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Living with mental illness and/or trauma can be tricky. It might even feel impossible sometimes.
It’s crucial to understand that healing from such things is not linear. It’s not a straight line with a distinct end. You’re not going to be done with whatever you’re healing from.
Instead, healing is more about how to live with those things healthily.
It’s an up and down journey filled with mountainous peaks that leave you with anxiety, potholes that make you question if you can continue on, and rivers flowing with uncertainties and questions.
There isn’t a step-by-step path to healing; every journey is entirely unique. Coping techniques that work for one person might not work for another, much like how therapy can work for one person but may not be as effective for another. A medication that works for others might not be a good choice for you.
That’s one of the truly beautiful parts of healing. It’s entirely about you. It includes the time, strategies, tools, and everything you need to process your situation while committing to living a new life.
Healing isn’t ever complete when coping with mental illness or trauma. It’s a lifelong journey and commitment. It’s not straightforward. It’s up and down, twists and turns, cliffs and canyons.
So if you’re feeling discouraged, it’s okay. Healing isn’t linear, and this article is meant to inspire you not to give up.
Instead, I’m going to share tangible tips for accepting your healing journey, coping with getting to a better place, and what to do when you can’t see that the better place has space for you.
1. Practice self-care.
Self-care is integral to healing, but it’s essential to understand that it looks different for everyone.
For some, self-care might be an afternoon nap and bingeing Netflix, while for others, it might be staying in routine and finding the willpower to exercise.
Other self-care practices include journaling, bathing, attending therapy, and practicing gratitude. Take time to explore different ones and incorporate them into your day. Here are some things you might wish to include in your self-care routine.
Journaling is an excellent way to sort through emotions and thoughts. It gives you a place where you can express yourself without a filter and truly get your thoughts out. This can be helpful with healing because you’re giving the thoughts a space to exist.
Journaling can help empty your mind, and reading through different entries can assist you in finding motivation and compassion for yourself. Journaling is easy, and you can do it however you like.
Journaling can look like words strung together, painting a picture of what your mind feels like. It can also be jot notes, individual words, lists, doodles, and anything else.
Journaling is an excellent tool for documenting your healing journey and celebrating small wins. Past entries can encourage you to keep going on days when you lack motivation because you can see your success.
I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times. Exercise is good for you. But, what part does it play in a healing journey?
Well, it can be a critical component. Because exercise releases energy and gets the body moving, it’s a great way to get rid of stress, agitation, frustration, and other pent-up emotions. Exercising provides you with time to think, process, and find acceptance while working on your physical strength and stamina.
Using exercise in your healing journey can look different for everyone. Some people might enjoy a daily long walk where they can unwind and practice breathing techniques to slow their anxieties and be present. Others might look into something more intense, such as kickboxing and martial arts, to work through rage and anger.
The type of exercise isn’t the important part but rather ensuring that you do it. So put exercise at the top of your priority list. Not only will it strengthen your body but also your mind. It’s an excellent way to work through feelings, traumas, and challenging times in life.
Mindfulness is the art and practice of staying present and in the moment. Practicing mindfulness can be beneficial when you’re on a healing journey. It can be a helpful tool to stay motivated and to find motivation when you’re feeling lost. Mindfulness is something that takes practice and effort, but it can have a significant impact on health and well-being.
When you’re feeling your mind taking you back to your trauma or digging up dark feelings, practicing mindfulness will pull you back to exactly where you are in the present moment. This isn’t a tool to avoid feelings. Instead of reliving traumas and painful moments, reframe your mind so that you can stay in the present.
How to practice mindfulness?
- Pay attention to your surroundings.
- Notice things around you. Is the grass a little greener outside of your window? Are the trees filled with chirping birds? Is the floor beneath your feet warm or cold? Take time to notice things and then reflect on how you feel about them.
- Feel your breath. Notice it. Observe how it goes in and out in a rhythmic way, almost as if your body breathes its own song. Put your hand on your heart to show yourself love, compassion, kindness, and grace.
- Don’t stiffen your body. Anxiety and trauma can often live in our bodies, resulting in tense, aching limbs. Instead, focus on your body’s general movement and practice allowing it to be loose and free. Stiffening up can become a coping mechanism, so don’t feel discouraged if you find this often occurs. When you notice your muscles tense, permit yourself to let go.
Other self-care tasks that might help your healing are eating healthily, getting outside, connecting with loved ones, and finding a support group.
Showing yourself care is a great way to improve your own relationship with yourself, accept your mental illness/trauma, and give yourself the grace and strength to handle whatever life throws at you.
2. Surround yourself with terrific people.
Avoid spending time with toxic people. Notice how you feel when you’re with a person and when you leave them.
The people you spend time with should support and love you. If you’re spending time with negative people, it might keep you in a negative mindset. Energy attracts energy.
Therefore, it’s important to surround yourself with good, terrific people. This can help you process your trauma and diagnosis and develop healthy habits to cope and maintain a full and thriving life.
3. Stick to a treatment plan and attend doctor’s appointments.
A treatment plan can often be mistaken for what will cure you, and once you begin feeling better, it’s common to stop the treatment because you’re better now. However, you must take an active part in your treatment plan and continue it unless advised otherwise by your doctor.
