Self-Compassion

COVID-19 (not to mention all the other life challenges we all face).

Need I say more?

Inevitably, life has challenging times. That is a given and to be expected. While there were predictions of a pandemic happening in the future at some point, what was not expected, was it happening now. For the past 6 months (or more, depending on where you live), we have been dealing with a global pandemic. To help slow the spread of the virus, we have had to limit the people we see, limit the amount of time we go out, and limit our activities. Schools were closed down for, at least, a couple of month, depending on where you live. Children were at home. Parents were expected to work and teach their children at home. Some people even lost their jobs. Others have health concerns (or family members with immunocompromised systems) which make it even more important to protect themselves, and their families, from this virus. As a result, there has been conflict … people being disrespectful of other’s decisions to wear masks or limit contact, etc… To say that changing the way we live our lives has been difficult would be an understatement. As a result, there has been much said in the media the last few months about the negative effects COVID-19 has had on people’s mental health.

When I met a gentleman on the beach the other day, we talked about how many people beat themselves up when things are challenging. We say harmful things to ourselves about our appearance, our actions, our mistakes, how fast (slowly) we complete our “work”, lack of self-care, etc… The list is endless really. The gentleman and I discussed how important it is for people to look at these things differently and instead of beating ourselves up, practise being kind to ourselves. Easier said than done, right? How many times have we thought/said things to ourselves that we would never say to someone else who may be suffering in some way?

As I mentioned in my last post, Noticing, I have been reading a book entitled, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Dr. Kristin Neff. In her book, she states that research shows that self-compassion is a major protective factor against anxiety and depression. She goes on to describe that depression is when someone ruminates about past events while anxiety is when someone ruminates about the future and future events. Both depression and anxiety are representations of how our body tries to keep ourselves safe.

Dr. Neff discusses the importance of feeling our pain. Really feeling it… not numbing it out and not avoiding it, but feeling it. She states that “We can’t heal what we can’t feel.” We need to truly feel and understand what we are feeling and why in order to provide ourselves with the same compassion we would provide to others.

She discusses a formula for us to consider – Suffering = Pain x Resistence. Oftentimes, we resist the pain we feel and, as a result, increase our suffering greatly. Instead, Dr. Neff says if we come to terms with the pain, understand it is there and, even though it may be really difficult, we can do things to manage this pain. There are things we can do to help ourselves.

Dr. Neff talks about a self-compassion mantra practise that she implemented to help her to remember to be self-compassionate toward herself. She would use this mantra whenever she faced something negative – difficulties in life or negative self-thoughts. For her mantra she repeats some specific phrases. While these phrases may be perfect for you, she also discussed the importance for each person to come up with our own version of her mantra – one which we are able to connect with personally. I have included both Dr. Neff’s Mantra and her other corresponding ideas to help you out (and to remind myself).

Dr. Neff’s Mantra (page 119)Dr. Neff’s Other Ideas for Personalizing a Mantra (page 121-122)
“This is a moment of suffering.”“I’m having a really hard time right now.”
“It’s painful for me to feel this now.”
“Suffering is a part of life.” “Everyone feels this way sometimes.”
“This is part of being human.”
“May I be kind to myself in this moment.”“May I hold my pain with tenderness.”
“May I be gentle and understanding with myself.”
“May I give myself the compassion I need.”“I am worthy of receiving self-compassion.”
“I will try to be as compassionate as possible.”

We are really all just doing our best during an intensely difficult time. While you are being compassionate to those around you for all they are going through, remember to pause and provide yourself with the self-compassion you deserve. This is hard. Really hard. September is over … one of the most difficult months of the school year has past. So, while you are thinking of ways to provide yourself with self-care, remember that self-compassion is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

Do you provide yourself with self-compassion? If so, how do you do that?

How has self-compassion helped you?

What’s the most challenging thing for you with regards to providing yourself with the compassion you deserve (and need)?

Other Resources For Support

BCCDC: Mental Well-being During COVID-19

ChildHealth BC: COVID-19 Mental Health Resources

heretohelp: COVID-19 – Mental Health Supports

BC Aboriginal ChildCare Society: COVID-19 Mental Health Support Resources

BCPA: COVID-19 – Psychological First-Aid

BCTF: COVID-19 and Climate Change – Managing Existential Anxiety in Your Students

BCTF: Starling Minds Resource

Noticing

It’s been a long time since I wrote my last blog post, and even longer since I did so regularly. Today, I finally feel ready to start to blog again. A little. I’ve missed it. As a way to begin, and to share part of my healing journey, I’m going to start with a rough journal entry I wrote (on paper) yesterday.

