MY MENTAL SELF-CARE – 3 TIPS
Now is the time when we should take special care in our mental self-care. When everything changes unexpectedly, the part of us that is called ‘a survival instinct’ goes crazy. It screams: ‘Danger! Danger! Run away!’. Not only because the virus made us scared of our lives. Also because our life routines fell apart and we lost the thing that is called ‘a comfort zone’. Without it, we lose the feeling of safety and it is challenging to find a place in the new reality. It is natural that we struggle with negative thoughts and heavy emotions. That’s why today I share with you my mental self-care tips for the moments of crisis. I hope you will find them helpful!
INNER CHILD PRACTICE TO COMMUNICATE WITH EMOTIONS
A natural reaction of the mind when we feel bad is to escape from our emotions. That’s the time when many of us instinctively look for something to do or think about. That’s the time when it is difficult to stop scrolling Facebook or watching a video after a video on Youtube. But the more we deny our emotions, the more intense they become. They demand our attention like a crying child who needs to be comforted. It can lead to depression that is like paralysis for the overwhelmed mind. And it can cause a breakdown, the state when you explode and you can’t control your reactions.
As a person who lived in a violent family, I experienced both, depression and a breakdown. I was suppressing my emotions for years, lying to myself and others that everything was ok. Then a breakdown happened and I started learning how to communicate with my emotions to notice and honor them. And I discovered that it is worth to invite heavy emotions to my life. When I do it, they change and I can feel good again. When I escape from them, they have the power to destroy me.
My tip to communicate with my emotions is to regularly imagine my inner child, a little girl who I was years ago. If I feel well, when I close my eyes I see little Kasia smiling and playing. When I escape from my emotions, she is far away from me, sad, and still. When I am scared, she is hiding somewhere.
It is not easy to communicate with difficult emotions. The human mind has a lot of defense mechanisms to avoid difficult feelings. That’s why our imagination can be such a powerful tool to check how we are. That’s the symbolic language that is out of control of the rational mind. If you don’t believe me, believe Carl Jung, the father of psychotherapy! Anyway, I recommend to you the inner child practice in order to be in touch with emotions, especially when you struggle with difficulties. Awareness is the first step to a change!
EXPLORING EMOTIONS TO RECOGNIZE THOUGHTS AND NEEDS BEHIND THEM
Emotions don’t come and go itself. They are caused by our thoughts, they change when we find a way to release stress, and they don’t come back when we change the way we think. The thing is we are aware of a very little number of thoughts. Many of them appear on the subconscious level of mind. It is the effect of the learning process that things happen automatically. It is not bad… Thanks to that, when we learn something, like for example driving a car, we can do it without thinking too much.
But when we feel bad, it is essential to watch the automatic mind because difficult emotions are signs that the mind made an opinion that doesn’t serve our well-being, and there is an unmet need behind it. This process is called mindfulness. The key is that when we are aware of our thoughts, we can check if they are rational or not. Sometimes they are not! Why? Every judgment is just a reflection connected to something that happened in the past. It appears because the mind finds something similar to that situation. When there was an intense emotion, the mind desperately looks for an opportunity to repeat the experience in order to release the stress. That’s why sometimes it can be out of context. For example, your partner tells you that he or she is not hungry now, and it makes you feel hurt. The reason is your emotions lead you to the previous relationship, where your partner didn’t want to eat the food you prepared. He called you a bad cook, and you felt hurt because cooking was your strategy to express love and care. It was like rejection for you when you needed the partner to express the love back.
The core of difficult emotions are negative judgments. And those judgments are caused by unmet needs. Like in this case, the need for love. When we know what we need, we can find a way to give it to ourselves. When the need is fulfilled, our emotions change. We feel good again. That’s why when I notice that I struggle with a difficult emotion, I do a short meditation to connect with it and find the answer to questions: ‘Why do I feel like that?’ and ‘What do I need?’.
SETTING UP A SELF-CARE ROUTINE THAT MEETS THE NEEDS
Self-care routine means habits that fulfill our needs. When difficult moments come, negative emotions narrow the way of thinking and it is difficult to find a solution. If we have a routine that raises us up, we know exactly what to do and we just follow the plan. And when we do it, our needs are met on an everyday basis. Then even if the crisis comes, it is not such a breakdown!
The virus changed our life routines drastically. The earlier we find new ways to meet our needs, the sooner we will find emotional balance… A self-care routine helps me to survive every time when my comfort zone falls apart. I could even say, all the time… In one year I got a divorce, I cut ties with toxic people, including family, I quit my job, I started a new career path, I moved abroad alone, and after 6 months I sold all my stuff to move across the world. Also alone. Just with two suitcases. To the place, I’ve never been before. And when I came there, the coronavirus situation started. All those situations killed my comfort zone and made me look for new ways to meet my needs. I used all this experience to create a system that makes me back to feeling good after a crisis quite easily.
I always set up a self-care routine in terms of taking care of my emotions, that is about connecting with them, expressing and processing to let them go. Physical well-being, that means diet, sport and good quality sleep. Social life. Personal development, that needs a need for growth. Self-love that means the activities to appreciate who you are and self-comforting – what you do to comfort yourself when you don’t feel well.
I have a morning, evening, and weekly routine. And a backup version of each of them for the situations when I can’t follow my self-care schedule, or I just don’t feel like doing it. It is natural that in the process of implementing new habits, we lose motivation. It needs to be planed… If it is not, that’s the moment to start postponing the activities to the moment when we forget or we just don’t care anymore. A backup routine is short and minimalistic but it still keeps us on track.