The importance of self-care – May is #MentalHealth Month

Self-care is absolutely vital when you decide to commit to therapy.

Self-care is vital
My mood scarf is tracking my healing journey

If you are committed to getting back to good mental health, self-care will be an important component. Self-care is similar to giving yourself healing time after surgery or an illness – such as eating light, resting, drinking tea, etc.

As I stated in my previous post, trauma can be anything from grief to abuse to living through a life-threatening illness/injury or even a near-death experience. And while you may be grateful that you lived through the trauma, you may not have processed it.

A special note to abuse victims:

For victims of abuse – be it sexual, emotional/verbal, physical – doing the hard work of therapy is just that – hard. As you move through your experience, you will “trigger,” meaning something – anything – can trip a memory, and you may go down a self-depreciating road or into a full-blown anxiety attack or even extreme anger.

When I have been triggered, I have experienced the “What did I do to cause this?” mantra many more times than I want to admit, as I have started to re-live memories of abuse. Because abuse makes no sense, my brain tries to make sense of it by blaming… me.

How wrong is that? But that is exactly how a victim thinks. For instance, a rape victim may think, “I dressed the wrong way; I was walking alone,” etc. Why does the victim do this? Because their brain is trying to assess the damage and rationalize why it happened. In essence, victims then victimize themselves.

I want to say this to victims of abuse: It is NOT your fault. It NEVER was your fault. You can’t control the actions or words of others. There was NOTHING you could do. Stop beating yourself up.

I want to say this to victims of abuse: It is NOT your fault. It NEVER was your fault. #Self-care #MentalHealth Click To Tweet

Sounds so easy, doesn’t it. I will tell you this – nothing in your journey will be more difficult than stopping yourself from re-victimizing yourself.

Self-care is vital
Journaling is my go-to for healing and reflection.
Journaling for self-care

Part of my self-care is journaling. Almost every day, I pour my heart and feelings out on the pages of my journal. Making the eye-hand-mind connection works very well for me, to unload the burdens I am carrying and to process the trauma. Along with journaling, the therapy I am going through is re-framing and re-training my brain.

Re-framing your thoughts

For instance, when I get stuck with, “Did I do something so bad to cause this?” I tell myself, NO! But I have to repeat that over and over and then finally assign blame to the abuser, “No, I didn’t do anything to cause or deserve that abuse. That is on the abuser. They did something wrong to me.”

I will tell you this: re-framing won’t happen overnight. But in the effort of self-care, you need to repeat that mantra every day, many times a day.

Here are a few other things I tell myself:

  • “I matter, and I deserve better.”
  • “My feelings aren’t facts.” (I am bad, so bad things happened to me. NO!! I may feel that way, but that feeling is not a fact.)
  • “This is so painful, but I am healing.” (Equate that to physical therapy: “no pain, no gain.”)
  • “I am ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’” Psalm 139:14
An attitude of gratitude

I also find something to be grateful for – something personal to me. I have hugged and thanked my body for surviving the trauma, because stress can do awful things to our physical being. I am also learning that certain aches and pains are a direct result of the trauma, so I acknowledge those pains and “feel” and process those feelings.

Fresh air

Getting outside and taking my dog for a walk is one of the best self-care steps I can take. As much as I hate winter, I bundled up many times this past season to get out and breath in the air, appreciate what I saw in nature, and literally and figurative clear my head. Sometimes I listen to podcasts on healing, and sometimes I just I listen to nature.

Being creative

I took a “Knitting for Peace” class at a local yarn store. This was absolutely a perfect compliment to my self-care. Our leader, Wendy, gave us stress management tips, walked us through deep breathing, guided meditations and showed us the importance of the bilateral movements of knitting, and they are a way of soothing and calming down. Just having yourself distracted for a while, counting and knitting is like a mini-vacation from intrusive thoughts. While in this class, Wendy shared a pattern for a mood scarf, and I have been knitting mine daily. In addition to knitting one row a day, I chart what I am feeling and why.

Self-care is vital
See that big a$$ mistake? It stays there, letting me know I survived a serious rough spot.

There is a huge error in my scarf, and as much as it pains me, that big mistake will stay there. Not only did I have way too many stitches, I was knitting wrong-sided. How I managed that, I don’t know. Okay, I do know. It was during the most stressful and painful point of my healing journey to this this day. Not only was I going through my own stuff, I couldn’t concentrate on my own stuff because of other bad stuff happening around me. So, that imperfection is noted in my journal as the “Weeks of Pure Hell,” and that mess of knitting stays. Not only as a reminder of the journey, but as the commitment I made to myself to keep walking through the fires of Hell – to keep going on through this pain, to keep healing, because “I matter and deserve better.”

As I stated before, self-care is vital to my healing journey. My next post will also focus on other ways I am taking good care of me while I navigate this journey.

Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section. What ways do you care for yourself when you are healing? Due to the sensitive nature of this post, these comments will be closely monitored, and may be deleted or removed if necessary. If you are concerned with privacy, send an email instead of leaving a public comment.

© Lynne Cobb – 2019

8 Replies to “The importance of self-care – May is #MentalHealth Month”

  1. Great tips. I tend to use blogging for some of those suggestions: being creative, journaling (not everything I write has to get posted, I have a draft that’s been in there for 7 years but it helped me to write it), and often in the process end up with an attitude of gratitude.

    1. Thanks, Karen. I, too, have posts on draft mode. Not everything is to be shared, but blogging is a creative outlet, for sure.

  2. You have great insight, Lynne. I think it’s so important for our society to be more aware of mental illness so we can reach out to help those who don’t even know they need help. Or they know something is wrong, but don’t know where to go for help or are afraid they will be looked at negatively.

    I totally relate to your “eye-hand-mind connection” and I find writing and journaling to be my therapy when I feel the toxic thoughts creeping in. Knitting is another therapeutic hobby for me. I was the nerdy teenager who sat at home knitting sweaters on summer vacation, to keep my depression from getting the best of me!

    Love reading your posts . . .keep it up.

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