to yourself:

“Suffering is part of life and that it’s part of common humanity.”

This can be a challenge for many of us when we first practice this step because the word suffering seems so over the top. If that is the case for you, which it was for me, try using small suffering vs SUFFERING.

Step 5

The next step may be different for you than it is for me. It will be important that you first identify what is your soothing touch or comforting gesture.

Listen to the guided recordings one of which is, Experimenting with Physical Self-compassion Gestures in my guided recordings to find your unique go to.

For you, it may be putting you hand on your cheek or having one hand on your heart and one on your belly.

For me, it is often a hand over my heart or a hand on the back of my neck.

You will need to experiment to find out what might be right for you. It might even be patting your dog or cat or wrapping yourself up in a soft, cozy blanket. Once you discover what is right for you proceed to the next step.

Step 6

In this step, you need to try to figure out what you might need in this moment or what the kindest thing is that you might do for yourself right then. For me when I am at this step, sometimes tears might come, and I know for me, in that moment I might need to have a good cry, because I have been been there for others for way too long.

Other times I might try saying words to myself in my head that I really need to hear right in that moment; words maybe like …

“may I be present”

“may I know I will get through this”

“may I know that I am enough”

Sometimes, I even say, “may I accept myself just as I am in this moment … afraid”.

It is important that when you find your words and say them to yourself, that you say them in a soft, kind and caring voice.

What would you say to a friend?

Of course there are times for me when I don’t know what I might need to hear or what the kindest thing would be for me to do for myself in that moment; and that’s when I might ask myself what I would say to a dear friend who was struggling in the same way I am at the time and when I do, I say the very same words to myself that I would say to a dear friend.

Once I have gone through these steps and if it was fear that had been growing in me, I may find my chest isn’t as tight anymore, my heart has quieted down  and my fear is being held in a more balanced perspective.

For me, it’s almost like I have connected with a good friend, …. and that friend was able to be there for you and comfort you. Maybe it will be your experience to once you have practised the mindful Self-Compassion Break several times.

Of course there  will be times for you, like there are for me,  when you don’t know what you might need to hear or what the kindest thing you might do for yourself  is right in that moment; and that’s when you might ask yourself, if a dear friend was hurting or struggling in the same way as I am  right now, what would I say to this  friend? And, when you come up with some words, say the very same words to yourself.

I always find it curious; most people can often come up with some supportive and encouraging words for a friend. A big part of Mindful Self-Compassion training program is to help people discover, nurture and grow a comforting friend inside themselves too so they can be there for themselves when needed.

What the Mindful Self-Compassion Break Is Not

The Mindful Self-Compassion Break is not a tool or practice to get rid of painful or challenging feelings.  It is a practice that teaches us a way to comfort ourselves as we would comfort a friend when we are is hurting or suffering in some way.

Once comforted, we can move out of threat mode that fear has elicited and into our window of tolerance (see YouTube Video below). When most of us are in our window of tolerance, we tend to make much better choices and decisions.

The link below will allow you to practice Mindfulness of Sound, Mindfulness of Body Sensations, Soothing or Comforting Touch and the Mindful Self-Compassion Break.  The more you listen and become familiar with these practices the more they will be available to you to put into action when needed; and always remembering we are not trying to get rid of difficult emotions but to be with them in a different way. mindfulselfcompassiontraining.podbean.com

Reality Check

I would like to be very clear that the times we are living in are not normal. We are all depending on each other to do their part in keeping us all healthy and safe or helping those who are unable to do so for themselves.   Darwin is often quoted as saying “the fittest will survive”, but it was actually Herbert Spenser who coined that phrase. Darwin actually stated, “the kindest will survive”.

This article is about the importance of parents being kind, caring and compassionate to themselves during this time. We have to put on our oxygen masks first before we offer one to our little ones.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/darwins_touch_survival_of_the_kindest

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/born-be-good/200902/darwins-touch-survival-the-kindest

 

Window of Tolerance Video

*I have found and reviewed this link. It will take the reader to a fairly good description of the window of tolerance and give additional suggestions that can be helpful.

Additional Information

More articles by Eileen Beltzner are available on OakvilleNews.Org, you can also purchase  her latest book: How to Tame the Tumbles: The Mindful Self-Compassionate Way.

If any reader is interested in the MSC training program, we will soon be teaching the MSC training program online due to cancelling the in- person training we usually offer in both Toronto and Oakville.

 

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