Don’t Get Spooked By Your Emotions.

Don’t Get Spooked By Your Emotions.

Happy halloween!

Over the next few weeks, I am going to have a new theme each week based on the international holiday or awareness campaign.

Today, I wanted to discuss how we can take charge of our emotional health.

Throughout my life, people have asked how I’ve gone through the things I have.

Well, now you’ll know! I share some thoughts and strategies on acknowledging our emotions and using them for good.

If you’ve been on a journey to heal from trauma, you are not alone.

Taking charge of our emotional state means we become responsible for our own happiness. It may seem daunting, but I promise, it is so worth it!

Acknowledge the good and the bad.

Like most things, there must be balance. Remembering the good and bad times help us practice cognitive flexibility: the ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts, and to think about multiple concepts simultaneously.

No matter what we go through, we can acknowledge the pain yet remain motivated, inspired and hopeful.

When circumstances change abruptly, you’re likely to feel numb, rage, sadness or even despair. We must also remember that abrupt, positive changes can happen too!

While at my psychologist appointment, I mentioned a situation that frustrated me, but I also mentioned the positive side too. Good and bad exist simultaneously.

Train your mind to see both.

Healing isn’t linear and life isn’t always predictable, but having the ability to acknowledge and accept the good times with the bad can give us hope for the future!

Notice how people (characters in your favourite movies/shows), colleagues, friends and family interact.

Have you ever people-watched? When we’re having a coffee at our favourite cafe, at a restaurant with family or whilst shopping – we’ve all done this to an extent.

Seeing how others express their emotion whether it is joy or pain, can help us navigate our own.

Do you know someone who you gravitate towards? The person who seems happy? Or someone who always seems to be encouraging? Or someone who is matter-of-fact and productive?

Ask how they came to be the way they are. Do they listen to podcasts? Do they surround themselves with people full of wisdom?

Since beginning my path in mental health and learning more every year, the best way was to surround myself with people on the same or similar journey. People who have surpassed “growing pains” or starting their career. People who are more experienced than I am. I study their behaviour by watching their interviews, reading their articles and looking at summaries of research.

You don’t have to be a sociologist to notice behaviour. We already do it, subconsciously.

If you want to learn how to navigate emotions with intent, empathy and understanding, look around you.

There are lessons everywhere.

Otherwise, there are many self-help books out there like this one. Even discussing your curiosity with friends or family who are like-minded can spark a whole lot of learning for everyone!

Don’t let the darkness scare you.

For me, negative thoughts come and go. It can depend on my current circumstances, a bad day or a heavy conversation. When I know I will or have experienced something hurtful, overwhelming or even harmful, I expect what comes next: the darkness.

Life is a mixed bag.

We grieve for lost loved ones, we navigate illness, we may end up in a car accident or we may lose a good job.

No matter what it is, expect what comes next. Whether it is pain, hard-work, healthier habits or editing an old resume – step into the unknown.

You will be okay.

If you’re afraid of the unknown – that’s okay! We all are. It is part of the human condition.

We can plan until our heart’s content but that still doesn’t guarantee what our future will look like.

Regardless, organising ourselves for the worst-case scenario means we can think three steps ahead. Not many people do this. Do what others aren’t!

Remember that when life becomes unbearable next time, you have a track record of STRENGTH to carry you through.

There is always hope, as long as you believe in it!

Learn through books, mental health magazines, videos, podcasts or online communities.

Often, I found it difficult to talk about my mental struggles with those around me. There were a few people but sometimes I was so overwhelmed – I couldn’t possibly put this pain on another (a false belief I told myself back then). I know now, people are willing to listen.

I found comfort in reading, writing and creating art to express myself.

To this day, this is a huge cathartic process for me. I’m forever grateful for such an outlet.

I’ve read multiple books on mental health, self-improvement, emotional intelligence and of course, lots of non-fiction! You can learn all you want but remember to enjoy yourself too!

Eventually, I found videos on self-development and podcasts on positivity and attitude.

