getting out of the cycle of "I have a crappy life"
Who of us is not guilty of falling into the cycle of "I have a crappy life."? We feel the storms of life rage upon us and then we think this. Suddenly we are given evidence of it all around us and it seems that one bad thing after another starts happening, only further proving our point. It can be a vicious cycle to end up in, and it can be difficult to get out of. This is especially true for individuals going through crises or traumatic events.
So what can you do to get out of this cycle? Well, you can weather the storm, and we will talk about some ways to do so. You can also take some steps as well as practice some 'emergency preparedness'. Just as it is important to have a crisis plan in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency, it can be equally important to do so for the crises of life.
Something we can do is to create a crisis first aid kit. When we find ourselves in a 'bad place', our thinking becomes impaired. Our brain can be physiologically flooded and we may find it difficult to process emotions or go about tasks. So what can we put in our first aid kits?
- A physical list of support people and their numbers. You need to have support people from multiple sources. Family members, friends, clergymen, professionals, sponsors, etc.
- Examples of ways that God has shown His love for you. It can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling forgotten by God or, if you're like me, like you're just being used as a tool. Keep photos, stories, mementos...whatever it is you need...of things and ways that God has demonstrated His love for you.
- A list of hard things you've done. When we feel weak, it can be helpful to remember times when we've been strong. What are some hard things you've done or trials you've survived? Write them down! Don't forget to include feelings about how truly hard they were at the time and what got you through.
- Recipes for easy meals as well as healthy snacks. It's easy to let good nutrition fall by the wayside when we are in survival mode. However, this is when our bodies (and minds) need to be properly fed more than ever! Have a collection of simple recipes for things that you likely have on hand. Don't assume that you'll remember how to throw that simple thing together when you go to make it. Remember, you are planning for a flooded brain that will be distracted or trying to shut down. Throw in some healthy snacks as well. Dried fruits, nuts, beef jerky, water, and electrolyte drinks are all good ideas.
- Activities to entertain the kids. You need to take care of yourself. You need to hone in on the essentials, like a plane in a storm that cuts non-essential functions. However, if you've got kids to care for, particularly young ones, you can't just leave them by the wayside either. Have some simplistic activities and supplies for them in your kit so that you are taking care of yourself by providing for them without much effort. They will survive.
- Self care items. If you are in the midst of a crisis, I want you to think of yourself as being wounded. You probably are feeling emotionally wounded. What do the wounded need? Patching up of wounds, medication, rest, and time. So think of some things that will provide this. Some suggestions: a cozy blanket, a good book, hobbies, nail polish or other things that make you feel 'pretty' or even just 'human' again, soothing scented candles or oils, recovery reading, gift certificates for massage or other spa/salon services, chocolate (ok, maybe that's not the healthiest option), yoga mat, exercise dvds, favorite music, and guided meditation cds.
We will never feel 'worth it' until we actually take care of ourselves. Self-care helps us to feel alive, vibrant, and able to give. It is far from being selfish. It needs to be balanced according to our current needs. Escapes are not self-care. There is a place for having an escape from life, but that is not the purpose of self-care. One way to ensure the proper use of self-care is to ritualize it. Rituals give things importance and ritualizing our self-care helps us to feel important and worth it. Make it a part of your life and not just something you turn to in crisis.
4 types of self care
1. Emotional: journaling, support groups, gratitude journals etc
2. Physical: adequate sleep, exercise or other movement, hydration, proper nutrition
3. Spiritual: prayer, scripture study, inspirational messages
4. Intellectual: learning stuff
Other keys to getting out of that toxic cycle of having a crappy life include saying no and changing your self talk. Be intentional about what you say yes to, because saying yes to something means saying no to something else. Don't say no to yourself or your sanity!
Learn to identify feelings rather than just thoughts or assessments regarding choices. This will help to avoid feeling resentment for what you do or choose as well as the responses of others regarding it.
You get to decide the meaning of all your life experiences.
Your story IS YOURS to share. Remember that and find empowerment in it.
Lastly, practice positive affirmations and self-talk. Self-talk can work like muscle memory and so the more to practice putting those positive voices in your mind to combat the negative, the more readily they will come to you naturally. Positive affirmations are best done aloud, and especially in front of a mirror. Slow your breath and distract your brain from negative thoughts when necessary. It works!
In October 2014, I was blessed to be able to attend a special conference for women who had experienced varying levels of betrayal trauma in their lives. Togetherness (Midway) was a beautiful weekend of sisterhood, learning, feeling, and being pampered. So much love there! I initially felt that I would be out of place in attending, as we are so far along in recovery, but I felt that there would be benefit for me in being among those who 'just get it' and in attending some of the classes. This post is a continuation in a series of posts about the conference, my experience, and the things I learned there.
Information shared here came from a class given by Rachelle Howard. Rachelle holds a Master's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development. She has worked with families in crisis and learned the value or intervention work such as therapy. Her real passion is in education, however, as she seeks to prevent the pain and crises that require interventions. She is a mother of four and active participant in the Togetherness community, working through her own healing journey.