Disclaimer: I’m not a self-help guru, a therapist or life coach nor do I pretend or plan to be. This post is about my personal experience and the steps I took to get myself out of a rut.
Life has a sneaky and sometimes quite unkind way of hitting you upside the head, leaving you on some concrete sidewalk with a blood covered nose or face (depending on how hard life decides to beat you up) wondering what went wrong.
Though your first instinct might be to run away and hide under the covers for the next decade, you can recover from whatever life throws at you. Just remember: some bruises might take longer to heal than others. The key to your recovery is patience.
As you might have read in a previous post, I’ve been going through a pretty rough patch myself. It has taken and still is taking, longer than I expected. Just when I thought I was doing better, I’d suffer a relapse and I’d have to start all over again.
And though I wanted to return to work and the things that make me happy, I knew that forcing myself to do ALL THE THINGS would only cause me more grief and add more stress to the negativity I was already experiencing.
I wanted to do a “30 days of Self-care” post for you but didn’t really feel like writing it and adding to all the similar blog posts that are already on Pinterest. Why bore you with stuff that I didn’t try but seemed like an awesome idea? If you really need to follow a challenge to take care of yourself, you can find plenty of them right there.
Instead, why not tell you what I’ve been doing to take care of myself to get out of this deep rut? Why would I write another list posted ad nauseam? Maybe you can find something in this one that is of some help to you when you’re feeling down or stuck.
My self-care list
Again, these are the things I did to start my recovery. Some of these suggestions might work for you, others may not appeal to you. Remember, you should stay true to your essence, your true self. Add changes gradually to not get overwhelmed.
Buy a diffuser and aromatherapy oils
When my crisis started and I was still struggling with excessive stress, falling asleep was a huge problem. I spent hours hoping I would get tired enough to get some rest, without much success.
I’ve been clearing negative energy around my house with incense for a few years. Obviously trying to sleep in a room full of smoke or using a candle is not a good idea, especially with cats around.
During that time, I discovered essential oil diffusers. The idea of adding water, a few drops of oil and letting the mist do the rest was very appealing. After checking out a few diffusers out online, I chose this one and lavender oil, which is great to help you calm down. It didn’t start working immediately as I would’ve hoped, but after a few days, I could finally get some very needed sleep.
Start a meditation practice
Yes, I know meditation is on so many self-care lists that it might seem trivial. But it’s not. In my case, the breakup of my relationship left me in a really bad place mentally. I’d spend way too much time ruminating on the whys, ifs, and buts, that it would consume most of my day. Having an obsessive compulsive personality does not help with this at all.
I previously tried meditation on my own but wasn’t very successful because I had a wrong idea about it. Meditation meant that I needed to quiet my mind and banish any thoughts in it, something I could never manage to do. I tried the Headspace app and liked it better, but still felt it wasn’t enough and that’s when I decided to join a meditation community.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche leads the Tergar community. In the following video, he explains what meditation is in a very simple way.
I’ve been going to meditation practice for the past three months. It’s nice to take part in a practice with other people who also share the same struggles I have. Some have anxiety, others depression or stress and look for meditation as a way out of suffering and into inner peace.
So far I’ve noticed that I get less stressed about the tiny things. This was very useful when I only had three weeks to prepare for a craft fair. Before meditation, I’d probably be stressing about the few hours of the day I’d have to get all my products together. This time, even though I wasted a few hours each day, I felt calm. I knew I could get everything done in time. And guess what? I did and I didn’t stress about it one bit but focused on the work instead. It was such an enjoyable experience.
I still need to work on stronger emotions like anger, which I’m feeling now and then. I’m confident that having a daily practice will help me further down the road with any negative emotions I might experience because they are a part of life.
Make a Gratitude Jar
Feeling gratitude is difficult when life smacks you down. I mean, are you kidding me? I never asked for the shit I’m going through now nor the terrible times I’ve been through in my life. So why should I be grateful? At least that’s what I thought all the time. Being grateful was difficult at the beginning of this dark period. I knew I had to count my blessings to get out of it.
I saw a picture of a jar on Pinterest and thought it was a lovely idea to collect the things I felt thankful for. So I got my own.'Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.' - Tony Robbins Click To Tweet
I put the jar in the hallway. Each time I’d walk past it, I’d grab a piece of paper and write a thing I was grateful for. Sometimes it was something as simple as the food on my table, a sunny day or a smile from a stranger. I then added a paper every time I felt grateful. It filled up quickly and it helped me visualize that not everything in my life was a mess.
After that, I moved on to a journal writing three things I felt grateful for each night. Now, I write a whole list. This has helped me appreciate what I have and stop feeling bad for what I don’t.
Go for a walk
I am an introvert and spend most of my time inside working in front of my computer. I’m aware that leading a sedentary life is terrible for my physical and mental health. I’m not fond of doing walks in nature on my own, but I’m lucky enough to have a running track in my neighborhood.
Although I don’t consider myself a morning person (my brain really starts to work after noon), I make sure to get up as early as possible to start my day with a walk. No matter how tired or discouraged I feel when I start, I walk 5 kilometers every time I go. The first 3 are always an uphill battle, especially if I missed my walks, but once I’m through I can do 6 or even 7 with ease.
I’ve discovered that walks are also a way to meditate: you breathe, you clear your mind, you take in the sights and sounds and keep moving. Here’s a great list of the benefits of walking.
Work on self-love
This is a difficult one, especially after being rejected. For many weeks I felt ugly, unwanted, that I didn’t matter to anyone and wasn’t worthy of being loved. This negative self-talk would be a constant during my day which in return made me feel even worse. This is why meditation is a perfect way to work on your self-love. It helps you be aware of the monkey inside your brain who loves to play the I’m such a terrible person tape. By using awareness you’ll tell the monkey to play the I am loved tape instead.
A simple way to change the recording your brain is playing is with affirmations like I love myself. It might feel weird to say, think or feel such words, but if you do it regularly (like every day!!) you can change the feelings you have about yourself. How long will it take? It depends on the damage and the person, but you will get there. Be patient!! I recommend Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant. The message in this book is so simple, yet we always forget it: love and forgive ourselves and be grateful. You can also find a ton of guided Self-love meditations on YouTube to do every day.
“Love yourself first and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” Lucille Ball
Affirmations are one way to get your self-love up. One important thing is to take care of yourself as well. Eat right, get moving, do things that make you happy, get enough sleep when you can. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not possible. I had lots of sleepless nights, days of not eating at all, days when all I wanted was to stay in bed, cry my eyes out and do nothing. If I’d been hard on myself, I’d feel even more miserable. Your best bet is to take it day by day.
While you wait for part 2 of my list, feel free to share your self-care strategies in the comments. If you decide to try one of the activties suggested here, let me know how they worked for you.
Have a great one!