CMSC Blog

Building Inner Strength for Hard Times: Self-Compassion for Young Adults

It’s never been easy being a young adult. And let’s face it, in today’s coronavirus crazy-making world, the normal challenges are magnified. Besides the usual struggle of trying to figure out a career path or vocation, manage intimate relationships and maybe attempt to be financially independent for the first time ever, everything is a thousand times harder. Jobs are limited – or in some fields, non-existent, which means that maybe you have to move back home. With your parents. Which can be really stressful when you’re used to being independent, going about your business, making your own rules, deciding when and what you’ll eat, how late you’ll stay out, and basically living your own life. 

Take Marta, for example. Marta was training to be a pastry chef for upscale restaurants and fancy hotels. She had been studying and apprenticing for three years, and was about to finish and launch her career, and then … enter Covid-19. Swanky eateries were shut down overnight, and there were no jobs to be found. Restaurants were merely trying to pay bills and maintain staff until they could re-open. Marta had to move back home and although she knew it wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t get a job, she still felt like a failure.

Like Marta, maybe you feel like everything’s been taken away from you – opportunities that just a short time ago were lying there seemingly awaiting you to graduate college — are now are simply gone. Maybe you’re angry and feel that all this is terribly unfair. You’ve worked so hard, and now it’s supposed to be your chance to start your own life. Maybe you’re anxious – worried about what’s going to happen, wondering when you’ll be able to be out in the world, hanging out with friends, going to concerts, having the time of your life … in other words, doing the things that young adults are supposed to do. Maybe what you’re feeling is deep sadness – for those who are suffering and dying of Covid-19, for the healthcare folks who are working around the clock to take care of those who are suffering, while putting themselves at risk. Or perhaps you’re feeling distressing emotions about so many other things – the environment, the economy, politics – it all feels so overwhelming.

What do you do with these strong emotions? How do you deal with the anxiety and the frustration? The feeling of incredible unfairness? 

One way through this suffering is called self-compassion. In other words, you can begin by being kind and understanding to yourself. Maybe you say something to yourself like “This situation just sucks. No wonder I’m so anxious. Anyone would be anxious in a situation like this!” And then maybe you offer yourself some tenderness, some kindness. You say something to yourself like “I know how hard this is for you. I’m so sorry. It won’t last forever.” And along with that, maybe you cross your arms and give yourself a hug – just like the hug you might give a friend who was having a hard time.

In our Embracing Your Life course for young adults, we introduce ways in which you can meet your emotional challenges – your anger, sadness, anxiety – so that these emotions don’t overwhelm you and take over your life. We give you tools – guided meditations, interactive exercises — that will help you be stronger and more resilient during these challenging times. So that rather than drowning in a sea of despair, you’re bobbing at the surface, and maybe, eventually, even riding the crest of a wave or two.

 

What is Embracing Your Life?

Embracing Your Life contains material from both Mindful Self-Compassion and Making Friends with Yourself, both of which are evidence -based programs that have been linked to less anxiety, stress and depression. New exercises specific to this age group are also included. Embracing Your Life meets weekly for six weeks, for approximately 1.5 hours per session and is taught live by a certified Mindful Self-Compassion or certified Making Friends with Yourself teacher.

Like MSC and MFY, Embracing Your Life provides young adults with the opportunity to explore how they typically respond when difficulties arise in our lives and to learn tools for becoming a warm and supportive friend to themselves. Although Embracing Your Life offers conceptual learning, it is designed to be more experiential than theoretical.

In other words, Embracing Your Life is nothing like taking a college course, per se. It’s not a strain on your brain. In fact, after the class is over each week, you will likely feel more rested and more at ease. It is more of an experience, involving guided meditations and discussion about what the experience of the guided meditation was like.

Embracing Your Life is therapeutic, but it’s not therapy. We don’t talk about deep emotional issues you might have and we don’t try to analyze why you might feel the way you do. It’s about building resilience skills so that you can meet emotional challenges when they arise, as they do in life.

This is what you get if you take Embracing Your Life:

–> Live sessions once weekly

–> Optional small group meetings between classes

–> Email contact with the teacher (online one-to-one chats if necessary)

–> Opportunity to participate in a research study

–> Audio recordings of meditations

Karen Bluth

Teacher

Dr. Karen Bluth received her PhD in Child and Family Studies in 2012 from The University of Tennessee, and holds a faculty position in the Department of Psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine and is a Fellow at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute where she is founder of the Frank Porter Graham Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Program for Families (https://selfcompassion.web.unc.edu ). Dr. Bluth’s research focuses on the roles that self-compassion and mindfulness play in promoting well-being in youth.

Dr. Bluth is also co-creator of the curriculum "Making Friends with Yourself: A Mindful Self-Compassion Program for Teen...Read More

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