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Self-compassion for Anxiety: The benefits

Self compassion for anxiety

If you struggle with anxiety, you will likely be familiar with the negative train of thought your mind jumps to whenever something goes wrong.

Whether you have made a mistake or feel deep down like you’ve done something ‘wrong’, shameful thoughts come flooding right back.

Thoughts like…

‘Oh, why did I do that…’

or

‘I should have known better…’

Does this feel familiar?

These are also known as ‘negative automatic thoughts’ or ‘negative automatic thinking’. While it can be completely normal to have these thoughts, they can fill us with shame and self-criticism.

But what would it be like to show yourself kindness and compassion?

Instead of judging yourself when you feel you have made a mistake, show yourself care and understanding.

The benefits of self-compassion for anxiety.

Hands up if you’ve got that inner critical voice that stops you from doing the things you enjoy, following your dreams and feeling good about yourself?

And hands up if you’ve tried to push that voice away only for it to come back 10x stronger and 10x louder?

It is completely okay to want to push that voice away, it’s hard to listen to right? It can be forceful, and mean and stop you from doing the things you enjoy. It is fearful, scared and critical.

And it is also trying to protect you.

It is holding you back from putting yourself out there to protect you.

It is criticising you so that you stay in your comfort zone. So you are safe.

It is making your world smaller and smaller in order to keep you from danger.

Anxiety can act as a defence mechanism. What that means is it’s something we learned to do in order to protect ourselves. And a certain level of anxiety can be healthy.

But if it starts to make every day really really hard, that’s when it might be time to get some support.

This is where self-compassion comes in. Instead of pushing those anxious, fearful feelings down and attempting to block out that critical voice, self-compassion allows you to feel those feelings and show understanding rather than judgment.

Self-compassion doesn’t mask anxious thoughts, and it doesn’t run from them or push them away, instead, it works with them

Practical ways to practice self-compassion for anxiety

Observe your anxious thoughts

If you’ve been shutting out these critical, anxious thoughts for a while, observing them may take some time.

Try to see if you can catch these anxious thoughts before you shut them out.

Is there any pattern to them? Any themes or commonalities when they arise. Is it certain topics, places, people or situations that trigger them to come up the most?

See if you can start observing these thoughts without judgement, noticing them and identifying patterns.

Write down your critical thoughts

If you’ve been able to observe these thoughts then you can turn them into more compassionate, understanding thoughts.

Take some time to write down all the negative thoughts that you have been able to observe.

Once you have a little list, try to change these into more kind, passionate, caring thoughts.

For example:

Why did I say that stupid thing in that meeting.’ could become…

That was a big meeting and it is okay that I was nervous.’

Validating your feelings and offering a more understanding, kind perspective.

If this feels difficult, imagine a friend is telling you these thoughts, what would you say to them?

Talking to a counsellor

Talking to a counsellor who specialises in working with anxiety from a compassion-focused perspective may help you to develop this skill, understand how you’re feeling and work with your anxiety rather than against it.

Working with a counsellor who specialises in anxiety will allow you the space to explore these anxious thoughts and feelings, understand them, and develop your self-compassion naturally.

If you’re interested in learning more about counselling for anxiety, I offer a free initial 20-minute consultation call. This is a free call that will allow you to ask any questions you might have about counselling and to see if I’m the right counsellor for you. I offer online counselling sessions (and face-to-face in the Pickering, North Yorkshire area).

Click here to send an enquiry today.

Self-compassion as a practice

Building and growing your self compassion may feel difficult to start with.

And that is understandable. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely spent years doing the complete opposite.

It may take time for your self compassion to feel natural. For it to be louder and stronger than that little critical voice. But building this skill, developing it and nurturing it can help you work with your anxiety and reduce its intensity.

Further resources on self-compassion

Theres a handful of extra resources on self-copassion that I recommend checking out if you’re interested and not in a position for counselling.

The mindful self compassion workbook by Kristen Neff & Christopher Germer.

Selfcompassion.org by Kristen Neff