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World Mental Health Day: Encouraging learners to practice self-compassion

Self-compassion may not typically be a term that learners are familiar with when it comes to tackling stress and anxiety, especially concerning academic performance. However, existing reports and research have started to investigate the role of self-compassion as an intervention for stress and anxiety specifically for young people. As today is World Mental Health Day, we’ve taken the opportunity to explore self-compassion for learners further.

Simply put, self-compassion is the act of ‘compassion directed inward’. Studies are suggesting that those with higher self-compassion may experience lower levels of stress as they are able to regulate their emotions and be more adaptive in their coping strategies. The science behind GoCalm’s neuro-feedback technology helps learners take a similar approach in tackling their exam stress and anxiety. As with GoCalm, self-compassion prioritises calming down the brain and focusing on the present, rather than letting yourself become overwhelmed by a negative or critical voice.

Researchers have reported that learners who are more self-compassionate are driven less by the fear of failure and more so by mastery oriented goals (focusing on growth and understanding). GoCalm helps learners overcome their exam stress by giving them the space to practice calm and focus techniques whilst under pressure but within a safe environment.  Self-compassion works in the same way as a tool helping learners better mediate and overcome stressful situations through self-regulation.

Mindfulness has also been considered integral to self-compassion with claims that it helps leaners ‘face and learn from painful thoughts and feelings, thereby lessening avoidance.’ GoCalm’s guided anxiety relief includes exam specific meditation which allows learners to tackle elements of their exam anxiety with calm and clarity. Mindfulness helps learners approach their thoughts and feelings in a non-judgemental way, and should allow them to look at themselves with empathy and kindness.

Learners may feel that it’s counterproductive to take time to address their stress and anxiety, preferring to avoid it altogether or tackle it through ‘powering through’. However, it’s crucial that our learners recognise that its better for them to do this in their own space and time. Avoidance will more likely mean that their critical voice be stronger during anxiety inducing scenarios like exams. This is the time that self-compassion will be needed the most to help them remain calm and focused.

Clearly, self-compassion can’t work in isolation to help learners overcome stress and anxiety. When we’re stressed and anxious, access to the part of our brain storing data and information is often shut down. GoCalm helps learners prepare and overcome this by giving them the ability to instinctively remain calm and focused. Self-compassion is an underlying technique that needs to be practiced over time to equip learners with the best coping strategies that will help them achieve their best.

So, on World Mental Health Day this year, if there’s one thing to share with others, is that a little self-compassion can go a long way. Encourage your learners to have more self-compassion. They can quieten that critical voice by talking to themselves in the same way they would to a friend when in distress. Being kinder to ourselves is a way of self-soothing to overcome anxiety. This is a simple step that we can all take in building healthier future for our mental health, today.

Danielle McCullough
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