As women, we are all runners. Literally and figuratively running through life at speed, even when doing so from the restrictions of home.
We fly through our never-ending to-do list, supporting an army of colleagues, children and family in a cycle of an always on work-life balancing act.
How often, though, do we stop to look at the impact of this high stress and high speed on our emotional wellbeing? How often do we truly empathise with ourselves?
When we are stressed, we revert to short termism. Our figurative ‘stress switch’ remains in the ‘on’ position for days at a time. The alarm bells ring; we might feel exhausted, anxious, unhealthy or unhappy, but often it takes far too long for us to register how we are feeling.
In a blur we find that we have forgotten ourselves, our own health and our own feelings. Our self-empathy radar is entirely lost and we just keeping running.
In my new bestselling book ‘Softening The Edge’ I talk about stress as similar to a “heavy fog that appears at speed to a shore, a silent body of emotional heaviness that sneaks in without us noticing it until we suddenly realise we can no longer see our hands in front of our eyes.” Stress is a monster that overcomes far too many of us but the good news is that with a little more focus on our empathy levels, we can clear the fog!
What we know about our brain is that directing it with focus towards a more positive state has a direct and immediate impact to replacing the stress cycle mindset with a more expansive, restorative and generous one.
By actively focusing on our self-empathy, we can improve our emotional wellbeing and our outlook.
Research shows us that this is a hugely beneficial change. One study found that…
The more self-empathetic, versus self-critical, that people were in highly strained situations, the lower their cortisol levels and the higher their heart rate variability. In other words, the higher their self-empathy, the calmer and more physiologically balanced they were.
3 Steps to Put Self-Empathy on Your Daily Agenda to Reduce Stress
1. Take Perspective
Take time to consider your present moment.
- How do you feel?
- Where is the stress in your body?
- Once you have registered this, take 10 minutes to actively focus on deep calming and rhythmic breath, or on a short meditation, surrounding that area physically and emotionally.
Using an app to do this can be hugely valuable on the go.
2. Prioritize Joyful Activities
Joy is both contagious and curative.
Focus on finding the things that truly make you happy and that take only a little effort.
Paint a picture, collaborate on a project, take some photos, go for a swim.
Find joyful activities that require you to deeply focus and you will soon find you are feeling entirely differently.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Live Your Values & Purpose
When you find your purpose, life becomes more effortless.
- Work out what is important to you.
- What are your values?
- Does your day to day reality meet these?
When you find yourself in line with your purpose your self-empathy and self-belief will naturally rise, and this helps to reduce stress.
Running at life empathising with everyone except ourselves is an unsustainable choice.
It’s not good for us emotionally or physically and the resulting stress has become a critically dangerous ‘disease’ plaguing the planet today.
Focus on flipping your stress switch to ‘off’ by putting your own self-empathy first with daily actions that support you, and watch as you switch to an entirely new mindset.