3 Self-Compassion Exercises for the Holiday Season


The holiday season is fast approaching and, while I loooove Christmas, the decorations, the merriment, and even the music, I know that this is the time of year that is probably the most taxing on our relationship with ourselves.

The combination of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year (and especially the traditions and conventions that come with them) cast a spotlight on baggage we have around money, our "upper limit" of enjoyment, our relationships with other people, our relationship with food, our health, our future goals, and more.

So this is the time of year to relate to ourselves from a place of kindness rather than criticism. (tweet this)

Here's a little something to get you started on the path to self-connection over the next two months: 3 self-compassion exercises designed to tone down your inner critic and amplify your inner cheerleader.

These are exercises you can use anytime and anywhere, which makes them handy for holiday gatherings, work dos or day-to-day life. If you have a pen and paper to hand where you can journal through your thoughts, that’s great. If not, you can practice these three exercises in your mind and they’ll still be effective.

The Power of Touch

Take a moment and think about how great it feels when someone you care about gives you a long, supportive hug.

When we’re in times of need, times of crisis, or times of celebration, that kind of hug can convey more than words. A good hug says “I’m here for you”, it says “I see you, I hear you, and I understand”, and it says “Your happiness means so much to me.”

Hugs between friends and partners are viewed as the norm, so why not extend this physical affection to ourselves?

Touch is powerful: it is a way of reconnecting with ourselves, grounding ourselves, and self-soothing.

The next time you feel like you’re in need of a hug, give one to yourself. You can close your eyes, encircle yourself in your arms and ask your inner nurturer for support and guidance. Alternatively, if you’re in a public place and want something a little more subtle, simply squeeze your arm and tell yourself “It will be OK, you will be absolutely fine. I’ve got you.”

The “Best Friend” Switcharoo

Whether we mean to or not, many of us have very different standards for ourselves than we have for other people. This means that we might turn to self-criticism and reproach when we find ourselves in a bad spot, while a friend in the same kind of situation receives our deepest empathy and support.

We offer our deepest empathy and support to friends because we are empathic and supportive people. We see a friend hurting, we see a friend with needs, and we do what we can to respond to that.

Isn’t it time we offered ourselves the same kind of treatment?

The next time you notice that you’re criticizing or reproaching yourself for a certain incident or situation, ask yourself “How would I talk to my best friend if he/she were in this situation?”

Then, take that same kindness, generosity, and empathy and offer it to the person who needs it the most: yourself.

“What if it Wasn’t a Problem?”

This excellent question comes from health and creative coach Sara Seinberg.

Many of us cast judgement on ourselves or the things we’re doing several times a day, often without even consciously realizing it. Whether it’s giving ourselves a hard time for not being as productive as we might like, forgetting to do something, not living up to our own standards, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment, we can jump to a variety of (usually negative) conclusions at the drop of a hat.

Although the part of us doing the chiding has our best interests at heart, this approach is not helpful.

When we challenge our beliefs around these occurrences, we realize that a lot of the “problems” we experience are self-created. We can challenge these beliefs by asking the question:

“What if it wasn’t a problem?”

I just realized I don’t fit into that beautiful cocktail dress I was planning to wear to this year’s work party.”

What if it wasn’t a problem? You might not be able to wear the dress you set your heart on, but it’s a good opportunity to update your wardrobe and practice self-acceptance.

I totally forgot to defrost the turkey...

What if it wasn’t a problem? You have plenty of other food you can serve up. True, it won’t be a conventional holiday dinner but hey, take it out of the freezer now and all the more turkey for tomorrow!

I haven’t bought that gift/finished that paperwork/picked up those decorations/returned that call/sent those cards... etc. like I meant to.

What if it wasn’t a problem? You did a whole bunch of other useful stuff today, and by taking that nap this afternoon, you were listening to your physical needs, which is just as important.

The next time you experience negative judgements about yourself or a situation you’re in, ask yourself “What if it wasn’t a problem?” and see how you feel afterwards.

How are you going to extend self-compassion to yourself over the next two months? Leave a comment and let me know.


Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

 If you could use an extra dose of self-compassion this holiday season, click the image to discover three simple but effective practices you can try in almost any situation