Self-Compassion: Juggling To-Dos, Do Nots and Did Nots 

April 13, 2020

Louis Tay

When we started the Spring semester, the Purdue community was bustling with energy and resolve. New courses to take. New resolutions to tackle. New roles to try on.

As conscientious Boilermakers, many of us had our to-do lists on hand to manage and keep track of our goals. Some of us have been more successful than others, but it is comforting when we can check off our to-dos and make progress toward our goals. After all, psychologists tell us that making progress toward our goals or attaining our goals can be a source of well-being. Think about the sense of achievement or sense of relief when checking something off your to-do list.

None of us could have envisioned a semester filled with unanticipated transitions and unforeseen hurdles. The spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic has led governments and regulatory bodies to direct us to socially distance and stay at home. These are important directives to follow to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In following them, we now have the burden of our uncompleted to-dos and a seemingly long list of do-nots: do not travel; do not share food; do not have visitors; do not come into close physical contact with others.

How do we work through our list of to-dos in the midst of the list of do-nots? How can we juggle new to-dos given the COVID-19 pandemic?

Many Boilermakers are achievement-oriented and strive toward their personal best. While it is a strength, it is also easy to feel guilty for not excelling in your new courses, resolutions, or roles. Yet, it is critical to recognize that this new reality can be overwhelming.

I encourage you to start practicing self-compassion: being kind and understanding to yourself amidst pain or failure. Being self-compassionate means coming to terms with the did-nots; or coming to terms with not accomplishing what you had initially set out to do this semester. Practically, it means to prioritize well-being and letting non-essential things slide when needed. Don’t beat yourself up over a lower score on a test. Don’t be harshly self-critical for being distracted or unproductive while at home. Do take time to rest when you need it. Do reach out to others for help.

Self-compassion entails recognizing that your life is not defined by these moments of frustrations or inadequacies. You will have other moments to achieve, grow, and develop. And - remember, your worth and significance lie beyond any of your (non-)accomplishments.

Dr. Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Check back each week for his wellness tip of the week!

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