Cultivating Self-Compassion

Nurses work hard, and our work can sometimes weigh on us. In caring for the sick or dying, we can be impacted emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually, and our self-care can be powerfully buoyed by a strong regular dose of self-compassion.

Compassion in Action

Nursing is often a great example of compassion in action. The nurse holds the hand of a dying patient, comforts a grieving family who just lost their child, or listens as a patient explain what she’s lost since her cancer diagnosis. Nurses embody compassion in their greatest moments, and that compassion is often what patients remember more than anything.

So, if compassion is good for patients, isn’t it also good for nurses? And if nurses learn to turn that skill on themselves (and each other), wouldn’t that go a long way towards fighting burnout and what we sometimes call “compassion fatigue”?

Do Unto Yourself…..

We nurses are great at caring for others, and it’s my experience that we actually need regular reminders to “do unto ourselves” what we do for others so naturally.

When you’re kind, caring, compassionate, giving and selfless with a patient, it usually feels great, and it can be a boost to the self-esteem when you really help someone through a tough moment.

Now, if you were to naturally turn that kindness onto yourself, how would it effect you? Would it make your days more manageable? Would you feel less stressed? Would you feel like you could handle things more easily if you were as kind to yourself as you were to your patients?

A Radical Notion

Such blatant notions of self-care can seem ludicrous to some people, and these ideas can lead certain individuals to consider such acts as strictly selfish in nature. The idea of daily self-care and self-compassion is not openly taught in our society—at least in the mainstream, anyway—and those who do preach such practices tend to be on the fringes.

So, what if we brought this radical idea of self-compassion into the mainstream? What if, for example, we taught it in nursing school? What if, along with lectures on caring for the patient with Alzheimer’s and how to deal with a grieving patient, we were taught classes on self-care and self-compassion? How radical would that be, and how would it change the culture of nursing?

Try It, You’ll Like It

If you begin engaging in compassionate self-care on a regular basis, I challenge you to see how your self-esteem rises, your stress levels decrease, and your enjoyment of life and work increase.

Self-compassion as a practice delivers compassion and gentleness right to your door, and if you’re willing to receive it from yourself, you’ll have more to give to others, and your ability to be present for others will increase qualitatively, and perhaps quantitatively, as well.

Give self-compassion a chance, and allow yourself the “luxury” of kindness directed inwards. You can hold your own heart in your hands, and you can massage it with the kindness, compassion and gentle care with which you treat the fragile hearts of others.

Try it, you’ll like it. And try it again. And again. And again.

About Keith

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Keith Carlson is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist.

With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms, as well as at