Journaling has been a big part of my life since my teens. It started very intuitively. This was the 90’s! Pre-google, pre-poetry sites, pre-access to anything online. I had no idea people did this to heal. And so I followed this natural inclination to heal before I had access to therapy or even knew fully what therapy was. This helped me sustain myself from the inside out.
Here are some tips on how you can also do that
Tell Your Story Unfiltered
When you journal, let go of censoring yourself. Suspend judgements about it and about your experience. Allow yourself to put the unadulterated version in it. Say anything you want to, and I mean anything. Use it as a tool for self-expression.
One of the many benefits of journaling is that it allows you to gain insight, and organize your internal experiences. So it gives you a sense of who you are in the moment. This can be very grounding.
Journaling can also help you appreciate a different version of yourself. When I look back at my old journals, I appreciate that younger self’s resilience, her ability to trust herself, fight for her future, and find ways to have more control and choice in her life.
Sometimes, people worry about other’s finding their journal or reading it. Do what feels right for your context. You may choose to discard it after writing it. And that’s ok. It can still be beneficial.
Develop Internal Resources for Rest
When emotional trauma happens, it also happens to your body. Your body remembers and carries this pain. It shows up through tension, chronic pain, and a variety of other body conditions (for example, migraines, vertigo, and IBS).
Similarly, your body carries wanted and pleasant experiences: feeling relaxed, rested, and joyful. When you remember something happy, you might find yourself smiling and your face relaxes. This is the body’s expression of your inner experience. So developing internal visualizations helps in a similar way.
Here’s a simple visualization you can try
1- Take a moment, and bring your attention and focus to your breath.
2- Focus on the here and now (this moment)
3- Choose a nature element that resonates with you: Fire, water, air, earth, or light.
4- Visualize it in a way that makes sense for you. It can be real or imagined.
5- Scan your body - start at the very top.
6- As you scan your body, allow the natural element of your choice to take away distress, tension, or irritability (e.g. if you picked water, allow the water to wash tension away)
7- As you notice the distress lowering and being removed, focus on the space you feel inside or the relaxation.
8- Allow this natural element to be healing, protective, and calming. As you focus on the calmness or the positive quality, you can enhance it by adding the Butterfly hug (the video below shows you how)
9- Check with yourself: if the positive feelings increase with the Butterfly Hug, then continue with it. If not, discontinue the Butterfly Hug and return to using the nature element on its own.
10- Close the exercise by pausing, and letting all the positive feelings settle. Then, slowly and gradually bring your attention back to your physical space.
Movement is not about exercise. Not in the traditional stereotypical sense of the word. The focus with movement is on changing the energy you’re carrying in your body as well as expelling energy that’s impacting your mental health. Yin yoga is my personal choice. It makes me feel centred and balanced. Movement gets you out of your head and into your body. It shifts your energy flow.
If you’re a person who leans more into intellectualizing your experiences (“too much in your head”), especially the painful ones, this can be helpful to rebalance you.
A caution with some of these recommendations: if you’re experiencing complex trauma symptoms, dissociation (feeling foggy and things don’t seem real sometimes), or have other severe trauma symptoms; please consult a therapist or health professional as you can get flooded and overwhelmed with some of these suggestions. You can then feel worse, and could have a hard time containing the experience.
Set some time aside as best as you can to practice these strategies to tend to your self-sustenance. Consistency rather than time is key. A few minutes per day can still enhance your inner resilience.