How to Lead With Compassion
By Christina V. Jean-Louis
This article has pulled wisdom from my anchor & sister, Melinda Jean-Louis, MSED, LMHC, a seasoned mental health professional residing in NYC. Her deep desire to understand and connect with others has nurtured a commitment to practices which foster healing and well-being, a journey where she leads with compassion.
Let’s face it. Life gets hard. Too hard to tackle alone. Especially when it comes to our mental health. We’ve made great strides toward accepting the critical role mental health plays in our overall health. Yet, often the stigma associated with mental health, many times keep us from supporting each other with compassion. When navigating through crisis, distress, mood swings, excessive stress, and anxiety, these seven tips can help lead us to compassionately care for ourselves and loved ones.
Breathe. And slow things down.
As stress and anxiety kick in, our realities may feel like they’re combusting into a whirlwind of thoughts and/or a deep fog of void. A change of pace can be just what you need to bring clarity to the situation. Slowing things down can be as simple as breathing. Get comfortable. Be gentle with yourself.
Take a deep breath in.
Now let it out.
You may notice a difference in how you feel already. Learning to control your breath can serve as a powerful tool to re-calibrate and lessen anxiety rather than feeding it. It’s as simple as breathing and taking that second of control, speaking from personal experience. Consider incorporating some simple breathing exercises into your regular routine.
Many times when we are under excessive stress, our basic needs, i.e., food, sleep, hygiene are neglected. One of the simplest ways we can support our loved ones is by checking that their basic needs are met such as encouraging a regular sleeping pattern, eating balanced meals, movement etc. Find gentle ways to welcome balance, rhythm, and structure.
Bring it to God.
Turn to Jesus. He understands. God is always here waiting for us to surrender it all to Him. Surrender our pain, anxieties, distress to the One who is always with us. Emmanuel means "God with us" and He wants to wrap us up in his arms and sit with us. Bringing in comfort, serenity and strength where we fall short.
Isaiah 43:2 says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
Upon waking up, spend a minute jotting your unfiltered thoughts to Jesus. Watch as he calms the waters.
A simple text message may propel a slew of emotions. Triggers live everywhere and blur our vision, causing us to wrestle with the trauma of our past while perpetuating a skewed perception of reality. Take note of triggers that ignite these reactions. The more aware we become of ourselves and patterns, the better we become at navigating them.
Nurture a “safe place.”
When looking to support our loved ones in distress, it is important that we make them feel at ease or “safe.” Safety is relative, and many times our safest places become dangerous in sensitive states of vulnerability. In preparation, we can ask ourselves and loved ones what makes them feel safe? Warm? Welcomed? What always brings a smile?
Consider creating a list of those "safe" things.
Sit with them.
Loneliness pervades our society. Many times the most powerful thing we can do is to sit with someone. Reminding them they are not alone. No fancy words are needed, just the silent company of someone who cares.
When others come to us with their pain, we may feel the instant urge to take on the burden. “We know what is best for them.” This is often not the case. Listen to what they want and where they are coming from. Affirm them. Make sure they know they are heard and acknowledged. Their feelings are valid. Talking it out without being lectured may be just what they need.
(Disclaimer: If they are a harm to themselves or others please contact a healthcare professional and/or dial 911 immediately).