December 3, 2020

Practicing Self-Compassion: Tips for Health Care Workers and Caregivers

Written by Carrie Baatz, Community Training Coordinator for The IC
Originally published by Colorado Community Health Alliance

Senior woman visited by home care specialistIn this season of COVID-19, we are living in times of immense stress and uncertainty. Medical and helping professionals who are vicariously exposed to the suffering of others are at risk for compassion fatigue. One of the most important ways that we can sustain our compassion and empathy for others is to offer that same care to ourselves. Self-compassion is the practice of showing ourselves kindness instead of judgment.

Ideas for Practicing Self-Compassion

  • Pause for a few minutes to breathe and offer yourself kindness when you feel stressed.
  • Imagine what you would say to a good friend and offer those words to yourself.
  • Try incorporating short meditations like this one into your routine: Compassion Break for Clinicians.
  • Offer your body some soothing touch. You might gently rub your shoulders or your feet, soak in a bath after a long day, or place a hand over your chest during a difficult moment.
  • Give yourself physical anchors that make you feel comfortable and uplifted in your environment. This might include wearing supportive shoes or hanging quotes and pictures on your wall that inspire you.
  • Plan strategies that support your resilience (see the Working Through Compassion Fatigue worksheet for ideas).
  • Debrief together with your team about workload and stressors. Ask co-workers and supervisors for what you need. Share signs of stress with each other.
  • Form wellness buddies with a friend, co-worker or family member. Celebrate small victories with each other.
  • Give yourself permission to plan and enjoy a mental health day.

We’re often not encouraged to be self-compassionate in society. But in order to give others compassion, we must first be compassionate with ourselves. Self-compassion is an attitude that can be learned and a muscle that can be exercised. By giving ourselves inner support, we can enhance our resilience.

For more self-compassion resources, visit the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion. If you are a caregiver who would like to receive one-on-one support from your peers, we invite you to join The IC’s caregiver support group, Caregiver Connection.