Journal Entry – September 30, 2020

20200930_131742I love the peacefulness and calm I feel sitting and journalling by the water, listening to the slight waves against the shore when a boat travels past, listening to the birds chirping close by and in the distance. Feeling the soft breeze of the wind and the warmth of the sun against my face. As I take small sips of my sweet tea, I notice that I am here … completely present … providing myself with the time, love, peacefulness, calm, gentleness, and understanding that I so need and deserve.

I’ve been through a great deal … more than any one person should have to endure. It has been an ongoing journey. With life, there will be many ongoing challenges, especially if one has to deal with any toxic people with any regularity, and who doesn’t have to do that.Continue reading “Noticing”

A New Chapter

Here I am starting yet another new chapter in this journey called life.

At the end of February, I decided to leave elementary school administration and head back to my passion of teaching in the classroom. You can read about that here. After a challenging time personally and professionally, I needed to find my passion again … why did I become a teacher? Why did I become an administrator? What was my purpose? Has that purpose changed? Developed? Evolved? It has been a process for sure that started with some health concerns and evolved into focusing on my word of the year for 2018, Perspective, which you can read about here.

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In March, I began teaching Kindergarten again full-time. What a joy that was. Truly. Yeah, there were times where there was pee all over the floor in the in-class bathroom and even poop occasionally, but it was still joy. I had kids struggling to leave their parents in the morning and requiring some extra cuddles. Joy. There were kids hitting each other and struggling socially to express themselves in appropriate ways. Still joy. Seeing the lightbulb go on when a child can find a word in the pocket chart when we are playing a game of “Where is…”. Joy! Watching a child learn to express themselves in their writing. Joy. I could add to this list all day. Teaching kindergarten was a joy. What a gift it is to be able to provide these children with my undivided attention and to help them with their struggles and be a small part of their triumphs! Continue reading “A New Chapter”

Finding Meaning and Passion

On February 24, 2018, I was at the beginning of making a pretty big decision in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some pretty big decisions in my life, particularly in the last 4 years or so, but this one was equally important on my journey of healing and road toward striving to reach my authentic self.

It was on this day that I decided I no longer wanted to be a principal. I wanted to return to the classroom. After 12 years as an elementary school administrator, and after a very challenging year as an elementary school principal, I longed to connect to my passion that made me strive to be an educator so many years ago.

As an administrator, particularly in the last 6 months of my admin career, too much emphasis had been on the negative. Too much emphasis had been away from student-learning and growth and focused on other factors which took time away from truly making a real difference as a school leader – a real difference in the lives of educators and their students.

In turn, throughout this time, I seemed to be working harder and harder, longer and longer hours, into the night after I put my kids to sleep, to try to make that difference. A difference that people didn’t want me to make. A difference I knew was possible and one I had felt I had made elsewhere. A difference people were not ready for. Continue reading “Finding Meaning and Passion”

One Word 2018 – Perspective

Happy 2018!

What a year 2017 was.

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A large part of 2017 was filled with anxiety, apprehension, and worry surrounding a health issue. In turn, this year was also filled with a great deal of personal reflection. In the personal reflection, many questions came up for me. Questions which needed further reflection, thought, and counselling. Also during this time, was a search for ways to lessen stress and bring more calmness into my everyday life.

PSX_20180107_200730.jpgSo, you might be wondering what health concerns I was having throughout 2017. I went for my very first mammogram in March, 2017 (almost 6 years later than you are supposed to go for your first mammogram). This visit led to a long series of concerns which involved multiple mammograms, ultrasounds, numerous biopsies, an MRI and more mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies. After many months, and multiple growths later, these tests culminated in having a mass removed from my right breast – a mass that the doctor indicated that test results said it was a BiRads 4C and had an 80% of being cancerous. As a result, they wanted the mass removed completely. It was surgically removed at the end of November. I received the pathology results on December 11. Negative. Not cancerous. A fibroadenoma. A couple of them, actually. Thank goodness!  What a relief.Continue reading “One Word 2018 – Perspective”

One Year Ago Today

I am sharing this in an effort to help others, to be a voice when others may be struggling to find their words.  If you, or someone you know, think that you may need the support of a Transition House, give them a call. Reach out. Ask for help.

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February 12, 2017

One year ago today.

It was one year ago tonight that my three young children and I entered the Libra House Transition House through Ishtar Transition Housing Society. It was one year ago we began to meet some of the most caring, thoughtful, generous women I’ve ever met in my entire life.

One year ago today, I gained enough courage to move forward.

One year ago today, I asked for help.

One year ago today, I accepted support from others.

One year ago today, I gained the strength of many.

