Why compassion and self-leadership matters more in crisis

Written by: Dr Libby McGugan, Speaker, writer and mentor, Joy Harmonics

Published: 05/05/2020

Libby reflects on the importance of self-leadership with the view that if your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.

These are tender times. COVID-19 has taught us that we have little control over our environment. It is stretching our capacity to be compassionate and flexible beyond anything we have experienced collectively. Like putting on your own oxygen mask first in a flying emergency, self-compassion is essential to avoid overwhelm, resentment and fatigue.

Both health and social care professionals and unpaid carers delivering care are already tuned to compassion. Compassion is connection, not through the mind, but through the heart. It is a feeling-sense, not a concept. It is the space between one and another where there is no judgment.

As an emergency medicine consultant, I had moments of overwhelm in an overcrowded department; frustrated that I was failing people by not being able to offer them timely care. Or when I worked in a field hospital in a warzone, witnessing mankind’s worst atrocities, there was a breaking point – a moment when I just had to leave, find an isolated place and sob into the sand. Everyone in the team had a breaking point, and everyone understood that it was okay that we did. We had a high level of compassion for the wounded, each other and, eventually, for ourselves.

Self-leadership means guiding yourself with gentleness, humility, and compassion. Mastering self-leadership is learning to connect with ourselves – our essence, beneath the noise of anxious thoughts. Our minds are easily pulled into fight-or-flight patterns and worst-case-scenarios. Our essence is innate wellbeing – it is connected to the intelligence of life itself that beats our heart, breathes us, heals our bodies and brings us solutions.

Tuning to our essence sends neurochemical signals of wellbeing to our cells, allowing them to function at their best. Tuning to fear sends stress signals, overloading our immune systems, particularly if we’re unwell. For optimum recovery and resilience, our job is to tune to our essence as much as we can. Our bodies are tuning forks and our feelings tell us what we’re tuned to. Tension in our body tells us we’re tuned to fear. Ease tells us we’re tuned to wellbeing.

I believe our attention is key – it resides in our essence. By noticing and practising, we can begin to shift our attention from fear to ease, allowing our natural lifeforce to flow through us. My top ten tips to tune-up:

  1. Listen – Ask yourself how you’re really feeling. Frustrated, anxious or overwhelmed? Admit it. Be honest with you. Listen to what your body-mind really needs.
  2. Space – Let your feelings be felt. Give them a space to flow. Uncomfortable thoughts will pass if you let them be, like storm clouds in the sky. You are not the clouds, you are the sky.
  3. Love and kindness – Give the part of you that’s hurting the compassion it’s asking for. Sometimes a parent just has to hold a child – become your own compassionate parent.
  4. Breathe – Tuning to your breath connects you with the energy of Life itself. Breathe in your own grace, breathe out your intentions.
  5. Drop perfectionism – Ease back. Our power lies not in the frantic speed of our overactive minds, but in our gentler, natural rhythm. Mistakes happen even when we’re trying our best. It’s okay to be vulnerable. If you need time-out, say so. If you need to cry, cry. We’re here to help each other – seek council from friends or professionals if you need help to re-centre, or ask your higher-self for guidance.
  6. Thank yourself and your life – Notice and appreciate what makes you proud to be you in your life. Appreciation is a powerful energetic state – it means something good becoming more.
  7. Watch less news – Be selective about news you consume and how much.
  8. Nature – Take a walk or notice a houseplant. Nature’s intelligence is naturally soothing.
  9. Move ­– Get your best music on and kitchen-dance! Take some exercise. Release tension through movement.
  10. Be curious – Each crisis, whether personal or global, is life evolving us into something better. What version of you is trying to emerge?

You matter, right now more than ever. We live in an interconnected Universe: our compassionate energy radiates to those around us and influences their immune systems on a very real level. Spread the energy of wellbeing by giving yourself the gift of self-compassion.

You can find out more about Libby work on her website (this link will take you away from our website). 

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