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How to Use Self-Compassion to Heal Burnout

I've been binging on podcasts featuring interviews with Kristen Neff, a self-compassion researcher. You may have heard her powerful Ted talk on self-compassion. If you're feeling the heat of burnout, keep reading. Self-compassion is going to be transformative in healing your burnout.

In my own experience, during the peak of my first burnout, I felt completely alone. I kept telling myself I needed to toughen up, that I was not strong enough. My inner critic, whom I visualize as a Russian drill sargent call Helga, was doing an excellent job of beating me up and drowning me in self-criticism.

But here's what I now know: fostering radical or fierce self-compassion works much better than beating ourselves up. Positive reinforcement and acknowledging our efforts can lead to better results than self-criticism and punishment.

We tend to believe that self-criticism is necessary for motivation, that we won't work as hard if we don't beat ourselves up, but it's the opposite. Kristen Neff explains that self-criticism actually activates our reptilian threat system. Instead of the threat coming from a T-rex, though, the threat is generated in our own brains. This threat system releases a surge of stress hormones like cortisol, leading to depression, anxiety, and even potential autoimmune issues.

So what can we do? One of the first steps is recognizing the signs of danger. We need to pay attention to the signals our body sends when we're feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Heart rate changes, increased food consumption, and heightened anxiety are some common indicators.

Kristen Neff suggests introducing signs of safety when these danger pathways are activated. You can try various techniques like gentle touch, EFT tapping, or soothing vocalizations to signal to your body that everything is okay and you're safe.

Another essential step is to speak to ourselves kindly and encourage self-compassion. Treat yourself as you would treat a loved one or a dear friend. Ask yourself, "What do I need right now?" and provide yourself with the support and comfort you would offer to someone you care about.

Remember that self-compassion doesn't mean giving in to everything or being a victim. It's about acknowledging your feelings, setting boundaries, and saying "no" when necessary. It's also essential to avoid using all-or-never language, as there are no absolutes in life.

So, practice radical self-compassion, and notice the positive impact it can have on your well-being and resilience. Treat yourself with the same care and kindness you show to others, and remember, you are doing your best, and you are a beautiful soul at your core.

For full episode, go to apple or spotify and type in episode 157 on Recharting your Life with Hope

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