If medication therapy is a part of the treatment plan, you must not stop unless your doctor advises you to do so. Attend all doctor’s appointments no matter how “cured” you feel, and be honest. This can help you to recognize any patterns, symptoms, or other issues going on.
4. Educate yourself.
Learning about trauma, or what your mental illness is, can be very helpful. It can help you to understand that you’re not looking for a finish line with recovery but rather just a healthy way of life while coping.
Spend time learning about what exactly it is, what triggered it, and various coping techniques. You could even read inspirational stories to help you see that you’re not alone.
Healing is more about making it through each day as best as possible. It’s not about being finished with the illness or trauma and never dealing with it again. That’s not how healing works. Educating yourself can help you see and accept that healing isn’t linear. It can show you that you’re not alone and connect you with others once you’re involved in said community.
Read reputable books, websites, blogs, and anything you can get your hands on. Ask your doctor for pamphlets regarding what you’re experiencing. Once you educate yourself, it will be easier to accept and focus on the present and your future.
5. Be patient.
Rushing the process won’t help you; it could actually hinder you. Be patient with yourself. Let yourself feel whatever you’re feeling and really understand that healing is an ebb and flow journey, not a destination. You aren’t going to arrive somewhere and magically be fixed.
While that can be very discouraging and challenging to understand, you’ll feel a sense of peace once you accept it.
Be patient and let yourself discover your diagnosis, learn how you’re feeling, and practice coping tools. Then, allow yourself the grace to stumble and fall down, and trust that you have the strength to get back up and keep trotting down the healing path.
Remember that the healing path is one that never ends. There isn’t a destination, and it’s more about living through each moment, each day, and the collective result of what that looks like.
6. Find a therapist.
Therapy is an excellent option for everyone, regardless of your healing journey. You can seek a therapist with a specific focus on your diagnosis/trauma or seek a general counselor. The benefits of therapy are huge, and it is likely to be an integral part of your healing journey.
A therapist can help you develop coping strategies and deal with emotions and thoughts in your mind. They can even offer exercises to complete to help your situation.
A therapist can significantly improve your life and help stabilize your healing journey. Rather than steep cliffs and deep waters, it might be more rolling hills and streams. Having a person you can trust to talk to can make a massive difference.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may be able to take the healing journey alone, you may face bigger issues than self-help can address. And if something is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
7. Learn your triggers.
Learning your triggers will make a big difference in your healing journey if you’re living with a mental illness or trauma. Triggers are the things that aggravate the condition. For example, if you’re living with post-traumatic stress disorder, you might identify that crowds are a trigger.
Once you identify the trigger, you can avoid it or develop coping tools to get through it. Learning your triggers can help you feel back in control of your life. It’s a way of understanding why you feel the way you feel and even what to do about it. Remember that a trigger doesn’t have to be precisely related to the event or diagnosis. It could be a scent, color, scene, person, and so on.
I’m not suggesting that you try to avoid all triggers all the time because you can’t always see a trigger coming and some things are just inescapable. However, by learning your triggers, you put yourself back in the driver’s seat of your healing journey. You can then decide if that trigger needs to be in your life and how to cope with it.
How to learn what your triggers are?
Learning what your triggers are is a practice and takes time. It requires effort and dedication, but once you’ve identified your triggers, you can develop coping skills and learn how to be calm, relaxed, and collected in the face of that trigger.
A trigger is simply an immediate emotional response to something. Its design is to keep us safe. The trigger is serving as a warning, and your body is trying to tell you something.
The problem is that not every trigger is something you need to fear, and by avoiding them, you might start hindering your life.
Follow these steps to practice identifying what your triggers are:
- Give it a name when you notice that you’re feeling an intense, emotional response to something. Name what you’re feeling the trigger about. Giving it a name takes away some anxiety and reestablishes the control. If you have a trigger you know about, then you can manage and cope, but if you don’t know what it is, then the trigger is in charge and can take over. Find and name the source of the response so that it can exist in real life and not only in your head.
- Be ultra-tuned into yourself. Notice any hyperarousal signs. Notice how you’re feeling both mentally and physically.
- Practice naming emotions to increase your comfort with them. For example, name good emotions and negative emotions.
- Take a break. Once you’ve identified a trigger and you’re noticing it more often, it can be exhausting to cope constantly. Listen to your body and take a break. Resting doesn’t make you lazy. Healing takes work, effort, and consistency, which can be tiring.
- Know you’re not alone. You’re not the only person on a healing journey, and you’re not the only person trying to learn practical coping skills.
8. Remember that every bad day will pass.
Remember that even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it does exist. Every bad day will pass, and a new morning will arrive. It’s the way life works. Keeping this in the front of your mind can be a helpful tool.
You might write it on a sticky note and paste it on the wall for a bit of inspiration throughout the day, or repeat it to yourself in front of the mirror to reassure yourself. Every bad day will end, and every new day will begin. While that’s a challenging concept to understand on a lousy day, remembering it can be comforting.