It was only a matter of time before my tangible self-help tools became digital — welcome to the age of Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, Snapchat and Tumblr!

These days, there are thousands of online forums or group pages tackling difficult life experiences including mental illness, domestic violence, finances, decluttering and organisation.

If there is something you would like to learn more about, I bet that it is out there!

If it isn’t out there yet — start a group, an informational blog or Facebook page!

Talk to someone.

I mention this often in my blog posts. Not only did this help me through my teenage years and continues in adulthood, but it taught me that I don’t have to be afraid of what I’m feeling.

There is no shame in being honest about how you feel!

Find someone in your friendship group or a mental health professional that you can trust.

You can learn a thing or two just by starting a conversation.

It can be really comforting when you’re able to open up to someone and feel heard.

Receiving advice or even encouragement from loved ones can go a long way too. Don’t close yourself off.

I know it can feel unbearable to express ourselves – especially when we’re really hurting – but it is so important that we do.

I have included a list of organisations below that are here to help if you are in need.

Have realistic expectations.

You know yourself the best. Once you start delving into the realm of self-development, it can be challenging to navigate when roadblocks come up. Set realistic expectations for yourself.

If you’re reading a book, don’t force yourself to stay up late just to finish it. Take your time, digest the information and get enough sleep.

If you noticed a certain behavioural trait of yours (e.g. talking over someone else), don’t expect it to go away overnight.

Change takes time.

Try to live mindfully: notice how you feel with small changes.

Remember that everyone makes mistakes.

Everyone has had moments where they’ve said the wrong thing, intentionally or unintentionally.

It’s not about being perfect. It’s about becoming aware of your emotions and being aware of how you fit into this world.

I hope you found these tips helpful!

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Image by Jack.

Childhood Trauma Series | The Beginning

Childhood Trauma Series | The Beginning

Defining childhood trauma

Childhood trauma refers to a frightening, dangerous or distressing event that threatens a child’s life or bodily integrity. This can also include being a witness to a loved ones suffering or pain (vicarious trauma). Events like natural disasters, emotional, physical or sexual abuse can have long-term effects on developing minds and bodies.


A trip down memory lane

It was a normal school day (besides my slipping attendance, which was not new). The year-level coordinator approached me after lunch. I was somewhat nervous but also oblivious to the conversation that would ensue. He asked me a series of questions regarding my lateness, whether I’d lost weight etc. After telling him a small portion of what was happening in my life, he used the word ‘abuse’ to describe what I had mentioned. This was a shock. How was I going through abuse? Wasn’t every other student experiencing this too? When he’d ask how I was faring from then on, I would assure him I was okay, even though I wasn’t. As a teenager, I thought I was right (typically) and it couldn’t be possible that what he said was true. Little did I know, pushing him away (as well as my pain), would cause an emotional overload, years down the track.

A few years later, I was studying Art Therapy. There was a particular module in the course based on The Inner Child. Most modules consisted of theory coupled with practical work. This practical exercise required us to trace the outline of our own body onto large butcher paper. Then, we needed to draw or create an item our inner child needed. I stared at my outline for quite some time. Eventually, I drew a heart shape and coloured it in with a marker. The flood gates had been opened… the next year or so would be one of the biggest struggles of my life.

Throughout my time studying Art Therapy, other peers would share their experiences and I felt somewhat detached. I felt sorry for them but I didn’t have the capacity to truly sympathise. It was like my brain switched off the department to feel pain for others. Including for myself. I began struggling to concentrate. I started skipping class. I didn’t want to do the practical work for fear of all the “shit” coming up in front of my peers. Feeling caged, and somehow ‘in danger’, I didn’t want to face it… face what? Class? Other students? The trainers? I was so confused. What was happening to me? I felt like I wanted to cry most of the time. My personal life was also affected: I was working in a toxic environment that caused panic attacks; my living circumstances were unstable; I had no one to turn to because I withdrew myself. Everything was overwhelming. 

