5 tools for practicing self-compassion after a break up

2020 has been a difficult year for me. A handful of really close relationships have ended dramatically. I have been cut off and denied any communication by others. In addition, I had to choose to pause communication with my family after a year of ongoing discussions and therapy without any relevant changes. I’m an easygoing, loving, mindfulness and self-compassion teacher – how could I end up in a mess like this?!

This year, I faced many challenges that ultimately taught me the importance of practicing self-compassion; today I want to share with you the 5 self-compassion practices that helped me get through a breakup. Follow these tips if you’re going through a difficult situation, or come back to them when you notice you need a little help being kind to yourself.

What is self-compassion?

Compassion for others – you might recognize it as a warm, caring feeling inside – one that involves noticing another’s pain or suffering, feeling moved to respond in a heartfelt and helpful way, and showing understanding and kindness towards the other rather than judgement or criticism.

Self-compassion is when we direct this loving awareness, kindness, human understanding, and related action inwards towards ourselves.

It’s when we recognize that we are mortal, vulnerable, and human; go easy and gentle on ourselves rather than behaving harshly, and learn to practice mindfulness rather than identifying with our thoughts1.

5 tools for self-compassion

Back to the difficult situations this year: the hardest case has been that my girlfriend wanted to end our romantic relationship in order to be alone and then ended up getting back together with her ex. During some of the difficult discussions, self-compassion has been an important backbone for me to be mindful of my energy and boundaries. It has given me the strength and courage to speak up and pause the argument, either for a self-compassion break or to continue another day.

Self-compassion practice has reminded me that even though we can’t always be there for each other, I am always safe and loved by myself. And this is not just a thought, it’s a lifestyle and a ”result” from years of practicing this skill and loving attitude towards myself. Before self-compassion was more like a tool that I used during or after hardships, now it’s also my friend who helps me to be more confident and prepared to face any experience. It’s more of a state of a being and steady whole mindbody experience nowadays. It’s a skill and a muscle that I’ve been pumping to be fit to face these challenges in my life.

Below is what self-compassion looks like concretely for me in a break up situation. Here are 5 self-compassion tools you can practice after a breakup or anytime:

1. Self-soothing

Using self-soothing techniques is a skill that we can learn to help us regulate our nervous system and make ourselves feel relaxed and calm2. For some this might be conscious breathing practices, giving yourself a hug or making yourself a warm bath or a cup of tea. For example, in the nights when I can’t sleep, I’ve been petting my hair and hand lightly to self-sooth.

woman holding hands over chest with red painted fingernails - how to practice self compassion in a breakup

2. Positive actions

Taking positive action is another method I use to practice self-compassion towards myself. Some evenings when feelings of loneliness, sorrow and fear are arising, I feel the urge to escape to watch a movie or social media. Sometimes I chose to do those, and sometimes I have chosen writing, meditating, reading, walking, hugging a tree… self-compassion has opened up more positive choices for me.

3. Awareness meditation

In an awareness meditation, one sits and watches whatever is arising in oneself, allowing it to be there without trying to change it. After my breakup, I focused on noticing thoughts that judge or blame myself, my ex or our relationship. Sometimes I just need a reminder of self-compassion when these thoughts keep coming back; sometimes I choose other thoughts or visualize a hug. Self-compassion helps me to welcome the thoughts even though they aren’t pleasant.

4. Asking for help

A big part of self-compassion for me is asking for help. I want to be a dad to my daughter who takes care of himself, can talk about difficult situations, emotions and also taking full responsibility of myself that she doesn’t have to carry me. This means that I am not in a victim / martyr energy when she is around. Also that I seek and ask for help. I have a therapist, coach, energy healer, massager, etc. And I tell her that I have many friends that I can talk to, which is super important. Showing her that I can be vulnerable and resilient at the same time. Not pretending that I am a superman and everything is ok, and not that I am drowning into the swamp of sorrow either. Self-compassion has given me the courage to be radically honest and clear in my communication.

5. Taking care of yourself first

When I practice self-compassion, I choose myself first. This looks like: going out, doing sports, camping in the woods, enjoying music and dancing, allowing more freetime in the day just to be, working with a relaxed energy and doing the right amount of work.

Self-compassion opens a perspective that taking care of myself is not selfish, it’s also serving others.

Conclusion

So where are the formal self-compassion meditations? Well, seems that at this moment those are actually quite rare! Instead of thinking that I’ve failed as a mindfulness and self-compassion teacher, I am proud that I have found my own path through misery with a tailor fitted self-compassion practice. Guess that’s what this is all about – finding love towards yourself that feels just right for you. It doesn’t matter what it looks like to the other people. Self-compassion has given me courage to find my own power and truth and to live a life that looks like me.

More on self-compassion

For more thoughts on self-compassion, check out this video by The School of Life:


How do you practice self-compassion when you’re going through a difficult time or breakup? Let us know in the comments or share about it with us in the Honest Relating & Healing Relationships private Facebook group.