• Paula Azevedo, PhD

Inviting self-compassion into our lives

As I teach and work with preservice and inservice teachers I continue to hear about the stress and challenges we as educators are facing teaching during a global pandemic. The overwhelming pressure put on teachers this year has really tested the resolve and resiliency of many. Even veteran teachers who are dedicated to the profession, their practice and especially their students are being stretched thin by the personal and professional challenges and pressures. This is all real. These are incredibly difficult times. The question becomes how do we show up and respond to these challenges. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, but I’m going to share with you one way we can respond to our own challenges and difficulties and others’...and that is with a bit of compassion, especially self-compassion. I know how challenging being self-compassionate can be, and it’s something I’m constantly working on. That’s why I'm creating a five part video series about cultivating self-compassion.



Big Emotions and Challenges

First, I want to acknowledge that the frustrations, fears, anxieties, anger and sadness that you may be feeling are real and I’m feeling many of those same challenging emotions as well. There is just so much uncertainty. Our brains are really busy scanning for the next dangerous situation, trying to manage to keep our bodies alive, while also trying to maintain our normal pace at work. Making it difficult sometimes to do simple daily tasks and decisions.


You may have noticed that you’re forgetting things, making more frequent mistakes, maybe even losing your cool. Remember, these are unusual times. It’s not everyday that the entire world deals with a pandemic. We’re trying to teach and our students are trying to learn during a global crisis. Mistakes will be made. We’ll be stressed and anxious, and some of our students may be facing the same challenges. So, let’s just stop and recognize that there is nothing normal about this period of time, and we’re all just doing our best during this prolonged crisis.


But also know that this is a moment in time. That this pandemic will not last forever even though it may be challenging to see the end of this crisis.


With all that said I’d like to invite you to give yourself some grace. Yes, learning and teaching online, using a hybrid model, and even face-to-face with its many restrictions all have its challenges. But you are doing the best that you can and meeting each challenge in order to support your students in the best possible way you can. And you’re not alone in this struggle. Countless educators in your school, across the nation and world are facing similar challenges and barriers to teaching during this crisis. Remember that.


An Invitation Practice Self-Compassion

Of course, sometimes when we intellectually understand the difficulty of a situation and recognize that we’re doing our best it doesn’t always register in our hearts and bodies. A practice of compassion and especially self-compassion can support you during these challenging times.


Let me first share a basic definition of compassion. Compassion is to show concern and kindness when someone is facing a difficult challenge or is in pain. Hopefully you’ve been on the receiving end of compassion or been compassionate towards another person. However, you may have noticed that it’s far easier to be compassionate towards another being than yourself. Consider a time when you were compassionate towards someone. What words did you use to provide them the support they needed. Now think about your own self talk during the past few months. See the difference in the words, tone and action.


Self-compassion is treating yourself like you would a good friend when they’re going through a difficult challenge. You deserve that same compassion you share with a friend. It’s those moments when you pause while facing a difficult situation or emotion and recognize the difficulty you’re facing and yet having the courage to say to yourself “sweetie this is really hard and even painful, but you’ll be okay.” And even taking your hand and lightly placing it on your heart as a way to extend that compassion to your whole body.


So, I invite you to start practicing self-compassion during these difficult times. The good news is that if you find self-compassion a difficult practice there are ways to mindfully cultivate more compassion in your life.


In this post I’m going to share one of the five strategies to cultivate self-compassion. And throughout the next four weeks I’ll be sharing the other four techniques.


#1 Positive moments in your day

One of the first methods to cultivating self-compassion I’d like to share with you is purposefully inviting a positive moment in your day. This positive moment can be anything that may spark joy; that has the potential to uplift your spirit; or even a moment of thoughtful contemplation.


For example, listening to a particular song can have a positive impact on your mood and even get you dancing. For others it may be starting the day with a mantra. Some find joy in sacred text and prayers. While poetry and inspiration quotes have the same uplifting effect on others. Maybe there’s a person you follow on instagram that you enjoy reading their daily posts. Whatever your positive moment is, see if you can build in a habit of including that positive moment at the same time each day. Notice what happens to your mood, self-talk, or even energy level when you incorporate this positive moment into your daily routine.


This moment doesn’t have to be time consuming or intricate. It just has to be authentic to you. You can even incorporate this moment in your classroom routines. I like to include a positive message or inspirational quote for the day at the start of my class. This is an easy way to include your students in this and they may have some positive messages of their own that they’d like to share. Why not have a positivity board, whether it’s in your virtual or physical classroom your students can share their messages and quotes too. See how far your positive moment can go in not only cultivating self-compassion, but compassion among your students.


This is just one method of cultivating self-compassion. Sign up to get updates and monthly newsletters from me. You can also check out my YouTube Channel and subscribe so you won't miss any new content.