9. Focus on the bigger picture.
Your goals, your perspective, your dreams, and everything in the future are all part of the bigger picture. It’s what you want for the days ahead. You can refocus on your bigger picture when you feel discouraged, hopeless, and lost. What are your goals for that day? What do you want to prepare for supper? What are you doing next weekend?
Focusing on the bigger picture is integral to the healing journey because that journey is riddled with obstacles, potholes, falls, and challenges. The healing journey flows. It never stops moving. Keeping the bigger picture in mind can help you keep motivated and hopeful.
10. Accept that it won’t go away.
While this might be one of the most complex parts of the healing journey, it’s one of the most important. If you’re someone with a mental illness or trauma, you must take time to learn what it is and understand and accept that you can’t be cured. Healing is something you have to commit to every day to cope and thrive.
11. Practice self-reflection.
Self-reflection will help you analyze situations and how you feel about them. Self-reflection helps to identify your goals and desires, whether your coping tools are helping, and if your treatment plan is effective.
Self-reflection is a tool that increases consciousness. The more conscious you are of everything, the better you’ll be able to cope with it. Self-reflection helps you understand the world and reaffirms your understanding of how you fit into it. It helps you to focus energy where it needs to be, developing coping tools and strategies to better your life.
12. Avoid isolation.
Healing is always up and down. It can feel like a failure when you fall down, and the healing you’ve done up until that point is erased. However, it’s essential to understand that falling doesn’t erase the positive steps you’ve made up until that point, and while it might feel like you’re ten steps backward because of it, you’re not. It’s just the way healing works.
When you fall down, you might isolate yourself—whatever that may look like for you. For example, you might avoid phone calls, not reply to text messages, and shut the world out. It’s possible that this feels like the right thing to do. Sometimes it even is. Taking a quiet, disconnected day can bring you peace and calmness, but isolating yourself isn’t the answer and won’t help you heal.
You can avoid isolating yourself by scheduling things you enjoy into your calendar, going for a daily walk, completing grocery shopping, and checking the mail. Getting out isn’t an event; it can be as simple as walking your dog. Avoid the urge to shut the blinds, turn the lights off, and forget the world.
13. Practice forgiveness.
Your healing journey is as unique as you are. Whatever event or condition led you to need to heal, eventually, you must make peace with it and forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean it’s okay; instead, it means you value and love yourself and need to move forward.
14. Love yourself, always.
I can’t stress this enough, but when you’re dealing with a mental illness or living with the effects of having experienced trauma, you must always be gentle and love yourself. Show yourself the compassion and softness you would show someone else in your exact position. Treat yourself with the kindness that you would give others. Let yourself feel whatever you feel and give yourself loving, gentle reminders that you’re worthy, you’re valuable, and you can make it through.
15. Practice acceptance.
A healing journey is something that you live every day. It’s not a road to avoidance or escaping but rather acceptance and peace.
You must accept that with every good day, there will be a bad one; just like with every dark night, there will be a brighter day. The sun will rise again, the night will end, and there will be another day.
You can accept and believe these things, and that’s what you need to do with whatever you are looking to heal from. Acknowledge that you’re on a journey and that while it will lead you to miraculous heights and moments of wonder, it will also try to sink you and shackle your ankles. Accept that it’s a journey.
Once you get a better hold of your healing journey, you’ll notice how much better you feel.
When you’re in the driver’s seat of your own journey, it’s empowering. Healing isn’t easy. It’s not something that happens overnight either. It’s a beautiful process of patience, acceptance, grace, and love.
Commit to learning tools to help yourself, and believe you’ll get back up when you fall. Accept the struggle you’re faced with and know that you can handle whatever life throws at you.
Find inspiration in daily life by being mindful and present. Take plenty of photos, create, and write things down. And on the days where healing has dropped a bomb on you, refer to these happy moments to remind yourself that you’re in control and you got this.
Healing isn’t a step-by-step path to eternal peace. It’s a choice. It’s a decision. It’s something you have to commit to and participate in. It sounds like work, probably because it is. But it works for you. It benefits you.
Healing isn’t ever complete, and that can take time to accept; but fear not, you can accept it. Healing is more an adventure filled with thrill and peace. Once you accept that healing is not linear, you step into the driver’s seat of your journey, and that, my friend, is when truly remarkable transformation happens.
The tools and tips above are things you must continuously apply to your life; sometimes, they’ll work wonders, and other times you’ll have more brutal days.
Both are okay, and with additional practice, these tools will generate a more significant impact. You must tell yourself that it’s okay, you can do it. Healing isn’t a one-and-done type of thing. Not when you’re speaking about mental illness and trauma, because both of those live in you forever.
Some days will throw mountains of triggers at you, and you’ll fight to stay present, journal it, or go for a walk. You may still pull the blankets up over your head and bawl when you arrive home. It might feel like the tears will never end, and this could leave you wondering what the point is in trying. When you’re in recovery, the hopeless feeling can feel isolating and lonely, and that’s okay. Once you’re done crying, you simply wipe your tears, hug yourself, and keep going because healing is never complete. Just like you’re a unique individual, your healing journey will be too.
We really do recommend that you seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you have more good days than bad over time.
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