all the tools in my toolbox
Since “graduating” from therapy, I have had no contact with my former therapist but find myself missing the one-way discussions that I had with her. I fondly remember all of the ways that we worked on changing my thinking patterns, the ways I acted and reacted in relationships, and the reality I created for myself. Those years were full of tears, “light bulb” moments, and so much healing. Some of the lessons I learned became the tools in my proverbial toolbox, ways to avoid re-entering the cycles of anxiety and drama that I learned from childhood and continued out of habit as an adult.
1. Know your triggers
I learned not to act or react during certain trigger times. When I’m very tired my emotions run amuck and the wounded child within me often comes out and reacts on my behalf. Best to get some sleep before acting on any negative emotions. I have other triggers, too, but that is the biggest.
2. Know your boundaries, and stick to them
Define, in writing if it’s easier, my absolute bottom lines. I had to decide what was absolutely unacceptable or intolerable for me, and re-enfore those boundaries at all costs, even if it meant cutting people out of my life.
3. Practice gratitude
I do this every day, all the time. On my way into work, I think about how lucky I am to have a job, especially one that pays decently and that I enjoy. When I feel lonely, sad, or sorry for myself, I quickly think about the things that I’m lucky to have. This changes my internal dialogue.
4. Change your internal dialogue
Instead of berating myself, telling myself over and over how shitty everything is, or how sorry I should feel for myself, I talk to myself about what I’m grateful for, what plan I might create in order to change the circumstance if I can, or simply remind myself that in the larger picture it’s not that important.
5. Practice self-care
Before I had a baby with me, this meant things like: making the effort to get out of the house and do things with friends and family, taking a long bath, reading a book. Now it often still means making an effort to get out of the house to see loved ones and to find new and different situations so that I feel stimulated and re-charged.
6. Take your intuition seriously.
How much does it suck when you look back at a mistake and remember that you heard your intuition telling you it was wrong and you didn’t listen?
7. Eliminate known negativity
I know who sucks the life out of me, and I know who rejuvenates me. If a person or situation drains my battery, I have to stop including them in my life as much as possible.
8. Allow emotions to be
I allow myself to feel a whole spectrum of emotions without thinking that I will always feel that way, or that I need to act on them immediately. I just let them be there. I acknowledge them and allow them to exist, and then I stay conscious about where they really came from. If it’s grief, I allow myself to grieve and find ways to mourn outloud. If it’s jealousy, or anger, or frustration with another person, I allow the feeling to exist, and then explore internally which needs of mine are not being met, and how I can either meet them, or come to peace with not being able to meet them directly. I often struggle with loneliness, and have to try to find ways to address all of the insecurities that this emotion triggers within me.
9. Give up the illusion of control
I had to realize that I could not control another person or situation entirely. I grew up learning to manipulate bad situations to make the outcomes better for myself. I carried on with this in relationships, and if I was unable to control my partner’s bad behaviors, I lost my mind. I wanted things to go exactly the way I had planned them, and now I work on going with the flow of life, acting on what it’s possible for me to control (namely, myself), and accepting the things that are outside of my realm of control (namely, the actions of other people, or the events in life that we are unable to stop or anticipate).
10. Stay conscious
In the end, everything above is all really just about staying conscious. Consciousness means knowing myself, understanding when I can eliminate negativity, and how to build myself back up when I cannot. It’s about recognizing the cycles of drama and anxiety that I lived out of habit for so long. I have to ask myself if I’m reacting from my wounded younger self, or acting from my intuition, a place of peace and stillness. Staying conscious can mean journaling, reading books that raise my consciousness, or discussing thoughts and feelings with a neutral and understanding person. It means taking care of triggers, such as over-tiredness, hunger, or boredom.