This is the fourth in a series of blogs on choosing an intentional response to our circumstances in unpredictable times. To read our post from last week, click HERE.
We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7).
“Don’t touch that!” I squawked at my husband, as he reached for the door handle. Hand sanitizer at the ready, I was hyper aware of everything he (might) have touched inside the grocery store.
You see, I happened to catch a rare tropical virus (on our honeymoon, of all things). This tinged our first few months of marriage with overabundant caution and extra care while I’ve been more or less stuck at home.
The appearance of an international pandemic gave us a new label, and me a new fear: “At risk.”
When your new normal means cleaning the egg carton with a disinfecting wipe, it can feel like understanding and trust wears thin. This wasn’t the first time I’d barked at my husband or berated myself for forgetting a mask. I was lashing out and in–the worry of “at risk” ringing in my ears and draining the kindness from my actions toward others…and myself.
I was already cautious. But I let my fear give me permission to be unkind.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Remember: You can be cautious, while still being kind.
When Kegan posed this reminder in week one of this series, it was a revelation for me. I was definitely being cautious–following government orders, using correct social distancing measures, avoiding family and friends, and washing my hands regularly. But was I being kind?
Sure, I wasn’t tackling people in the grocery store for the last roll of toilet paper or yelling at Facebook posts…but I felt like I could somehow “justify” my short temper, the sharp words toward my husband, my fears, worries, and negative self-talk.
I reached out to our counselor, Devin Pierce, asking if he had any words of advice for those of us (myself included) who needed guidance navigating this truth. How do we be cautious AND kind?
Take a self-compassion break. My own unkindness sprang from my core of fear. If I “softened” my approach to the outbreak, I was afraid I would put myself at risk. I pushed myself to uphold a high standard, and lashed out at the people I loved.
But kindness isn’t a wimpy response, it actually builds our strength. Devin recommended taking a moment to walk through a self-compassion exercise from Dr. Kristin Neff.
Having compassion toward ourselves first can give us the fuel to feel safe. This allows us to navigate this season with a clearer outlook on caution and kinder words for those around us.
This exercise from Dr. Neff includes the three aspects of self-compassion (in bold below):
Step 1: Think of a stressful situation in your life. Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.
Step 2: Now, say to yourself:
“This is a moment of suffering.”
That’s mindfulness. You could also say:
- This hurts.
- This is stress.
- And then…
“ Suffering is a part of life.”
That’s common humanity. Other options include:
- Other people feel this way.
- I’m not alone.
- We all struggle in our lives.
Step 3: Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or adopt the right soothing touch for you.
Step 4: Say to yourself:
“May I be kind to myself.”
You can also ask, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation? Such as:
- May I give myself the compassion I need.
- May I learn to accept myself as I am.
- May I forgive myself.
- May I be strong.
- May I be patient.
We can all use this exercise anytime, to take a moment and re-align our hearts with kindness and compassion. Then reflect this outward–if everyone is doing the best they can during this time, how can I be kind?
This is a difficult season, filled with great uncertainty, but you’re not alone in facing it. It is possible to be cautious, to follow the rules to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, while still being kind.
To navigating the balance alongside you, and practicing kindness together,
The Cornerstone Team
If you or someone you know is struggling with fear during this season, or would like to practice more strategies for self-compassion and connection, please reach out to us! Devin and the rest of our highly-trained team are here to support you and give you the tools that you need. We provide secure, cost-effective, confidential online counseling from the comfort of your own home.
Are you anxious, worried, and stuck at home? We would love to set you up with one of our professional therapists (we have online counseling options). Feel free to explore our website and read through some of our therapist’s bios. Give us a call with your questions at 303-902-3068 or email us at [email protected]