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Cultivating Self-Compassion

Updated: May 1, 2020

Welcome back to Justine’s Journal! Last month I began with sharing a bit of my health journey in dealing with celiac disease and other health issues over the past 20+ years. Each month I plan to share more about my story, my research and upcoming events to help you on your journey to optimal wellness. It is an understatement to say that I was pretty stressed out while I was finishing up my PhD. Everything I had worked so hard on for 3.5 years all had to fit into one document that I had to defend in front of five experts in the field. I was full of anxiety and struggled a lot with sleep. Every morning I would wake up and feel that I didn’t get enough. Then each night when I was trying to doze off, I’d be even more stressed out because I felt I hadn’t gotten enough done during the day.

Fortunately, I came across Dr. Brené Brown’s amazing work. Brené opened my eyes to the importance of truly embracing that...

"No matter how much I get done, or is left undone, at the end of the day I am enough." ~Brené Brown

I started reading her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and read it on repeat while I finished my PhD. Brené’s wise words helped me to embrace my imperfections, go into the day with a positive attitude – and by feeling that I was enough at night, I could finally sleep again. Through Brené’s work, I came across Dr. Kristin Neff and the concept of self-compassion. This was a foreign concept to me. When I first took the self-compassion assessment, I was shocked to see how low mine was. Kristin Neff’s work guided my thinking in terms of the next steps for my research. As I was starting to get the hang of living with celiac disease, I wanted to know more about how we can optimize our quality of life, while living with a chronic disease like celiac disease that requires such a strict lifelong diet. This led me to apply for a Canadian Celiac Association Young Investigator Award, which funded my first postdoctoral study. Along with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Mary Jung, we examined the role of self-compassion in celiac disease. We found that self- compassion directly and indirectly predicted adherence to a gluten-free diet and quality of life. In other words, those who are higher in self-compassion not only follow a more strict gluten-free diet – but they also FEEL better. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this study would be the foundation for my passion for promoting a holistic approach to health – in particular gut health and fertility.

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