One year ago today, my healing journey began.

One year ago today, I started to value myself.

One year ago today, I started listening to myself.

One year ago today, I started to trust in myself again.

One year ago today, I started understanding that my normal, wasn’t really “normal”.

Continue reading “One Year Ago Today”

You Matter

Yes, you matter.

For the past few years, there has been a prominent movement toward making sure people (particularly kids) know that they matter. It is a wonderful, very important message that I feel like people can’t hear enough. You can read more about the You Matter Manifesto through Angela Maiers’ site. You can also find a wide range of inspiring ideas and posts on Angela’s Twitter stream. Check it out! You can even get a free copy of Angela Maiers’ new book: Genius Matters which has wonderful stories and helpful lessons to continue to spread this movement.

Here is a video by Angela Maiers about the words, You Matter:

I agree that it is our responsibility as parents, as educators, as leaders, and as people to help everyone around us understand that they each hold special gifts, talents, and abilities. I agree that too often our children are taught to conform and not to truly express who they are as individuals. It is our responsibility to honour them and help them understand their strengths and then build on these strengths.Continue reading “You Matter”

Be Kind to Yourself

It was Friday morning and my classroom was empty. The students had just left with the teacher who helps them exchange their library books for the week. A few minutes after 5448660307_14ccbc3b37my students in Grade 1 and 2 left the class, in walked in another student. He was a few minutes late and had his usual huge smile on his face. He’s 6 years old and in Grade 1. He’s absolutely adorable and has a huge heart. His smile is infectious and always lights up my day. So, with the two of us alone in our class, I said, “Good morning, Joe! Your parents must feel so fortunate to have such an amazing son who is always so happy!” (Joe is not his real name.) Joe’s smile became even bigger! And, then, away he went to the library with his book to be exchanged in his hand.

After school, I happened to be talking with Joe’s mom. She was dropping off some school notices which she felt she was late in returning to school. She was berating herself a little bit, saying that she was having a hard time getting things together. As a mom of 3, it is not easy to keep on top of all the things we need to do as moms. I felt for her and just simply said that it was okay and that it was important that she just be kind to herself. I went on to say that we are all just doing our best and that she is doing a wonderful job.

Continue reading “Be Kind to Yourself”

Where are the Women Keynote Speakers?

Where are the Women Keynote Speakers?

This post was collaboratively written by:

Jessica Johnson
Melissa Emler
Heidi Hutchison
Iram Khan
Kaye Henrickson              
Tia Henriksen                             

Image by PIxabay
Image by PIxabay

In a recent discussion in our Women in Leadership oxer group, we came to the realization that opportunities for us to hear female education leaders speak as keynote presenters at conferences are a rare find. We can list numerous outstanding male keynote speakers we have heard at conferences and would be happy to listen to again:

  • Todd Whitaker
  • Eric Sheninger
  • Peter DeWitt
  • Andy Hargreaves
  • Michael Fullan
  • Joe Sanfellippo
  • Tony Sinanis
  • Jimmy Casas
  • Jeff Zeoul
  • Daniel Pink
  • Sir Ken Robinson
  • Kevin Honeycutt
  • Baruti Kafele
  • Josh Stumpenhorst
  • George Couros
  • Dean Shareski

The list could go on and on…Continue reading “Where are the Women Keynote Speakers?”

Future Members of Society

As I wrote about recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the BCPVPA Short Course for administrators last week. We had many inspiring speakers, great connections with administrators from around the province and heart-felt conversations about kids and the future.

photo (5)On Friday, we had the pleasure of learning from Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser. I always enjoy listening to them and being pushed to think as a result of their powerful questions. Much of their work over the years is associated with the Network of Inquiry and Innovation (previously known as the Network of Performance-Based Schools). They have written a wonderful book, Spirals of Inquiry, which is an easy read, full of local success stories and inspiration (along with a bit of research with the why behind inquiry).  They have also been involved with the Aboriginal Enhancement School Network and Changing Results for Young Readers.  To say that these two leaders in education have had a huge impact in learning around the province and the world, would be an understatement!

While I could go on for pages and pages about all the wonderful messages Judy and Linda presented us on Friday, I would like to focus on a question they asked us to explore briefly with an unknown colleague in the room. I talked with another principal in the room about the question, “What kind of society do we want?”  This is such an important question that must guide the work that we do in our schools each day. This question should be the focus on our minds every single day and should be the focus of the mission and vision of our schools, our school districts, and province. I am fortunate to be inspired by a district that has this focus on everything they do, as seen in our mission and vision and a video that was created for our district:Continue reading “Future Members of Society”