By Kelly Chapman, M.A., Owner of Meredith Whole Living Center and Certified Authentic Leadership Coach
As we approach the one year anniversary of the pandemic uprooting our lives, I imagine I’m not the only one looking back and realizing the impact the changes in our world have had on our routines and overall wellness. Many articles on wellness and health focus on ways we can discipline ourselves, build and maintain healthy habits, and display visible signs of health and vitality, and while important and of interest, this year as in all difficult times, it’s important to include self-compassion, grace and acceptance in any truly holistic wellness plan.
Have you ever caught yourself admonishing yourself in a way that would make you cringe if you heard someone speaking in that manner to a child or loved one? If so, this is a sign that you could benefit from slowing down and re-evaluating your need to show yourself self-compassion. It’s common to set standards for ourselves we wouldn’t impose on others, and you aren’t alone if this is a habit of yours. However, when we’re moving through difficult times, adopting strategies to expand our compassion to include ourselves becomes even more important for our wellbeing. One of the simplest strategies for breaking this habit is to observe without judgment when we’re being self-critical. By visualizing a child, loved one, or even a beloved pet in a similar situation, we can imagine how we might frame the situation and offer kind words of support and care. From here we can redirect this message back to ourselves, gifting ourselves gentle encouragement and opening the door for the grace we need to move forward.
My favorite characteristic of grace is that it always seems to find us when we most believe we’re undeserving of it. The times we feel most down, discouraged and overwhelmed are often the times it’s most important to ask ourselves where and how we can summon the capacity to gently let ourselves off the hook. This is not always easy in a culture that unrealistically expects us to always be “on”, in control, and productive, but it is possible. Grace is essential to becoming the best version of ourselves both for ourselves and those we care about, and once we understand this it becomes clear that it is a necessity and not self-indulgent. Grace allows us to move forward in full freedom toward the version of ourselves we most desire to become.
This brings us to acceptance. Living in denial and shame over where we believe we ought to be is a wonderful way to remain stuck. Accepting where we are and how we got there is often the first and most critical step forward. If you think about times in your life where you’ve hit unexpected detours, you might remember feeling overwhelmed, disoriented, and concerned about the extra time it would take to arrive at your intended destination. It helps to remember that detours are inherently designed to get you where you wanted to go, albeit a different way. This past year may have created a monumental detour for many of us, but by accepting where we are and choosing to move forward, we can still trust there’s a path to where we’d hope to be.
However you’ve managed to get to this moment, your very presence is the true victory. Habits can be reinstated, goals brought back into focus, and necessary changes made, but who you are in this world can never be replaced. No matter how far you may have strayed from your intended wellness goals this year, by summoning self-compassion, grace and acceptance, there’s no limit to where you can still go, and who and what you might become.