I write, and speak, often about self care and resilience; being kind to yourself and your circle; finding a way to forgive errors and learn from mistakes. (And of course you know I include your canine companions and team mates in those discussions).

Relatively recently I ran into the term self compassion and ran into is exactly the way it worked. The term got tossed out in a professional development event I was attending and I thought “huh?”, “what is this?” and  “how is it different to self care?”. We had a ‘rich’ conversation in the session but I was left with questions – hello life long learner!  So I did some reading and have done some thinking – and decided I was ready to share early thoughts here – expect to see more on this over time!

What is Self Compassion?

According to Dr. Kristin Neff, selfcompassion is made up of the following three things: mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness. Well, that makes a lot of sense – and you’ve likely heard me on all three of these concepts one way or another over the years.

The thing I have found most notable around this concept is that it encourages acceptance of flaws, limitations and the core of humanity that we all are. No matter if some one is starting their training journey with their first dog or a multiple dog, multiple sport champion mistakes will happen. Training sessions will occasionally nose dive directions that leave you stumped and contemplative.

And, you know what? That’s OK. And it is SO VERY human of you.

So what do you do when you make an error – if you aren’t working on self compassion, mindfulness, and the whole picture you are likely either throwing blame around, getting defensive or beating ourselves up. Sigh. Not super constructive – nor likely to leave us feeling like the error was an opportunity to learn and improve ourselves. How can we break our habitual pattern though? What can we do to set ourselves up to actually benefit from a puzzle that leaves us wondering where we went wrong – or make the most of a time we actually did go wrong (like oh say the time last night I pushed Sally to do a much harder find with nose work than I intended to- sigh)

Just Stop 

When you feel that frustration build “STOPP”  and give yourself a little time and space to process the events.

S – stop and step away – or simply sit down and regroup … 

T – take a breath – in fact run through three cycles of your favourite breathing pattern, Count, box, body, whatever works for you ! (I PROMISE my late fall goal is updating my soundcloud channel for cleaner, and more, versions of the different types of breathing)

O – observe – what are you feeling? Where is it sitting? Process your feelings and their impacts.

P – perspective – what  would a friend say to you in this moment? What you tell a friend feeling this way? Use Andrea’s rule of five if this is tough for you.

P – practice using tools that work for you . and those affected in this moment (our dogs!)  Is a cookie scatter a good idea? Take a break and play? Sit and do a little more breathing? Journal? You know yourself and your partner best – you will need to test some different strategies to figure out what will work for you both – but have confidence that you will find a solution. Each time you hit the STOPP button it will get easier and easier too. That old practice makes perfect (or a heck of a lot better anyhow) at work (nice side perk of actually doing it eh?)

Psychologists have determined that self-compassion is a useful tool for enhancing and improving  performance in all kinds of different ways – aging well, competition and more. It’s starting to look like self compassion might matter more than self confidence. So if you are prone to self doubt and wondering if indeed  you can  ( I think I can I think can I CAN!)  remember this notion of self compassion, and test using STOPP –  see how turning your thinking on it’s head works for your worry.

Then, go pat your dog!