The beginning of healing and discovery

At first, I wanted to see an Art Therapist to shed some light on what was going on. I completed one session but didn’t feel better. I started seeing a counsellor. As I was unravelling my childhood memories however, she mentioned something that made future sessions feel impossible. The college I was at, offered me a list of mental health professionals I could contact for further support. Going through the list, I searched each name on the web. After a few attempts, I came across a counsellor who was located in the city. I read through her website which 1. looked professional and 2. had a calming vibe. Her client reviews seemed positive too, which was great. That was the beginning of discovery and healing for me. 

This counsellor helped me through some harrowing times, past trauma and suppressed emotions. I learned from her how to care, be patient and acknowledge my emotions. I can’t thank her enough for her ability to hold space and offer unconditional support. It was exactly what I needed to begin healing. After a long time with C*, I noticed a ‘heaviness’ that I couldn’t shake – despite all the growth and learning that occurred. I knew then, it was time to find a new mental health professional. 

On-going self-work

A mutual friend suggested I see a specific psychologist that lived nearby. At the first consultation, the psychologist pointed out a possible ‘conflict’ that could hinder progress, if we were to work together. I was then referred on to my current psychologist, N*. 

Since I’ve started seeing N, I’ve grown and learnt SO much. I’ve noticed my thinking has changed a little over this time: I’ve begun thinking critically rather than reacting emotionally. Although my personality traits (that include being emotional) won’t change, I have been enjoying this shift in thinking patterns. Not every action requires a reaction! Sometimes all we need to do is put our ‘thinking cap’ on, and find ways to solve the problem at hand. Give ourselves space to feel what we’re feeling, and when we are able to, get to work on changing what needs to be changed! The power is in our hands. The power, is in our mind.

For me, talk therapy has been really helpful. Perhaps for you, other avenues like creativity coupled with talk therapy could be more helpful. Treatment isn’t a one-shoe-fits-all. What works for me, may not work for you and vice-versa.

Advice for anyone beginning the healing journey or going through it currently.

It may take a few (or more) tries to find a mental health professional that you feel safe with and connect with. Trust the process and be patient. Remember that healing isn’t overnight. Childhood trauma (or any trauma for that matter) can be complex, so be prepared for difficult days and nights. When we experience things during our childhood that shape our beliefs and values we hold, it can be terrifying to sift through memories. I know, I’ve been there. I’m still there. But with what I’ve worked through so far, it’s been the best choice in my life to ask for help and commit to doing the work. It’s time to move forward!

Another piece of advice I wish I had: make a tangible list of coping strategies that help you stay calm and centred in-between appointments. It can be scary, feeling overwhelmed from past memories. However, there is research out there that suggests techniques that help manage symptoms before your next appointment. Things that have helped me (and STILL do): yoga/general exercise, breathing exercises, guided meditations on YouTube, reading self-help books, learning about mental health and treatment, listening to podcasts and seeing friends/loved ones.

If you have any personal questions, contact me here. Please remember, there are people that care about you. Reach out to a trusted person or online community.

Here is a list of organisations that are here to help you:

  • blueknot helpline 1300 657 380 – complex trauma
  • beyondblue.org.au 1300 22 4636 – depression/anxiety awareness
  • kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800 – private, confidential counselling
  • lifeline.org.au 13 11 14 – crisis support, suicide prevention
  • qlife.org.au 1800 184 527 – LGBTI support site
  • vvcs.gov.au 1800 011 046 – veteran, war-related support
  • ReachOut – youth mental health community support

 

 This kind of self-work is not easy, but worth it to move forward in life.

*Names have been omitted for privacy reasons.
*Some words are hyperlinked for further information/learning.

Image by just_shot_of_jameson.

Welcome back to my regular readers and thank you for joining me if you are new! This blog is about mental-health wellness as well as lifestyle topics like fashion, food, decluttering and travel adventures.
You can stay connected for updates, quotes and general life-happenings on my Facebook pageInstagramEbay and Twitter!

It is possible to create change and manifest positivity in your life! x