Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Write, Write, Write

I have always loved to write.  I remember my first diary, it was pink with a little key and lock and I loved to see the ink flow across the paper.  I started journaling when I was in Jr. High.  I still have tons of journals that I have filled over the years.  I'm not sure what it is about writing, but I feel that as I write I can get what is in my head out.  I quit writing when I got so busy working full-time, running a home, being a wife and mother and didn't realize at the time how much I missed it.  It wasn't until I started therapy that I started writing again and I don't want to stop this time.

My daughter was teasing me the other day about  how many different writing books I have.  I do have a few, but they each have a different purpose.  I have my everyday journal where I write about my day, what I did and how I felt.  Then I have a book just for writing my releasing process in it (see blog entry "Mistaken Beliefs").  I now have one that I write something in every day to my son who is on a 2 year mission for our church (this one is just temporary until he returns) which later I transfer my daily thoughts to a weekly letter to him.  I have one that I write promptings from prayers in and another one where I write all my Priesthood blessings in.  Finally, I have my "morning pages" note book which is the one that has the most random and emotional healing writings in it.

The "morning pages" idea comes from a book called "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron.  The idea is to connect with your creative self every morning by writing random thoughts and filling three pages.  It doesn't matter what you write, just as long as you open yourself up, let your thoughts flow and free up your mind.  She also has another great idea of an "artist field trip" each week where you go out on your own somewhere that will inspire you which for me is usually a craft store.

I think of writing out my thoughts as like the pensieve in the Harry Potter books, pulling out thoughts and memories and putting them on paper making room in my head for space, to think, to relax, to breathe.

I was talking to a friend the other day and she was telling me that she releases her stress by praying and then writing, writing and writing until everything comes out onto paper.  She said later as she reads what she wrote she can't believe what she was allowing herself to be bothered by.  I think this is a great idea, pray for help to let things go and to find what you really need and then putting it all on paper.

I have another friend that does what she calls an "emotional enema" where she writes what is bothering her on toilet paper and then flushes it.  The idea is to get what is occupying your mind out of your body and doing this makes it easier to let it go.

I don't just write in journals, I write in a planner, I write out lists, plans and schedules.  I don't always stick to those, I just like to get what's in my head out and down on paper so I quit rolling it around in my head over and over.  I love to write, it is my release for stress, pain, sadness, an overloaded brain and so much more.  It also helps me to connect to my emotions which I learned as a child to hold in, writing helps me connect to myself.  So, write, write, write!

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Do We Nuture Ourselves?

"What do you need?"
"What do you want?"

These questions are so hard for me, I have the hardest time coming up with answers.  When I do come up with something I feel guilty about it.  I was talking with my husband last week about this and he asked me if I resent it when he takes time to do what he wants to and I said no, of course not.  Then he wondered why I would feel guilty about doing what I want to do.  I told him that I see that he needs to relax and do fun things after work, I can see how my children need to do the same thing after stressful days of school.  But, for some reason, I cannot allow myself to do the same thing.  I love them and see that they are worth some time for themselves.  I guess I just don't love myself in the same way, it's almost as if I see myself as a lesser being, they are worth more in my eyes, than I am.

Logically I can see how that doesn't seem quite right, but it doesn't change the fact that I don't see that I'm just like everyone else, that I need fun and relaxation too.  But I feel that if I take time for myself it seems so very wrong.  I don't totally understand my feelings in this situation, but, again, logically I see that they are wrong, I'm just having a hard time emotionally believing it.

Nurturing ourselves can be difficult for women in general, mothers even more challenging and for co-dependents, nearly impossible.  The problem is that if you don't take some time to nurture yourself you cause emotional and physical damage to your body.  I'm so grateful for the Lord's command that we worship and "rest" on the sabbath day.  It is the only time I actually allow myself to rest without feeling guilty.  But the Lord has also commanded that we not "run faster than we have strength."  I am not so good at that one.  Over the years I have pushed myself beyond my strength over and over again and found myself challenged with physical problems because of it.  We are told to rest for a reason, our bodies and minds need it.  I have to remind myself that my body needs time to recuperate.  That my mind needs release from all that I think about, worry about, etc.  I understand all this, but struggle implementing it.

Here is a great quote from Co-Dependent No More by Melodie Beattie: 

How do we nurture ourselves?  Of all the blank spots we have, this one is often the blankest.  If we've never seen, touched, tasted or felt it, how could we know what nurturing is?  Nurturing is an attitude toward ourselves - one of unconditional love and acceptance.  I'm talking about loving ourselves so much and so hard the good stuff gets right into the core of us, then spills over into our lives and our relationships.  I'm talking about loving ourselves no matter what happens or where we go. . . .  Nurturing is how we empower and energize ourselves, we can relax enough to do our best. . . .  There isn't a set of instructions for nurturing ourselves.  But if we ask ourselves what would help us feel better or what we need, then listen, we'll hear the answer.

