Category Archives: Self-Care

Coping with the Aftermath of an Emotional Trigger

Have you ever had one of those moments where something completely innocuous is the trigger for a release of emotions that you had no idea were stored in your body?

Whether it be a movie, a story you’ve over heard, or just a situation you witnessed, afterwards you find yourself feeling just a little off. You’re not sure why, but you can’t seem to put a name to how you’re feeling.

Then, suddenly, you get it. You know exactly why you felt off, and you are overcome with emotions.

This has happened to me twice in my lifetime, one in regards to a movie I saw, and the other time was because of a story that was told to me. Both situations uncovered emotions I had buried so far down, I didn’t know they existed.

In each case, my reaction was the same: almost uncontrollable bawling, coupled with an absolute release of energy with each sob. It was if each time I cried out, I could honestly feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Talk about a trip! Years of therapy to “get through” things, and a movie of all things is what does the trick? Somebody call my therapist! I need a refund.

When confronted with situations like this, when you are overcome with emotions, there are a few things to do to take advantage of the opportunity to heal:

First, let it all come out. Give yourself the space to grieve, to cry, to be angry, to be sad. Don’t put a timeline on it. You need to allow your body the time to recognize what it is feeling, and let it go. Typically, a trigger will cause an immediate outburst that forces you to pay attention and focus on the emotions right that minute. Honestly, that is the best-case scenario too.

The second thing you want to do when you’re focusing on all the emotions flowing, is to really embrace it. Acknowledge your emotions, and don’t try to push them away. I mean, seriously, pushing them away is most likely what caused the outburst in the first place, right? Feel your emotions. If you’re sad, be sad. If you’re angry, be angry. Just feel. Just observe. Just be.

The third thing I would suggest doing, and it may just be the most important, is to be kind to yourself. Don’t berate yourself for crying, or believing you’ve shown weakness (the complete opposite is actually true). Once you’re finished crying, don’t try to distract yourself with a project in hopes that it will help (it most likely won’t). Be with the emotional outburst. Be with the thoughts and feelings you’ve released. Be with the renewed sense of self that remains.

I can’t say that I am the biggest fan of emotional outbursts, but I am huge fan of the results. Crying makes my face splotchy, my sinuses clog up, and my eyes swell. (News flash: I’m a fugly crier.) However, when the outburst is all said and done, I spend time with my heart and my soul. I recognize the shift that happened, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be free of such pain and such a weight. It gives me a new perspective on what is going on around me, and gives me the capacity to be more understanding of those I love, and those I come into contact with.

I hope when you find yourself in such a situation, where some random thing triggers an abundance of emotions, you find the capacity to be kind to yourself. I hope you take the opportunity to heal and to be free, because I know you won’t regret it.

My “Do Not Do” List

I get that New Years is when people make their goals for the year in hopes of actually carrying through that year. While the first day of a new year provides a fresh slate, I actually prefer to use my birthday as the first day of that next new year. At the end of every August, I determine what I would like to accomplish, and if I’m being honest, I am sure my success rate is similar to those that start on January 1.

However, this year I’ve decided that I’m not going to create a To Do list. Instead, I’m going to create a Do Not Do list. While I’m a huge fan of being productive (if anyone figures out how to relax, let me know; I need to learn), and checking things off my list make me smile, I have found that as I move through life, there are things I need to stop doing.

First on that list? I need to stop being so hard on myself. I’m sure those that know me will find this one laughable, only because being hard on myself is second nature to me. I hold myself to an excessively high standard, and while in some cases it has served me well, in others it has only served to cut me off at the knees before I even get started. So, enough with it.

Second would be to stop feeling guilty for nothing. I cannot think of a more useless emotion than guilt, and I’m over feeling guilty for nothing. I need to embrace the fact that saying, “no” is a sentence on its own, and I don’t have to feel bad when I don’t want to go along with the flow. Now, if I’m a complete asshole, I’ll accept the guilt, but feeling guilty simply because I have my own path? Forget it.

Third, and last, would be to stop holding myself back. I want to learn to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. I don’t want to shy away from anything, simply because I’m afraid. I’ve made some pretty big strides in being vulnerable, and getting myself out there, but I have yet to fully embrace the magic of being uncomfortable. Because of it, I keep myself on a pretty short leash. Now that it’s on my Do Not Do list, I am cutting that cord.

I’m becoming a firm believer that it is never too late to start. That age or circumstance isn’t what holds you back, as much as it is your mind and your attitude. I’m excited for the next adventure!

Onward and upward!

Managing Anxiety Before It Manages You

Anyone that has experienced anxiety can tell you how absolutely debilitating it can be. Your brain and your body feel under attack, and once that train gets moving, it is hard to stop. If you’re like me, and understand that anxiety is part of life, the goal isn’t to remove all the triggers for your anxiety (an impossible task), but instead the goal is to manage your anxiety before it manages you.

Issues with Control

In my life, the root cause of most of my anxiety is a feeling of lack of control. I can catastrophize a situation without so much as a second thought. This was exacerbated by the birth of my daughter. Where before I would be anxious over any given circumstance I could encounter, I’m now anxious about my daughter’s safety in any and every situation.  While I understand there are times when I should be worried, I know that for the most part my anxiety is completely unfounded.

