Off The Couch

Photo by Mitch Gaiser

I’m grumpy today. Irritable, discontent and bristly are just a few words to describe my mindset. There’s no immediate and obvious cause – but perhaps it is a million microscopic things

In an effort to care for myself, I began journaling my thoughts and feelings this morning and decided to write a “shit list”.  A list of the things that were pissing me off.  Things like: the dog being an asshole, the kids being needy, the wet weather, my sore ankle, to-dos my darling husband keeps adding to my list.  As I was writing, I decided that I could also benefit from identifying ways that I could support myself directly today.  A “care list” was created using tools I’ve learned in my therapy journey.

Today also happened to be my regular appointment with my therapist.  I spent the time catching her up on my life and finished with “and today I’m feeling irritable and discontent.  These are the things I’m doing to support myself.”  She smiled and nodded then said something that struck me deeply, “You’re proving to yourself that you know what to do.”

I swelled with pride! I did know what to do to lift myself up, I was practicing it and it was helping me feel less burdened by my day.

After my session, I was going about some housework thinking back on my session and I realized that just like I know how to take care of a physical wound, I am skilled enough to take care of an emotional one.

If I’m cut and bleeding, I know I need to: stop the bleeding, clean & sanitize, bandage, change the bandage regularly, involve a professional when I suspect infection and take the medicine if there is an infection.

Similarly, if I am wounded emotionally, I have a first aid kit to access:

  • Stop the bleeding –> journal until all the activated thoughts have been purged
  • Clean & sanitize –>validate myself, my experience, my feelings. Examine and reframe the thoughts that are not helpful.
  • Bandage –> use self-care to refill my proverbial cup
  • Change the bandage regularly –>keep up with self-care!
  • Involve a professional –>regular visits with my therapist and peer-supporters
  • Take the medicine –>Be open to learning and trying new things

This connection felt like such an accomplishment.  For so many years, I’ve used avoidance and distraction to deal with my challenges.  Identifying and deciding that these coping-mechanisms, though useful, were not healthy was the first of many, many tiny (and often difficult) steps that have truly brought new horizons to my journey.

Self-care isn’t just pedicures and massages (though I do find physical and emotional healing though regular visits with my massage therapist – aka involving a professional).  My self-care routine includes things like my journaling exercise.  Here’s a peek at my “Care List”, maybe you’ll find some use in it as well.  This list is NOT exhaustive – it’s simply what I was able to accomplish in the 10 minutes I committed to journaling – at least half of which was dedicated to the “Shit List”.

  1. Comfy clothes
  2. Journaling
  3. Reach out to friends
  4. Meditation & Prayer
  5. Drink water
  6. Take my vitamins
  7. Eat balance meals
  8. Seek out humor
  9. Get a long hug
  10. Investigate my mood with curiosity (not judgement) to see if its pointing at something that needs to be addressed
  11. Mindfulness exercises
  12. Gentle physical exercise
  13. CBT Thought Distortion check
  14. Plan out my day being intentional with adding some “sweet spots” into it – little rewarding things to experience joy (a coffee date with a friend, a special treat, etc)
  15. Schedule gratitude check-ins (pop-up notifications on my phone reminding me to observe some gratitude and to check in with my physical and emotional states)
  16. Writing this article: validating myself and recording my experience (and also hoping that my words might encourage someone else.)

My mental health community is so very important to me!  They have truly been a part in changing my life and in steering me toward my life purpose.  I would be far sicker, physically and emotionally, without them.  And also, I’m responsible for my progress – a good 80% of my therapy work happens AFTER I get off the therapy couch.

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