As the weather warms and we move into spring, most people start cleaning out their closets and garages. They pare down, open up the windows, scrub the baseboards—all those big cleaning projects that get put off the rest of the year. I think we should also do an annual spring cleaning of our inner selves. We deserve to take care of ourselves, and to take the time to be the best version we can be. I learned those lessons after I was attacked, and went through months of rehab and questions. It was only by focusing on the things I could control—basically, just me.
Create an Image: In a journal or on a few sheets of paper, take the time to sketch or write out what your ideal self looks like. How do you respond to stress or anxiety? How do you maintain your mental health? How do you support others? Do self-care? If you create an image of yourself as a healthy, strong person, it’s easier to start to see yourself in that light.
Have an Honesty Column: Beside that drawing or journal entry you just created, write down the things you can work on that are sabotaging your current goals. It’s like wanting to lose weight—sticking to a healthy eating plan gets a lot easier when you get rid of the junk food. What are the junk habits that you need to work on? This isn’t a list of negative thoughts—it’s a goal list for change. Don’t pressure yourself to be all or nothing; the best changes happen in small steps.
Create a Supporting Environment: If you want to change your self-destructive behaviors, set yourself up for success. Maybe that’s as simple as getting up earlier and getting in a walk every morning. Or setting aside time in the afternoon for ten minutes of meditation. Maybe it’s reaching out to a friend every day when you feel overwhelmed. As I was on my recovery journey, I realized I had to build an environment that supported, rather than undermined, my goals.
Lean into Your Emotions: So often, we want to run from our emotions, especially overwhelming ones like grief or anxiety. I struggled to admit how tough things were after my attack, and lived in denial for a long time. All that does is put off the very healing you need the most. Learn to give your emotions space in your brain. They are just emotions, and by embracing and leaning into them, you stop giving them as much power.
Note Your Successes: Too often, we miss the positive changes because we are too focused on how far we have to go. It’s like being on a diet—when you want to lose fifty pounds, it’s hard to see your body change after losing just a pound or two. However, every step you make toward a healthier body and a healthier self is a step in the right direction. At the end of the day, take a moment to note the things that went well, or that you handled in a more constructive way. Focus on the positive, and you’ll feel more positive overall.
I know what a struggle this can be, and that’s why I’m posting these blogs. I’ve been there, and I want you to know that it gets better. Share your comments or thoughts here, and look for more on this topic next week! For more on my book, visit my website.