Self compassion: why kindness is key when you are trying to improve your health
How to build a resilient health zone during stressful times
This guest post on self compassion and establishing your health zone is from Gillian Goerzen, BSc (kin), BCRPA PT, GF, YFL
Self compassion can be hard for many people. Pretty much every day one of my clients reaches out because they’re on the “struggle bus.”
They’re having a hard time with this (because news flash THIS IS HARD!). And they are worried. Not just about the world, the health and safety of friends and family, how they’re juggling ‘all the things’, but how they’re “regressing” into old (unhelpful) habits.
Habits like emotional eating and watching Outlander on Netflix instead of getting out for a walk or doing one of the million free workouts available online right now. Oh the guilt. The shame. Sigh.
They know what they should do…but they feel helpless in their attempts to shift “back” into gear.
Anyone else feeling this way? I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that YES…someone out there just might be feeling this way too.
Because let’s be honest. I feel this way sometimes too. And so do most of the people I talk to. So, yeah. I think this might be another one of those “human” things.
If this is resonating for you, I invite you take these steps to “coach” yourself
Self-Compassion is the strategy of meeting yourself with kindness.
Why? Because that inner voice of criticism is not only hurtful, it’s not helping! Self-Criticism in inversely related with self-efficacy (read: your belief in your capability to be successful).
What does this mean? If you’re a jerk to yourself your motivation and confidence go out the window. So while it seems counterintuitive, the best step you can take when you hear that inner mean-girl dial up the volume – is to greet her with kindness.
The first step in Self-Compassion is mindfulness. We have to notice what is happening before we can do anything about it. Once we notice it, we can acknowledge our suffering. By acknowledging our suffering we acknowledge we’re not alone. This piece of “common humanity” can make all the difference in how we relate to our suffering. When we feel like we’re all alone in our suffering it can feel insurmountable. Sometimes just knowing we’re not the only ones feeling this way – goes a long way!
Finally, we can meet ourselves with kindness. We can speak to ourselves in a way we’d speak to our loved one. Offering ourselves the same grace we extend to others. This space and grace and acknowledgement that we’re a human having a human experience – can go a long way to helping us move through the struggle.
Shift your lens
Some of the dialogue I’m hearing from clients is this notion that they’ll get back to their health habits and routines “when things settle down” or “after” the pandemic. That they’ll go “back” later, at some time in the future.
Consider this: what if going “back” isn’t the best direction? What if “back” wasn’t the resilient lifestyle you need to get through difficult times? While I’d agree – these are extraordinary times that are likely once in a lifetime, the bottom line is that this period of pandemic we’re in is not likely to be short lived. That we’ll be “in this” for a while. And even once we’re not, we don’t really know what our “new normal” will look like.
So, with that in mind, what if NOW is an opportunity to create an entirely NEW approach to health + fitness. One that works with your (real) life right now….and moving forward especially during times of peak stress)? What would it look like if you re-imagined your health + fitness right now. In a way that truly served and supported you now?
Because here’s the thing, while we’re in extraordinary times experiencing a pandemic, life (invariably) throws curveballs. What if your healthy lifestyle could be resilient to these “plot twists?” What would your “health” look like (how would you define it) if you used this new lens of resilience? Do you think it could be more sustainable and potentially more functional? Get curious and consider what “health” really means to you – and what your health and fitness habits, routines and practices might look like with this “lens” on.
Create a NEW (and realistic) health zone
From this space of grace, kindness and permission to change – now we can look at re-building your health zone. By building your health zone during this period of struggle – you’re building a foundation on real life. What does that look like? Click here to circle back to this blog I wrote on building your health zone.
What is a Health Zone?
The Health Zone (in short) is about creating a range of health habits. Instead of viewing your health as a binary state you’re either “in” or “not” (read: on or off that blessed health wagon), the Health Zone has you view your health as an evolving continuum or zone of habits and routines. And as long as you’re living each day within your defined “zone” you my friend are ROCKING your health – your way!
By getting rid of black and white quotas and hard and fast rules – we offer ourselves more freedom to – work with the curveballs. Whether that’s a pandemic, a work deadline or a sick kid (#reallife).
How do I build my Health Zone?
When I explore this concept with clients I start by exploring their definition of health. If you don’t know what “healthy” means to you it’s pretty hard to get into the “tactics” of what you’ll do to get there (kinda like trying to drive somewhere without knowing where you’re going….you might get there…but you might not. And you’ll likely waste a lot of gas and get pretty frustrated getting there).
Before you proceed, circle back to step two above about shifting your lens. Explore what health really means to you – right now! Once you’re clear on how you define health (hint: your definition will be as unique as you are), then we can break it down into tactics by exploring the 3 components of health: body, mind and spirit.
The 3 Components of Health
- Body: These are the practices, habits and routines that support the health of your physical body. I generally classify these into movement (physical activity and/or exercise), nutrition (how you nourish your body), and sleep (sleep is one of the unsung heroes of health!)
- Mind: These are the practices, habits and routines that support your mental and emotional health. They might be practices like meditation or gratitude, writing a journal or speaking with a counsellor or coach.
- Spirit: These are the practices, habits and routines that support your connection to your deeper values. They might be practices like getting out in nature or praying.
Within each of these categories you want to consider both the lower limit of your Health Zone and your upper limit.
The lower limit habits, routines and practices are the things you can commit to doing no matter what. Like, in the middle of a pandemic, or when you’ve got a crazy work deadline, or a sick kid (aka. when real life is throwing you curveballs). It’s important to be incredibly realistic with these. View them as complete “non-negotiable” habits like brushing your teeth. Choose things that seem easy to make happen (espeically now).
Once you’ve established your lower limits, take a step back and ask yourself: could you do these NO MATTER WHAT!? If the answer is NO – back to the drawing board. Adjust.
Now we can look to your upper limits. These should stretch you (just a bit) – but not too much. They should push you to grow, but still feel reachable. Caveat: they should feel “reachable” within the structures of your real life (not unicorns and rainbows non-existent dreamworld life). I know, I get it, I’ve been there. When we get all dreamy and vision-boardy and we really want to….but it’s just not gonna happen. Be realistic – with a pinch of dreamy.
Ask yourself, do these upper limits stretch me, just a bit? If I imagine a real week in my “normal” life – could this all happen? If the answer is YES – awesome. If not….time to tweak.
Fiddle around until you “get it.” And….know you have full permission to change these. Any. Time. You need to. This is the beauty of your Health Zone. It’s yours! Tweak, adjust, revamp or release the things that don’t work. In fact, I recommend doing this once per week for the first bit until you fine tune it. I also recommend tweaking any time you hit a bump, roadblock, or life change (read: right now in a Pandemic).
Not sure where to go from here?
These ideas (including self-compassion, shifting your lens and the health zone) are two of the key components of the conversation in the Super You Studio. The StudioCrew is a group coaching community that gives you access to me as your coach as well as resources, tools and strategies to help you bring your unique vision of health to life. You can purchase content in the Studio a la carte, or you can become a member for the full coaching and community experience. You can learn more here: https://www.superyoustudio.com
Gillian Goerzen is a Body Positive Health and Fitness Coach with a passion for helping women create a healthy lifestyle they love free from guilt and shame. Grounded in the HAES® (Health at Every Size) philosophy Gillian helps clients rediscover their JOY for movement and genuine enthusiasm for building health habits that stick – for good! You can learn more about Gillian and her online Body Positive Fitness Studio and Community at www.superyoustudio.com
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