While you are weathering the storm, there are some things you can do to help ease this time…
Be as gentle to yourself as you would a friend or your own child.
Eat good food.
Shoot for one meal a day you feel excellent after eating.
If that’s too much, aim for one component of one meal that you feel good about.
Move your body.
Find something to do then do it every day. My thing is going out for a 30+ minute walk. Unless the weather is 100% uncooperative, or I’m sick or otherwise unwell, I might skip the walk. But even then I usually get out for a few minutes because fresh air is important!
Do something you love, regularly.
I practice my violin for 20 minutes at least five days a week, no matter what my motivation level is. After the 20 minutes is up, I have permission to stop or continue practicing.
I also take a bath once a week that’s for pure pleasure: Dead Sea Salts, Epsom salt, a movie on my iPad or a good book, a cup of tea or water, snacks… bliss.
Treat yourself well, dump the thoughts that bring you down.
If you experience intrusive thoughts, practice challenging them.
Intrusive thoughts are considered a form of addiction! I view them as a form of self-inflicted torture. Intrusive thoughts have ruled my world for as long as I can remember. I’m working on stopping this self-flagellaion so that I can move forward with a sense of freedom and joy.
Name the Thought: Name and normalize what is happening in your mind. Know that your thoughts are not an indication that there’s something wrong with you. They are here to help you. These thoughts are here to help your health and healing. Acknowledging this is half the battle toward recovering from intrusive thoughts.
Expose the Thoughts for what they are: Lies: If you believe the thought is TRUE, then you’ll go down the rabbit hole. Your rabbit hole may be depression, or it may be anxiety, or both! Say to yourself, “this is my familiar intrusive thought, even if believe it’s true, I know it is not true.” I often then challenge the Thought with Evidence that the Thought is not true.
For example, when I left my marriage, I had months and months of intrusive thoughts. These thoughts told me that I made the wrong decision. They said I couldn’t do this on my own. They said I’d be alone forever (I’m still alone, but I’m okay with it now!) Any time I met a new challenge, or faced a new obstacle, I would fall down the “I made a huge mistake leaving my marriage” rabbit hole.
I’ve challenged these thoughts by celebrating the tangible evidence that I’ve made the right choice. My finances. Migraines and headaches that I suffered from on an all too regular basis: gone. Periods, so much easier. I’m no longer walking on eggshells. I have a lot more people in my life cheering me on than I realized. (I then list those people out loud). I’m safe in my home of more than 11 years. I’ve been doing this for X months, I am clearly doing this.
Sit with the Underlying Feeling: You’ve named the Thought and exposed it as a lie. You will now have to sit with some discomfort. In this place, you’ll learn what the thought was trying to shield you from.
Uncertainty, inadequacy, insecurity, sadness, guilt, shame and the groundlessness of our human experience.
Facing these feelings is scary and vulnerable.
If you breathe into, and sit with these feelings, you have the opportunity to remind yourself that this is not something that you “get over”. You cannot fix yourself out of being human. Lord knows, I’ve been trying my whole life.
The best you can do is to sit and be with yourself. With love and compassion. Talk to yourself the way you want to be talked to, the way you would talk to your best friend, or a child.
It is through loving and holding yourself that you find freedom.
If you have access, go to therapy, get massages, go for acupuncture…
Take your time finding a good action-oriented therapist. Do the therapeutic work outside of therapy, you know, the homework that therapists ask you to do…
Start writing lists of things you want to do in your life.
You don’t have to make plans to do these things right now.
Simply list things that you want to do at some point.
If you are feeling like you can’t access that, start small like, “I want to go on a day hike by myself”. (I’ve never done a day-hike hike by myself!)
Start a gratitude list (or jar)
Write a few things down that you’re grateful for every day.
If you’ve never done this before, this might feel fake and forced – especially in the beginning. I used to hate this practice, but I assure you: it gets easier. Start with something that brought a glimmer of happiness or relief to your day. The smell of lilacs in bloom, the sun on the trees at a certain time of day, or a phonecall with a friend.
I have a jar with “gratitude” slips of paper folded up.
When I have a bad day or moment, I pull a handful of papers out and review the good things. I date my slips because it’s nice to have the date-memory for reference.
These practices have helped me during this challenging time of my life. May they help you.