Here are some practical steps you can take to start caring for yourself and in turn, giving yourself the space to heal.
Healing takes place across many facets, namely our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies. (some also call the spiritual aspect the energy body).
Beginning with your physical self is a great starting point. The most important thing to begin with is the act of releasing self-judgement about your physical body. I am not talking about being ‘in love’ with your body. For a lot of people that is a years-long endeavor. For now, it is enough to learn to simply exist in your own skin. When we experience trauma, whether physical or otherwise, it can leave its mark in our physical bodies. Where once we held ourselves in a nice balance of expansion and contraction, trauma can keep us locked in a loop of ever more constriction and less expansion. This can manifest as headaches, tension in the neck and shoulders, stomach aches, hunched shoulders, and shortness of breath.
Start with moving your physical body. Whatever works for you is fine, some people like strenuous exercise while others prefer gentle movements. Personally, yoga helped me open the door to very deep healing. I was a few weeks past an emotionally and mentally devastating event in my life and was making an effort to move my body. This first step was difficult. My chest felt as if it was closing in on itself. This is common after emotional trauma. It is a self-protective posture against further heartbreak. As I moved through my yoga practice that day, I gave myself a little extra time to rest in each posture and really focus on my breath. At one point, I felt a huge release in my heart center, and felt a flood of emotions. It was a catalyst for me. I started going deeper after that day, in my yoga practice, as well as prayer and meditation. I started taking long walks outside. So for me, the physical movement led me to the emotional and spiritual release that I so desperately needed.
Emotional and Mental
As you begin to allow yourself to exist in your physical body, as you allow yourself to move in a way that feels safe to you, your body will open the path to emotional and mental patterns that are blocking your healing. It will also teach you ways to get past those blockages.
A prayer and/or meditation practice was a great help to me and moved me along my path in a way that was simultaneously gentle and powerful. It is important when you go through something very painful, to check in with yourself and try to understand the roots of your pain and why and how you feel the emotions you feel in relation to certain situations.
A fear of abandonment or feelings of worthlessness can make it especially hard for someone who is cheated on in a relationship, for example. If you have lost someone you care about quite suddenly, this can make your anxiety grow into an unmanageable beast, because the world has seemingly shown you that you have no control over what happens to you or those you love.
Setting aside time each day to quiet your mind and get yourself into a calmer state of mind will help you get to the bottom of what your emotions are trying to teach you. Because here is the really amazing thing about emotions: They aren’t who you are. They are simply messengers, communicating with you about your life and what work there is to be done.
Another beautiful thing about emotions is that they aren’t permanent. When you can learn to acknowledge what you are feeling, examine the root of it, and then release those feelings, well then, you have learned one of life’s greatest lessons: not to wallow.
As for mental work, the key is to choose activities that will help you change habits that no longer serve you. One way to do this is to have a daily journal practice. Take 5-10 minutes in the morning or before bed. Write your thoughts, and decide what behaviors you would like to change. I like to do 30 days at a time for each pattern I would like to work on/change. For example, one month I decided to change the pattern of letting my emotions rule me and instead decided to observe, learn from, and then release my emotions. I also like to write out a daily gratitude list. Even thinking of just three things that you are grateful for in the present moment can lead to a huge shift in attitude and perception.
Moving your physical body, taking time to sit with your feelings, and learning to discipline your mind will all lead to a more spiritually free state of being. Spirituality can look very different to each and every person. I know for my own path, I had to rethink a lot of the things I was raised to believe. This has led me to a more truthful spiritual practice for myself, and my mental health has vastly improved.
As you begin to heal and grow, you may feel a pull to share that healing in an outward way. I say, go for it! The world needs light and love, and one of the most amazing ways for that to happen is when people who have found healing for themselves, redirect some of that love and acceptance out into the world. (I chose to become a Reiki practitioner and get my yoga teaching certification).
You’ll find when you are changing in fundamental ways, you become a bit softer toward others. Your empathy multiplies, you can understand why people behave the way they do, and that really helps your own healing in the process. You see, when we start taking better care of our hearts and minds, everyone wins!
*Gratitude and Forgiveness
Just a little footnote here. In my own journey from trauma into balance and wholeness(I am in no way finished, this is lifelong work!) I have found a real beauty and power in practicing gratitude (Like I mentioned above, through journaling) and also through a daily practice I like to call “gratitude walk”. When I finish meditation in the morning, I set the intention to take every step with gratitude in my heart. “May I walk each step with gratitude today.” To remind myself throughout the day, I will say to myself here and there, “thank you, thank you, thank you…” It keeps my head in a positive space. This little exercise helps reduce my anxiety as well.
Another huge part of healing is practicing forgiveness. This in no way means that the wrong someone has done to you is fine. It only means that as far as you are concerned (remember you cannot control someone else’s behavior), you are moving on from that place of pain connected to the situation.
Forgiveness is really more about setting yourself free, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, from the offending person and/or situation. You can find peace for yourself whether or not the people who hurt you change their ways. You can learn to forgive almost instantly. Forgive the rude person at the coffee house in the morning. Forgive the rude coworker who drives you crazy. Forgive yourself for judging yourself and others.
Gratitude and forgiveness are ongoing practices, but I promise they get sweeter and more lovely the longer you practice them.
I hope that if you are in pain, if you are suffering and feel you are losing yourself, that you find your healing. It starts within, and you are strong enough to find it. May you be happy, well, and whole.
You can find more about my healing practice on Instagram : www.instagram.com/innerlight.healing