For many of us, coronavirus can feel like rocket fuel to our anxiety and other mental health challenges. Over the years I have learnt to manage my anxiety but suddenly in a matter of days all my coping mechanisms have been taken away from me. No more going to the gym, no more trips to our local coffee shop, no more going to football matches.

I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I love my children, but the idea of being home with all four of them all day is filling me with huge amounts of anxiety. Will I be able to handle it? Suddenly Facebook is flooded with advice on how to look after my mental health: exercise regularly (but only once a day), limit time on social media (but stay connected with others), eat healthily, stick to a routine (but be flexible), and limit caffeine. All brilliant advice, but as I try to put in place all the good advice, I end up putting myself under huge pressure. There is something deeper I have to grapple with. I need to lower my standards.

The most helpful quote I have heard to date has been: Do not let perfect be the enemy of good”, originally from philosopher Voltaire. To get through this period of isolation I need to remind myself to exercise some self-compassion. Self-compassion is not the same thing as self-indulgence, which focuses on giving yourself endless pleasure. When we say be kind to yourself’, we often mean have that extra glass of wine if you’re having a bad day’, or don’t worry if you’ve eaten a whole packet of biscuits, you deserved it’.

This kind of thing may not be a big deal if only done occasionally, but real self-compassion is about wanting ourselves to flourish in the long term. Many of our ways of showing kindness’ to ourselves actually damage us in the long run, not to mention that short-term pleasure is often quickly followed by feelings of guilt, which make us feel even worse.

Sponsored

Self-compassion is talking to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend; if your friend were struggling with anxiety you wouldn’t simply say, All you need to do is trust God a bit more; what’s wrong with you?” – giving them a dose of guilt as well as anxiety. I am hoping instead you would treat them with kindness, gentleness and understanding.

In this current situation, the only thing we can do is our best, realising that making a mistake doesn’t make us a complete failure – it makes us human. When we’re having a down day, rather than telling ourselves to cheer up, let’s acknowledge some of the things that are making life hard, and remind ourselves that it’s perfectly normal to feel sad, angry, despondent or confused. Let’s give ourselves a break from the constant high standards.

We don’t have to be available to others 24/7. We don’t have to feel bad for not looking at our work emails during our evenings and weekends. We don’t have to say yes to absolutely everything we’re asked to do. Sometimes we need to put self-care higher up the agenda, knowing that it’s good sense, not selfishness, which encourages us to look after ourselves.

Self-compassion isn’t taking the easy way out; it’s giving ourselves the kindness we need so that we’re able to be kind to others. God never expects us to be perfect, and the Bible shows us His way by often choosing those who are less than perfect to work with Him. Among His chosen men and women in the Bible were people who had serious character flaws, questionable relationships, crippling insecurities, doubt, disobedience, mixed motivations, and personal ambition.

If God is not asking us for perfection, how can we ask that of ourselves? God longs for us to be free of the voice that constantly tells us we’re not good enough. He longs for us to see ourselves as He sees us. He’s not blind to our imperfections but He loves us regardless. If we’re good enough for Him as we are, who are we to set a different standard?

If God is not asking us for perfection, how can we ask that of ourselves?