Self Care: Focus on what I can do

I’m about 3/4 of the way through the roughest part of my year.

The time of year when I lose time and experience all kinds of panic attacks.  Agoraphobia keeps me in the apartment when I’d rather be outside.  Nightmares make sleeping in the dark difficult while work prevents me from sleeping late.

It’s so easy to focus on the negative right now.

All of the stuff I can’t do because of the limitations forced on my mind and body.  Even though this year is better in some ways, the differences make everything feel wrong.

When I told my counselor this yesterday, she suggested that I focus on what I can do instead.  Even if the task is small like waking up in the morning or putting on clothes.  Maybe, what I can do is leave my bedroom or walk from one end of my apartment to the other.

If making a list all at once is stressful, then spread it out.

So far, focusing on what I can do has a helped today.

Maybe this will help you too.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: Crisis Text Line Review

A couple of triggering events happened today.  One was related to my past sexual trauma.  The other was more recent – the living situation.  They combined to make a big soupy mess inside me.

The first call to the regular hotline helped me realize I needed to do something else to release the pressure.  Thankfully, my aunt was available to talk.  The immediate issue was express my anger so I could accomplish the rest of my errands.  Talking with her and making a plan did that.

Accomplishing the other tasks and some self care (groceries, aromatherapy diffuser, walking meditation), I finally made it home.  Instead of being able to relax, though, everything started to feel more intense.  But I wasn’t sure what was causing the problem – the living situation or the past anniversaries.

So I called the Crisis Text Line instead.  You can learn more about the history on Wikipedia here.  You can go to the actual website and read how the text line works before trying it here.  The Crisis Text Line is a non-profit organization and free.

PROCESS

Texted the phone number with a request.  Receive an automated response

Shared some information; received an automated response and took their questionnaire.

Received a text from a trained volunteer.  Text chatted with the volunteer for about an hour.  The volunteer helped me feel less alone and made some good suggestions.  I tried the suggestions.  They helped a little.  Offered some suggestions and reasons for those suggestions.  The reasons made sense, so I tried knitting again – even knowing it might be triggering.

Then I texted STOP to end the session.

REVIEW

For people who prefer to send text messages and have a service plan with either a lot of minutes or unlimited minutes, this is a great option.  The first response time is quick – within 4-5 minutes – unless you send a message during busy times.

My volunteer responded within 3 minutes after I finished the questionnaire.  Her responses, while slow in coming, were empathetic and respectful while also professional.  I explained the situation.  She offered empathy and suggestions.  I explained how and what I felt.  She reminded me I am not alone, and it’s okay to feel what I feel.

I explained about what strategies I have tried and why I felt frustrated.  She helped me get some perspective and try something I normally wouldn’t try.  Not because I don’t want to, but because physical tasks are usually not on my list when I am in pain.

The pauses between my responses and hers felt too long and anxiety provoking for me.  The generality of the suggestions and brainstorming did not feel as comfortable as when I talk to someone on the phone.

But then I didn’t share everything  that was causing the anxiety.  So that part also contributed to the anxiety.  My past experiences get in the way here.  For me, the act of calling and speaking to someone, verbalizing my feelings and experiences, is integral to the coping strategy of asking for help.

But the volunteer did help me refocus on the present and accomplish a small task.  One that did feel good and was distracting enough to help me reflect on what really disturbed me once I got home.

RECOMMEND?

Yes, I do recommend this Crisis Text Line as a resource.  I would use it again in similar situations or ones where talking didn’t feel comfortable.

Plus, the Crisis Text Line website has a wonderful and carefully curated list of referral/resource organizations for anyone looking for more or something else.

I also recommend this for anyone who might feel uncomfortable reaching out or asking for help in more traditional ways.  Or is using a coping strategy/technique like this for the first time.

Making that first call or text is the hardest step.

If your experience has been different from mine, please comment and share.

Thanks for reading.

Self Care: Sleepy Day & Short Post

I planned to write a follow up post about coping strategies for air travel when everything goes wrong.  That ways my Thursday/Friday experience traveling home.

But I’m too tired.  My body and brain ned to decompress before the work week starts up on Monday.  After crossing 3 time zones in 1 day and being awake for about 40 hours straight (including airplane naps), every part of me just wants to rest.  Our sleep deficit has not been this bad since before moving here.

Happy Sunday to anyone in the Northern Hemisphere.  Happy Monday to anyone in the Southern Hemisphere.

May you all take time for sleep& self care today also.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: Aromatherapy & essential oils

Full disclosure: The individual mentioned in this post is a friend of mine.  While I try to stay unbiased in all of my reviews, this one might not be as objective.

Background

I have been interested in essential oils and aromatherapy since 2007/2008 when some serious skin conditions convinced me to switch from conventional cleaning products to green cleaning products.  From conventional body care to plant and essential oil based products.  I read some books, did internet and database research, and listened to interviews about the wonders of “natural” products.

Some of the interviews mentioned local practitioners knowledgeable in aromatherapy.  The practitioners shared information about essential oils, but did not put much value in aromatherapy.  Then authors started publishing recipes for home made cleaners and diffusers using essential oils.

