This year has been pretty overwhelming for most of us, so we need some self-care hacks to cope. In addition to the general stress of 2020, we are now approaching a season that often brings pain and grief to the forefront. With this in mind, I want to share some of my favorite skills for self-care during challenging times.
Dealing with COVID-19 as a therapist is dual-fold. We must comfort our clients, but we must also deal with the stress of the pandemic for ourselves and families just like everyone else.
Do you find yourself often feeling defensive? Perhaps you have relationships with others who seem to get defensive easily. Responding to another person with defensiveness is never the most effective way to solve a relational conflict, but many of us tend to jump into a defensive stance without thinking much about it.
When asking whether suicidal thoughts are normal, we must first define what normal means to us. I think many people use the word "normal" when they mean "common." Alternatively, we might use the word "normal" when questioning if something is problematic. This definition shifts the question. Are suicidal thoughts common? Are they always problematic? (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
People who have strange dreams can worry that strange dreams and mental health are related, when in fact they may not be. Strange dreams happen for neurotypical people as well as those with mental illness, and these dreams often mean nothing at all.
Negative emotions are a part of life, but why are they important? Nobody wants to feel sad, lonely, angry, anxious, worried, or fearful. Often, people don't understand the purpose of emotions they perceive as bad, and they want to get back to feeling good. The problem with labeling our emotions as "good" or "bad" is that we may assume our negative emotions do not serve a purpose, are purely unhelpful, and should be avoided at all costs. The truth is, our negative emotions have positive life lessons for us if we know how to attune to them properly.
You most likely experienced a trauma trigger if you have ever experienced a strong emotional response to a person or event that seemed disproportionate to the situation. Most people experience trauma triggers, often without conscious awareness. When we don't know how to identify our triggers, they can interfere with our happiness. A trigger occurs when you encounter someone or something in your environment that reminds you of a traumatic experience from your past. It doesn't have to be a significant trauma. Any reminder of a painful event you haven't fully resolved might manifest in your life as a trigger, and it can limit your ability to create happiness.
Self-compassion practices are often overlooked in our discussion of self-care. Most of us acknowledge the importance of engaging in self-care to maintain our physical, mental, and emotional wellness. When we talk about self-care, we often refer to engaging in fun, or relaxing activities. While that is certainly an important aspect of self-care, there is another equally important element that we often ignore: self-compassion practices are also part of self-care.
It’s the beginning of the holiday season, which is typically a time when we all do lots of giving, but sometimes not intentional giving. Mostly, that giving is related to shopping, buying things and spending money. But you can keep your spirit and wallet intact and make an even greater impact if you practice intentional giving throughout the holiday season.
What do you do when the bumpy road to bliss seems too difficult? After all, even as you work to cultivate happiness in your life, that doesn’t mean unfortunate circumstances automatically become fortunate ones. Difficulties don’t disappear. Instead, life continues as it did before, with its ups and downs. Yes, it is a bumpy road to bliss, but you can rely on your internal compass to guide you there.