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Notes From a Mental Health Nurse: Self-Compassion

13 December 19 illustrations: Leosaysays

Each month, our anonymous mental nurse, who has over two decades on experience working in Nottingham, will deal with a specific mental health issue with practical, accessible advice. This month, it's self-compassion...

Christmas can be particularly difficult for those who feel that they do not share in the ‘festive spirit’. This can be due to poor physical and mental health, loneliness or not having the funds to keep up with friends and family. Media expectations are high, tempting us with big nights out and all the glitz and glamour.

Self-compassion at these times can be terribly hard. We often tend to focus on our shortcomings, berating ourselves for not being as good as others. I meet people every day who are much kinder to others than they are to themselves. So how do you start to look after yourself at this time of year?

You could start by acknowledging that you have had your own personal struggles; these could be emotional, mental, physical pain, or a mixture of all of these. Recognise that experiencing this sort of pain is universal we all experience pain at some point to varying degrees. The fact that we experience this isn’t a fault or failing of ours. We are not to blame for our pain, and we are not alone.

The self-nurture comes about by not shying away from or ignoring the pain, but meeting it with feelings of kindness, care, warmth and concern. 

My advice would be to focus your energies on ways of alleviating the pain. This could be taking practical steps to address a problem that you have been avoiding, or allowing ‘somebody in’ to help you with this. They could provide a helpful perspective to help sure-up your strength and courage at a time when you feel less able. 

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