Sometimes when we are down in the dumps, it's easy to forget how to take care of ourselves. This is the beginning of a series of my mental self-care habits. I hope they will help you the way they helped me.
Most people have a bad habit of running from themselves.
I was one of those people. I ignored every emotion, every misery, and pushed them into a corner of my mind where I thought they would stay hidden.
I was wrong.
Time and time again, the very things that I tried to run away from always found a way to catch up to me when I least expected them resulting in anxiety and depression.
Throughout my healing journey, I realized that facing myself was what I needed to do.
Facing myself meant I had to be honest with myself. For a long time I didn't realize that I was actually ashamed of myself. I had many things I didn't like about myself and as a result, I punished myself for them. At one point, I even told myself that misery had been my only company growing up, that it was the only thing that gave me comfort. Happiness? Unknown. Positivity? Unbearable. Having poor mental health meant I was lonely most of the time, so why would I let go of my misery when it was what kept me company?
Once I started to heal, I found that I was able to recognize when my shoulders would feel heavy with burden. The only way I could reconcile such burdens were to write them down on paper. I had many questions -- I still do -- and although I couldn't always answer those questions, I found that writing them down lightened the load off my shoulders. It also helped me lessen the shame I felt within myself. Discussing some of my journal entries with my therapist helped me dissect them. She also constantly reminded me that I am human, like everyone else. It helped me treat myself a little more gently.
So how do you start a journal entry?
Personally, I usually wrote down the first thing that was on my mind. Then I let it evolve into whatever shape it wanted to become. Sometimes I would write a pep talk to myself to end the entry. This practice would also help with reframing*. Although the majority of the entry might be confused or frustrated or just plain miserable, I found that ending with a pep talk gave it a silver lining. Even if it was just to remind myself that I wasn't a failure; it was helpful.
And what do you know? Most of my entries were actually limited to 1-2 pages depending on the severity of the negative thoughts. I know most people wouldn't want to read the entries again, and that's okay. But it helped me understand myself a bit more to look back on where I was at a certain time. I even surprised myself a few times reading back the entries, wondering if I really wrote those words.
The more pages I fill in my notebook, the more I felt growth within me, and the happier I became. So take that difficult first step and face yourself. You might be surprised to find that hidden beneath the rubble was a beautiful gem waiting to be uncovered.
*Reframing - consciously changing a thought, often a negative thought, into something positive or constructive.