Natalie Hartney, LPC NCC
Storm Clouds Clearing
As we regain equilibrium following a s#!t storm disruption, new patterns and habits emerge. We may feel frail, but experience periods of great discovery and independence. These phases may again be followed by periods of withdrawal and regrouping. We may experience experimentation with new identities, and develop new interests. We may also seek new ways to relieve pain. It will be critical during this time to form healthy coping strategies based on a clear understanding of our personal values. That makes this a good time to assess your values. What do you hold dear? Many will say things like, "I prize honesty", "I hold kindness as a value" and other aspirational value statements. These are way too easy. Are you really these things? Are you really kind, or do you roll your eyes when some idiot does some thing. : ) Do you demonstrate your honesty by correcting an error in your benefit? This is the time to embrace who you are. Here is a good place to start exploring what your values are: The Good Project, Values. I'll do future posts on values, too. But, initially know that values are moral free. You have values that are uniquely yours based on your experiences and understanding of the value. As your new patterns and habits emerge in alignment with your values, you are closer to becoming your authentic self in the new reality you create everyday.
It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway. If alcohol, prescription drugs, gambling or sexuality are being used as coping strategies, it is time to reach out for help. One way to be able to tell if you are using for relief is to reflect on your feelings. If, for instance, the first drink is followed by a sense of relief this may indicate a problem. Some stalwart healthy alternative strategies include art, service, yoga, or exercise.
Art may range from journaling, to welding to throwing pottery (clay, or literally break some stuff, and photograph it!). Art is useful because it works on the nonverbal parts of ourselves-it heals the things we can't put words to. Also, art is process and product. So, for some the thing that is created is important. For others, the experience of using materials, feeling textures, the movement of painting, is the thing. Great peace can come from singularly focusing on a task-I am thinking of glass bead making here. The torch, the flame on glass rod. The focus can give one a much needed break from opining over a riddle that can't be solved (usually in the form of reflective questioning, more to come on this topic in my next post).
Being of service to others will not only increase connection to others and decrease isolation, but it will also remind you of how lovable you are. It can remind you that you are an important part of the web of humanity. Being of service to others can also encourage our sense of competency. Remember when it felt good to be good at something? Bake a cake for a bake sale, knit booties for a hospital, teach someone how to use their technology. There is world of people out there waiting for your expertise! Remember the list from Post 1? This is the time to pull that out and see who you can help.
Yoga, either privately or in a group can be a very important healing practice. I recommend yoga to clients who have survived physical or sexual trauma because it does something truly unique. Yoga has the power to reconnect the mind to the body. The feelings of numbness or overwhelmed sensation can be helped through a quiet metered practice of posing, breathing, and being. And though I can't begin to explain it, the vibration bowl (it probably has a real name) works some magic throughout the body and soul that for me, was nothing short of cleansing. If you are nervous about attending a class, call a local studio and see if they have students working toward certification. They may be able to introduce to a yoga practice at a pace you find comfortable. Books have been written about exercise, so I will only add that it is a great way to process anxiety, build strength, and feel like a powerhouse.
There are a number of other strategies that range from getting into nature, to developing a karate practice. The idea is that even as the storm clouds break, there will be still be thunder, rain showers, and the occasional lightning strike. Having authentic value based strategies at the ready will be helpful. Finally, you will notice that these stages are not time lined. It is because everyone's timeline is different, and there is no right timeline. If you are in distress and need support, certainly a counselor can help. A pastor can be a good resource, too. Reaching out for help doesn't always need to look like it. It can sometimes look like asking a friend to go on a hike with you, or you know, smash pottery.