Pacific Health Ministry Chaplain Sarah Rentzel Jones recently facilitated a Hawaii Pacific Health (HPH) Leadership Connect session. This is an ongoing skype call which enables HPH leaders to connect with one another; intentionally pause; practice mindfulness; participate in a guided activity; and learn ways in which they can integrate wellness practices into their lives. Chaplain Sarah serves at Wilcox Medical Center, one of the four hospitals under the HPH umbrella that offers Leadership Connect. During her session, Chaplain Sarah talked about her experience with self-compassion and how we can practice it amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Here is an excerpt which, hopefully, you will find beneficial during this challenging time.

My New Year’s intention for 2020 was to work with material about self-compassion by the writers Dr. Kristin Neff and Tara Brach. I’ve found their words especially helpful since changes in life and work due to COVID-19.

Dr. Neff is one of the premier researchers on self-compassion. Her studies reveal that this practice increases one’s coping skills, happiness, and resilience, while contributing to less stress, depression, and anxiety. In our modern Western society, we typically believe the best way to motivate ourselves is by being hard on ourselves and self-critical. In contrast, Dr. Neff’s work actually shows that when we are hard on ourselves, it makes us more afraid to fail, which increases performance anxiety, and can make us more likely to give up or not try at all. Practicing self-compassion in these uncertain times can especially provide us with the support we need to get through each day. One practice Dr. Neff encourages is stop. When we catch ourselves being self-critical, stop, then do a physical movement such as putting a hand on our heart or even placing one hand on the other and saying a phrase to ourselves like, “It’s okay; I’m here with you. You’ll get through this, and you can do it.” She encourages us to talk to ourselves the way we might talk to a friend—always with soothing reassurance. For more information, you can read Dr. Neff’s books titled Self-Compassion, published in 2011 by HarperCollins, and The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive, published by The Guilford Press in 2018.

Tara Brach also offers a mindfulness exercise to practice self-compassion. The acronym of the exercise is “RAIN.” Brach suggests this practice helps us shift from “Fight, Flight, Freeze” to “Attend and Befriend” within ourselves and our nervous systems.

  • R – Recognize. Identify, name, describe the feeling that is coming up or the concern that has caused some tension, fear, or stress.
  • A – Allow. Instead of resisting or talking ourselves out of feeling something negative or difficult, allow the feeling to exist, be willing to pause with what is, and let it be.
  • I – Investigate. Notice where the feeling is located in the body; describe it—is there tightness, pain, irritation?
  • N – Nurture. Breathe into the sensations you have identified; ask yourself what you need in this moment—time alone, a call to a friend, something warm to drink?

Tara Brach also suggests that, after going through the steps of RAIN, we take a few moments resting in the nurture we’ve given ourselves, something she calls “After the Rain.” This could mean a few minutes of quiet meditation, basking in the support we’ve received from within, allowing ourselves to relax even more, and encouraging ourselves to trust that all is well in this moment. For more information, listen to Brach’s podcasts at or read her books titled Radical Acceptance and True Refuge.

These practices have been very helpful to me. I hope they will offer you some support as well.