I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Melanie and I’ve worked at CASS for 4 years now! While I’ve worked with people who have developmental disabilities my whole adult life, I’ve been a counselling therapist for 11 years. My counselling approach is mainly cognitive behavioral therapy with lots of integration of mindfulness and dialectical behavior therapy approaches.
When the pandemic hit Calgary and our city was shut-down, it seemed I was presented with an opportunity to offer mental health support to the broader CASS family. So I started writing and sending weekly emails focused on support strategies for getting through the fear and confusion of an unprecedented event, the challenges of self-isolation, and all sorts of loss.
Although people with developmental disabilities and their support staff may have been dealing with unique challenges in this pandemic, all of the support strategies offerred in the mental health and mindfulness emails apply to anyone who is struggling. So I’m going to post these emails on this blog every week for a while. No matter who you are, what you are struggling with, or what resources you do/do not have, you are welcome here.
How about we start with a little SELF-COMPASSION?
This is such an unprecedented and chaotic time for all of us on planet Earth, isn’t it? With all the infection updates, closures and re-openings, and ever-changing restrictions, it’s so easy to get swallowed up in the worry of what if’s, the anger of “why me?’s” and the pressures of “what now?“. For me, anyway. I remember, not so long ago, when all this was just starting, a trip to the grocery store had me so tense and anxious I ended up crying in the car on the way home. Never have I been grocering shopping before where there are people, but it’s eerily quiet, there are shelves with price tags, but they’re empty. Like not one bag of flour. Even for a person with gluten-sensitivity, it was extremely disconcerting.
Yet, it’s human nature to persevere and plod forward regardless of life’s circumstances. It’s in our DNA to survive and succeed. And although the path to success is not easy, it is possible. What we need is intent, a plan, some strategies, and some support to move forward.
But before we jump right in to the planning and doing, I think there is great value in sitting still with what is. I have found the practice of self-compassion to be key for me in doing this. So often I feel an intense emotion and react quickly by getting busy until it numbs, fades, or is otherwise pushed into the abyss of unaddressed fears, doubts, and discomfort. Self-compassion, however, encourages me to lean in to what I’m feeling, whatever that feeling is, acknowledging that I am feeling what I am feeling because I am human and vulnerable like all other beings, and offerring myself exactly what I need to work through the feelings. Here are the steps of Self-Compassion as identified by Kristin Neff (see below for website information):
Self-compassion is the ability to nurture and care for yourself in a moment of difficulty, in the same way you would a friend who was going through a rough time. It’s opposite to avoiding, judging, or criticizing yourself for what you are experiencing, which is what many of us do by default. It’s separating who you are (wonderful!) from your actions (everyone makes mistakes).
SELF-COMPASSION – 3 STEPS
1. Acknowledge that whatever you are going through is difficult, including how you feel about yourself or the situation.
e.g. Wow, this is tough.
I’m having a hard time with this.
This is overwhelming and confusing.
I’m feeling unsure of things.
2. Acknowledge how your present circumstance relates to being a human being and connects you to others in the universe.
e.g. This is part of being human.
Other people feel this way too.
Everyone struggles with these feelings.
3. Offer a phrase of comfort to yourself. This might be an encouragement or a blessing. Whatever you need to hear.
e.g. May I feel strong and brave right now.
May I accept my feelings for what they are.
I am safe. I am ok.
Congratulate yourself for your self-care and self-compassion!
P.S. You can find a YouTube video on this subject hosted by myself and Melissa here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMDmMhz1uCE&t=8s
Visit Kristin Neff’s website at https://self-compassion.org She has a variety of free guided meditations and self-compassion exercises available.
Also visit the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion for more information (https://centerformsc.org).