Step 8: Be Gentle with Ourselves
Before diving into step 8, a reminder about resilience: it is defined as the ability to overcome adverse conditions; with healthy bonding relationships, guidance, support, and compassion as the catalysts. Basically, it entails having the capacity to bounce back from stressful or overwhelming experiences.
What are some steps we can take to ensure we are building resilience in our lives?
- Focus on the positives.
- Seek out and nurture supportive relationships.
- Utilize self-care strategies.
- Take action steps to create positive change.
- Work on healthy habit formation.
- Find a guiding hand to hold.
- Learn to become our own hero.
- Be gentle with ourselves.
Today we will cover Step 8: Be gentle with ourselves.
I had two moments when I first transitioned onto a healing path that stand out as life-altering. My therapist at the time had mentioned to me, “Just notice” during one of our sessions, in the midst of a pretty intense flashback when panic attack symptoms were overwhelming me. Allowing myself the opportunity to just notice those sensations without judgment created an incredible shift in their power over me.
The other shift-inducing incident involved a friend suggesting to me, “Be gentle with yourself, T.” It was one of those smack-to-the-head moments. Be gentle with myself? What the heck does THAT mean? How do I even do that? I realized in that brief exchange that I had been so incredibly hard on myself about my trauma history and attempts at recovery.
I want to share with you a few of the steps I took to learn a more patient and loving approach with myself:
- Forgive yourself: If you are holding onto any blame, shame, guilt, or a burden of responsibility for anything that happened to you . . . give yourself the gift of forgiveness. Write yourself a love letter releasing you from that weight. For decades, I carried a self-blame banner when it came to certain incidents in my life. If I hadn’t been drinking so much then I wouldn’t have put myself in that vulnerable position to be taken advantage of by a man. If I had just told my parents what was happening. If I hadn’t been so needy. I stopped all of that blame and shame talk. Remind yourself that you were not to blame. Know this on a soul level. And forgive yourself for burdening you with that heavy load. You are so very worthy of the resulting peace.
- Practice being gentle with yourself: I started to utilize the idea of being gentle with myself throughout my day. If I noticed any negative self-talk, such as, Why can’t you just get over this, I would remind myself, Something is surfacing, Teri. Just notice is. What is being triggered? I then would meditate or journal about it, but continuing to not judge any of it. Just gentle observation.
- Give yourself the gift of self-love: Sounds simple enough, but, wow, can this be tough. Especially for those of us who experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Practice positive affirmations by repeating mantras such as, “I am calm. I am beautiful. I am peace. I am loved.” The gift of time is a precious self-love commodity, too. Allow time to pursue your passions – whether that’s a stroll in nature, absorbing the beauty, or creating art or taking a new yoga class.
- Be patient: As you continue traveling along this healing journey, there are days when you’ll be baby-stepping along oh-so-carefully, other days where you will be leaping into new discoveries, and others when you turn around and retreat. That’s okay. Again, this is a journey, an exploration into sometimes scary territory. Gently remind yourself you’ve got this. Continue to ask, every day, What is the lesson I am learning with this? You are allowed the opportunity to learn in those set-back moments.
- Reward yourself: I recently visited a classroom with my registered therapy dog, Sammie. We met with forty-two 4th grade kiddos. One of the questions asked during our Q&A session was, “How did you train Sammie?” I took this opportunity to discuss positive reinforcement. Sammie learned her needed therapy dog skills through classroom instruction along with positive reinforcement outside the classroom. Lots of “good girl, Sam!” and treats. The same goes for us as we learn to live a life free from trauma burdens. A “Way to go!” or “You got this!” goes a long way toward building our confidence.
Coming up next month: New series – Positivities of Persistence
Excerpt from my upcoming Hope for Healing Newsletter – February 2019. Find previous versions and subscribe to future editions: https://mailchi.mp/293195d4a027/hope-for-healing-newsletter-january-2019