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Closing the compassion gap

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'When I top myself up with self-care – day after day after day – there is no limit to my ability to care for others.' Sarah Cavanagh, Primary School Teacher and Mindfulness Teacher'

This is the first article in a series of three, which will offer a perspective on the nature of compassion, the need for a more balanced health and social care system, and ideas and tools for building a more compassionate patient/client centred culture.

In this article I will argue that caring for ourselves is not selfish but selfless, as being kind to ourselves gives us the energy and resources to be compassionate to others.

Professor Paul Gilbert's1 work which led to the development of the Compassionate Mind Foundation (a group of people focused on making the NHS more compassionate) helps us to understand the conditions in which we can sustain compassion for ourselves and each other. When we feel threatened, overworked and under supported our capacity to feel and show care is compromised.

In the next two articles I will turn my attention to issues of teamwork, leadership and culture, but here I want to suggest that the most powerful person in terms of the 'state' I create in myself is me.

We know from research into responses to stress that we do not all experience the same degrees of stress. Ben Fletcher and Karen Pine in their book Flex 2 suggest that what makes the difference is the degree to which we have behavioural flexibility; having a wide


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