How is it that I can love and nurture those that I love and not myself.  How can I love my family so much and "so hard the good stuff gets right into the core" of them, but not myself?  I'm still working on that, but what I can do is take small steps to nurture myself.  I can ask myself what I want, what I need and really listen, then do it, regardless of the guilt.  Just as Melodie Beattie said above that nurturing can be hard if it is not something you have much experience with, but it's a matter of practice.  Time to practice giving myself what I need, and, as they say, practice makes perfect.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mistaken Beliefs

Positive affirmations are used by many people, but I just couldn't ever seem to incorporate them into my life.  I just always felt like I was lying to myself.  It wasn't until I got a book from my therapist that addressed positive affirmations in a different way that I saw the real value in using positive affirmations.  I was looking through my notes and was reminded of the process I learned in the book (sorry, I apparently forgot to write down the name of the book in my notes).

To start this process you pick a "mistaken belief" you don't randomly pick out a positive affirmation, you start at the root of the problem.  The phrase "mistaken belief" changed everything for me, as I read it the first time I realized that it isn't the "positive affirmation" that is the lie, it is the "mistaken belief" I have been telling myself all my life that is the lie.  I was really excited about trying this process.  I decided to start with one of my most destructive mistaken beliefs which is how I value myself.  I don't have a high value of myself and what value I do give to myself is connected to what I do.  I remember reading something in Co-Dependent No More which helped me understand what I was doing, it said:

"At the heart of most rescues is a demon:  low self-worth.  We rescue because we don't feel good about ourselves.  Although the feelings are transient and artificial, caretaking provides us with a temporary hit of good feelings, self-worth and power."

When I read this quote I realized that I was "rescuing" everyone and everything hoping that by doing so, I would be noticed, I would be valued.  I can't seem to value myself on my own and have fallen deep into the co-dependent trap more often than not and so this is something I really wanted to work on.  I came up with my mistaken belief, "I need to be perfect to be seen and valued by others."

After I came up with my mistaken belief, the second step was to write about the evidence that lead me to this belief.  I wrote about things that happened in my life that brought about this mistaken belief.  The third step was to write the truth, not what I had come to believe, but the real truth about this mistaken belief.  The fourth step was for me to write about why this mistaken belief wasn't promoting my well being.  Once I was finished writing all of that, the final step was to come up with my affirmation which was "I don't have to be perfect, I am loved and valued just for being me."

This was huge for me, because I came up with an affirmation through this process that didn't feel like a lie.  I could actually believe this affirmation and incorporate it into my life.  I wish I could say that since I did this exercise I haven't fallen into the low self-worth trap, but I have.  Sometimes the old feelings sneak in and take over.  The mistaken belief has been in my head for many, many years and it is hard to break that cycle, but I keep trying and reminding myself of the new positive affirmation.

Since learning this process I have used it many times taking old, mistaken beliefs and working through where they came from, how they are hindering my progress and coming up with positive affirmations to counter act the mistaken beliefs.  I'm dispelling old beliefs, incorporating positive new ones and step-by-step healing.    

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Experiment

I love to journal, I did it as a child, teenager and young adult, but when I got married I had a hard time continuing it.  It wasn't until I started therapy that I started again.  I have been writing every day for the past three years (okay, so now and then I miss a day, but I play catch up and write the next day for the previous day).  I write every morning, but lately I have been concerned about when I write.  It seems that the last several months that as I am writing I feel really tired and I just close my eyes and I fall asleep for several hours.

Now that doesn't seem all that bad, but my concern was this; am I really tired, or is it the depression?  I wasn't sure which it was.  I also was feeling like I wasn't getting very much done either.  I wanted to exercise and spend time in my scrapbook room/office and I just wasn't getting any of that done.  I have a tendency to push myself too much, so I wanted to be careful and make sure that I was getting the recuperation that I need, but didn't want to fall into a depression trap of fatigue.  It seems that I don't know how to regulate myself very well so I was talking to my husband about my concerns to see if he could tell (he seems to be a better regulator of myself than I am) or had any ideas for me.

He suggested that instead of going to sleep right away, that I go into my scrapbook room for just 15 minutes and if I'm still tired after being in there and doing stuff for a little while, then I must really be tired.  He said that I needed to "experiment" for awhile and see if it is a real need to sleep or not.  I thought it was a great idea!

I love the word "experiment" because it leaves me with a feeling of just trying out different options.  Sometimes I feel the compulsion to "have to" do things a certain way and "experiment" feels more like freedom.  One of my favorite scriptures refers to experimenting, it is in The Book of Mormon in Alma 32:27 and it says:

"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."

In fact, not too long ago I took this scripture and applied it to exercise.  I decided that if I could "experiment" on exercising every day and let that desire grow each day so that I could see and believe that it is a good thing for me that would be a good "experiment."  Now it was time to apply the same principle to my sleep problem. 

On Friday, I decided to take it a step further and write in my journal in my scrapbook room and as I was writing I could literally feel the energy surrounding me.  I ended up staying a lot longer than 15 minutes and I didn't need to go back to bed.  It was such a wonderful feeling.  So today, I tried the "experiment" again, but I have to admit that I really didn't want to.  I was so tired and wanted to lay down and sleep instead.  But I told myself it would be for just 15 minutes and then I could go sleep.  I have now been in here for almost five hours just creating, organizing and feeling energized.  So far, the "experiment" is working great, I'm feeling really good, but it's also nice to know that if I still felt really tired, it would have been okay to go sleep.  I'm sure as I follow this experiment, some days will be energizing and some I may really need the sleep, but I will give myself the freedom to do what feels best, and isn't that what's most important!