Stopping Anxiety Before It Stops Me

Because I am aware of my tendencies towards anxiety, and because I’m not a fan of having my days derailed by sheer panic, there are a few things I do each day to help manage my anxiety.

  • I repeat positive affirmations. This effort ends up having the most impact, while also being the most covert. The easiest way I insert this practice into my daily life is through passwords. Taking the positive affirmation, I use the first letter from each word, which forces me to repeat the phrase each time I type it. For example, last year during a particularly harried time, my go-to phrase was “stop living like you’re on fire.” This translated to “SLLYON,” which I had to repeat every time I logged onto my computer.
  • I practice mindfulness. Anxiety often implies you’re worried about something that hasn’t happened yet, which means you’re robbing today of its joy. Being mindful brings you back to the moment you’re in, and helps you pay attention to how your body is feeling. Being in tune with your body helps you identify when you can feel anxiety creeping up. Catching it early means you have a better chance of stopping it.
  • I examine my perception. More often than not, it isn’t so much the situation that causes me anxiety, as it is my perception of the situation. Stepping outside of it for a moment, allows me to get a clearer picture of what is going on, and how I am reacting. The easiest way for me to get outside of a situation, is to write it all down. Once I start doing that, I find that the emotion starts to fall away, and it takes my anxiety with it.

Anxiety is often one of those afflictions that robs you of your ability to enjoy the simple things. With focused intent, you can reign in the runaway train of anxiety, and regain your capacity to live life and enjoy it.

Better to Ask for Forgiveness Than Permission

I think one of my sister’s favorite quotes is, “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” Each time I’ve heard her say it, the words are accompanied by a hysterical fit of laughter. Clearly, she was up to something, and she enjoyed every minute of it.

What if we applied that same quote to our own lives, and specifically focused on doing things that make us happy and fulfilled? I know what you’re thinking. “Do something simply for the fact that it makes me happy? Are you weird?” The short answer is, yes, I am weird.

The long answer goes something like this: I spent a good chuck of my life putting everyone first. I thought if I could just be a certain way, just act a certain way, just take care of things a certain way, then everyone I loved would be happy. I was convinced if they were happy, I would be too. I was essentially at the bottom of my own priority list. You can imagine how that worked out for me.

Taking care of yourself beyond the essentials of showering, eating, and not playing in traffic is really hard some days. Believing that you too are worth being at the top of the priority list is sometimes a hard pill to swallow, but it is an important one.

To be able to take care of others, or, more importantly, be the main character in your own life, you need to ensure your bucket is full. To be able to offer anything to others, you essentially need to guarantee you have something to offer in the first place.

I’ve often wondered why it seems like we need permission to take care of ourselves. Why do we wait for the gift card to the spa to schedule the massage? Why do we wait for the family to be out at their own activities for us to feel like we can sit down and lose ourselves in a book? Why do we acquiesce and go with the flow, when our heart calls out for more?

Is it because we don’t find ourselves worthy? Do we believe we need to earn the right to take care of ourselves? Why do we wait for permission?

My perspective shift was years in the making, as I made incremental steps to fully accepting the fact that I at the very least belonged within the top three spots of my own priority list. The final shift came when I found out I was going to have a daughter.

What lessons did I want to teach my daughter? What messages from my actions did I want her to learn? Did I want her to think that she wasn’t good enough, and that she had to earn the privilege to do things for herself? Did I want her to think she needed permission to take care of herself, or did I want her to own the fact that she didn’t need anyone’s permission, and quite honestly, she didn’t need to ask for forgiveness either.

I’m sure you can guess what path I chose when it came to my daughter. Being her living example of unabashedly taking care of oneself, and finding time to do what feeds your soul is one of the best lessons I can give her.

Are you in the same boat, and find yourself wondering what you can do to better take care of yourself, and put yourself at the top of your own priority list?

First, you need to believe it is important. If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will. Make a declaration to your family to let them know of your intent. Let your friends know too, as they will be some of your biggest supporters.

Second, you need to make a very deliberate effort to do something just for you, simply because you want to. I know, it sounds too greedy. There may even be people who question your actions, thus making you second guess yourself, but you need to press on. For a period of time, going to Starbucks each day and buying a chai tea and slice of banana bread was something I did just for me. I would sit at my desk and take a moment to be grateful for what I had, and to applaud myself for doing something simply because I enjoyed it.

Third, remember to be kind to yourself. Making yourself a priority is hard and uncomfortable. There will be days where you don’t think you can do it, or that it isn’t worth it. Don’t berate yourself when you give up something you were looking forward to, or when you acquiesce to someone else’s desires. Take a step back, and remind yourself how important you are, and how important it is to take care of yourself.

I know this path of self-care is hard, especially when we’ve lived our lives making ourselves as small as possible so as not to inconvenience others. However, when faced with the prospect of remaining small, or living out loud and finally taking care of myself, I choose option 2.

The same can go for you too, my friend. You too can put yourself at the top of your own priority list. It may be uncomfortable and awkward at first, but in the end, you’ll be happy you did.