“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds,” wrote Laurell K. Hamilton. When we are physically harmed, the world shows us sympathy. We get sick leave, social support, and medical care. Unfortunately, when we are emotionally hurting, most of this never appears. We need to create it.
AN EMOTIONAL TRAUMA FORCES YOU TO BE YOUR OWN HERO.
Here are six tools to help you do just that:
1. PRIORITIZE SELF-CARE.
For many people, it is natural to put caring for others first. Often, we do so at the expense of meeting our own needs. Unfortunately, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care needs to come first, especially for those of us who care for others. Look inward with honesty, concern, and self-love. Identify your needs. Do you need quiet time each day? Counseling or group therapy? Rewarding service work? Artistic expression? Pampering? A weekend away to get back in touch with your spirit? Give these needs the power they deserve. Meet them unapologetically. Your emotional health is important.
2. ENGAGE IN GRATITUDE.
When we are fighting emotional demons, it can become natural to focus on the darkness in our lives. Turn your eyes to the light instead. As often as you can, interrupt your day to identify five things you are thankful for. They don’t have to be deep or significant. They just have to be good. For example, right now I am thankful for coffee, indoor heating, music, nail polish, and the sun. This exercise is simple, but very effective. It changes our outlook. The world around us starts to look like a brighter, happier, and more forgiving place. By engaging with our world in gratitude, we can mold it into the kind of place we would like to be.
3. RESPECT YOUR BODY.
When our emotions are being challenged, it is natural to allow our physical health to deteriorate. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of what we need. When our body is healthy, our mind works more clearly. Our emotions become more manageable. Our spirit is able to better engage with the world. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Stay hydrated. Exercise in a way that feels good to you – gentle or rigorous, outdoor or indoor, alone or in a group. Eat foods that provide your body with the nutrition it deserves. Stay away from the scale. This isn’t about how you look or how your clothes fit. It’s about the way you feel.
4. BUILD A SUPPORT NETWORK.
The worst part of any trauma is the feeling of being alone in it. As human beings, we were not created to face challenges on our own. We need emotional backup. For this reason, there is a support group for nearly every major emotional challenge. From to depression to addiction, terminal illness to sexual assault, there is sure to be a group out there with people just like you. First, revel in the warm relief of no longer being alone in your struggle. Then, allow them to share their experience strength, and hope.
5. COMMUNICATE HONESTLY.
A grudge or resentment will increase its power over you for as long as you hold on to it. If there are problems with your loved ones, let them know. Tell them how they’ve hurt you. Lay your feelings on the table with kind words and a calm demeanor. This is how you set yourself free to forgive. Remember, forgiveness is not about the other person. It’s about your own decision to let go of your hurt and move on. As Anne Lamott wrote, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Don’t let another person’s unkindness hold power over your heart for one more day.
6. WRITE YOUR STORY.
When our most difficult feelings stay inside of us, they grow stronger. There’s something liberating about the decision to put them on paper instead. Use the pen to take your power back. Let the words flow, and then read it back to yourself. This allows your mind to create a new sense of insight and perspective. It also helps your emotions to break free of your brain and body, and find a new home on the page.
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone,” wrote Fred Rogers.
IF YOU ARE HURTING, DON’T HIDE. FIGHT. CONNECT WITH OTHERS, AND CONNECT WITH YOURSELF. LOVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TO HEAL.