So I experimented with these recipes and stopped investigating aromatherapy for other purposes.  But I kept my ears open for more information and educational opportunities.

Why?

I was still interested, but did not have the time or opportunity to explore at the time.

Fast Forward 10 years

Quite a few different practitioners mentioned aromatherapy to me once they discovered my sensitivity to chemicals and petroleum based products.  Then a friend of mine (Corey H.) mentioned she was finishing her certification to become an aromatherapist and was looking for case study volunteers.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try using essential oils and aromatherapy with minimal risk.

She sent me some intake questionnaires and instructions for sending the information back.  We corresponded a few times for clarification and decision making about what symptoms to address.  Then she sent me a special blend of massage oil for topical pain/anxiety/PTSD symptom management.  That was in October.

The massage oil arrived around the time my body hurt a lot and I got sick with a cold.  I used it on my head and neck at first.  Then tried it on my arms and shoulders.  My back, hips, thighs, and knees were next.  The ideal time for me was after a shower or just before bed unless there was acute pain during the work day.

The scent helped me stay grounded when I felt myself slipping into dissociation.  The oil itself helped my muscles relax and activate again.  It was scary at first because I didn’t recognize the sensations in those parts of my body; they had been numb for a long time.  But then I noticed my feet changing position and my balance improving.  My knees hurt less, and my inner thigh muscles started flexing and relaxing – something that hasn’t happened in over 15 years.  When I used it on my abdominal area, my digestion and breathing improved.  And some of the bloating/swelling from muscle pain and body memories went away.

As  this trend continued, I started to use the massage oil less.  Not because it was less effective, but because I started to feel anxious and overwhelmed by the new sensations in my body and needed a break.  The positive changes have continued and still help me move better, experience less pain, and manage the body memories better.

Another Case Study

As part of her final coursework, Corey is doing a case study about how aromatherapy helps survivors of trauma and is looking for more volunteers.  If you are interested in learning more about how aromatherapy can help with trauma or mental health, check out Corey’s website: www.coreyhalls.myoilsite.com .  She has information about her practice goals and current case study.  Or contact her through this email address: Corey.halls@gmail.com

But please, only contact her if you are seriously interested in aromatherapy or in participating in her case study.

Final Words

Even if Corey wasn’t my friend, I’d still recommend her as an aromatherapist and aromatherapy as a coping technique for mental health symptoms.  She has been professional, compassionate, respectful, thoughtful, and supportive throughout the entire process.

So if you are interested, here is Corey’s information again:

Thanks for reading

Coping Strategy: Gratitude Prayer

What is a Gratitude Prayer?

It’s a way of expressing gratitude or thankfulness to the Universe, a higher power, God, or religious deities for the blessings, miracles, good things in life.  It’s also a way to show appreciation for direction, support, help etc. while also asking for the same information. By asking the Universe for help, I am demonstrating my faith in a higher power and the value of its guidance in my life.

When do you practice?

I practice every evening before bed and every morning upon waking up to help me relax, feel safe, and be grounded in the present during that in-between time of waking and sleeping.

You can practice as often as you like.  No rules.  Just practice.

What do you say? / How do you do this?

My gratitude prayer is a silent offering of thanks to the Universe and/or a request for assistance or answers or direction about specific topics/ideas/people/places/goals.

Yours can be an offering of thanks to your religious deities, spiritual practices, nature gods, mentors, a higher being…you get the picture right?

And the thanks can be for or to anyone and anything on your mind.

Why Practice this?

Because practicing gratitude reminds me of the joy I feel in being alive; reinforces the value of being alive; shows appreciation for the blessings and positive influences in my life; and helps me be kind to myself in others no matter the situation or the experience.

By practicing gratitude I stay focused on the positive, life-affirming influences instead of the other ones.  I can forgive, feel compassion, empathize, and let go of my past easier.  Shame is also healed through gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion.

Does it have to be a prayer?

  • No, you can call this whatever you like
  • Gratitude Practice
  • Gratitude Meditation
  • Compassion Meditation
  • Forgiveness Meditation
  • Substitute Practice for Meditation, Affirmation, Poem, whatever feels safe and right to YOU.

How long do I have to practice before I see any changes?

I honestly don’t know how long a practice takes before changes take place.  I can tell you that changes are not immediate.  Persistence and consistency are the key to getting the most out of this kind of strategy.

If you only practice once a week for 7 weeks, you might see changes, but not right away.  Same if you practice multiple times a day every day for a month.  Mostly success and change opened on the individual and her or his commitment to the practice.

Here is my favorite Gratitude Prayer

Dear Universe,

Thank you for my life.

Thank you for the blessings in my life

For helping me find safety and stay safe

For my independence and my internal gifts

Thank you for the amazing people who share this life with me

Thank you for your protection and guidance as I travel on this journey.

Please help me stay safe.

Please protect my apartment, the property & its caretakers, my neighbors, and my neighborhood.

Please Help my loved ones and protect all living beings, but especially the vulnerable.

Please guide me to resources so I can follow my path, make good choices, and achieve my goals.

Thank you for always bing here with unconditional love, support, and acceptance.