As promised, eight more self-care tips for protecting your emotional health:
- Decide that there is no real value in always putting yourself last. In fact, it is important to sometimes put yourself first, even if you are a parent.
- Know it is okay to expect happiness in your daily life. Look for small pleasures you can be grateful for and relish throughout each day.
- Rest your mind. Spend time regularly in meditation, prayer or silence. Commit to this practice even if your life is very busy or doing so feels strange. You may even be surprised to find that you feel calmer, more productive and focused. Start simply by taking three or four deep breaths each time you visit the bathroom. Or you might set your alarm clock ten minutes earlier every morning to pray or meditate.
- Avoid people, places, media and situations that leave you feeling bad or drained. Protecting your time and space is one of the most important ways to practice self-care.
- Set up and honor personal boundaries. Yes, you can say “no” sometimes without bringing the world to an end.
- Be deliberate. Do things that don’t contradict what you say is important to you.
- Give yourself a break. The next time that voice in your head starts bad-mouthing you or putting you down, tell it to STOP. Choose an affirmation and repeat it for calm and comfort.
- Keep a journal, sing, color, dance, create…
Take Action Challenge: How will you practice self-care?
Tomorrow…the next building block for protecting your emotional health – support.
With pen and paper close by take some quiet time to let a past resentment or hurt fully bloom in your consciousness. Notice how you feel – is your body tense, has your breathing become more rapid? Now pay attention to what you are telling yourself about what happened. You might hear something like, these things always happen to me or what did I do to deserve that or why is life so unfair? Write down exactly what happened along with all of your questions and feelings. Other questions to explore include:
As you go over past hurts change the question from why to now what. Asking why keeps you in a position of powerlessness because your focus stays on the person and the pain he or she caused. Asking why is not useful because you will never be able to come up with a satisfactory answer. Asking now what is a more useful question because it puts you in the driver’s seat. Now what reminds you that you can decide where you go and what you do next.
How does it help me to hold onto painful feelings?
How would it help me to let them go?
Was there anything I really could have done differently or is the feeling that I could have based on my current (older, stronger) self? This question is particularly important if you were abused as a child.
Did the person that caused the harm have the emotional capacity or willingness to treat you in the way you deserved to be treated?
Is there anything useful or good that you can take away from the experience?
Mine your past for lessons not excuses for limits. Don’t use past pain as an excuse for future mistakes and shortcomings. ]
Forgiveness does not mean the person that caused you pain is getting away with it. The behavior is still wrong and hurtful. But refusing to let it go does not change what happened. Often, it only limits what can happen because anger closes you off leaving little room for many of the good things in life.
Decide you don’t have to stay stuck in your pain because you are left without answers or apologies. You may not ever hear the person say what he or she did was wrong or you may never even get an acknowledgment that it even happened. Freeing yourself from a painful place is possible regardless of what the other person does or does not do. Waiting for them to make the first move will only keep you stuck instead of in your own power to change the course of your life.
Women are often urged to look everywhere except within for comfort, centering, love and self-care thus reinforcing the idea that we don’t have what it takes to restore, heal or encourage ourselves. We do. We just have to find the strategies and connections that work for us. Consider combining community services and support with your own internal resources for a self care plan that you can build, direct and own. Here are a couple of strategies to try.
- Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT), Mindfulness and Meditation Practice – learning to observe your feelings as they come up can make not identifying with them or not letting them lead you astray feel easier.
- Exercise and yoga (can be as effective as antidepressants) are good ways of claiming and using “me” time.
- Sister Circles – join with other women to harness the power of community caring, concern, accountability and support. Choose women that are emotionally healthy enough to support you in ways that are meaningful, and meet at least once monthly. Be sure to establish important group rules, for example – you may agree that members must observe confidentiality and agree to disagree respectfully.
- Journaling – Use the pages to explore your truths, values, fears and hopes.
- Counseling – Regard your therapist as a partner. You can choose the right one for you and fire therapists that are not a good fit. You don’t have to accept just anyone
If you always put yourself last, chances are that many of the people around you will follow your example.
It is possible to take care of self without being selfish. Is there any area in your life where you can occasionally practice putting yourself first? Write about why, where and how you will make it happen. If you cannot think of any place in your life where you can at least occasionally be the priority, what needs to happen so you can? What you will do to create these changes?
Maybe the question looms large each time you try to step outside your box. Or maybe it is yet unspoken. Lodged deeply in your subconscious mind and blocking any bold ideas before they form into actions. No matter where the question is, for many of us it is there. Finally answering it may be just the encouragement you need to free yourself from the burden of unrealized potential. So…who do you think you are?
Write it now, loud and proud. Claim your gifts as well as your flaws (know what you are working with and what you want to work around). Not sure what to write? Ask someone you trust who knows you well enough (and is emotionally healthy enough) to give you some useful feedback. Embrace the promise within the part of you not bound by doubt, fear, criticism or the voice of the ever vigilant and critical inner commentator. Maybe she does make you feel safer, but she also keeps you away from what is possible.