Monthly Archives: November 2013

Self-Help Sunday: Books, Movies, and Television, OH MY!

Escapism.

To me, at least, that word has unfortunate, negative connotations. I remember an older relative scolding me for escaping into The Lord of the Rings when I was a teenager — ‘brave people don’t escape their problems with fantasy!’

Almost ten years later, I look back on what he said to me, and I  realize that not only was it unkind (I knew that at the time), but it’s also totally false.

Brave people need to take care of themselves just as much as the next person. In fact, I often find that after taking time to care for myself, I am more empowered to make brave choices the next day. And in a culture that pushes us to “go go go” all the time, making the choice to care for yourself is actually pretty radical and courageous.

If escapism works for you, then go for it (in moderation…as always!). Often the image of self-care is that it needs to be very health-focused and new age…and maybe lying in bed watching Netflix doesn’t have the same vibe as doing yoga at sunrise. But both are equally valid ways of caring for yourself.

Check out sites like hulu.com for free TV and movies, and visit your local library for books and DVDs.

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Self-Care Sunday: Allow Yourself To Cry

I remember talking with a dear friend of mine, a gentleman who has been campaigning against sexual violence for many years. As a new and young activist, I was beginning to feel the weight of our work. I asked him what he did when he felt overwhelmed or hopeless in face of all the pain he hears about daily, and he replied that he bows his head and grieves for all that has been done to these people he deeply cares for.

It was such a simple answer, and yet it wasn’t one I had thought of. He encouraged me to allow myself time, ritual, whatever I needed, to grieve and mourn for the pain that I have experienced and the pain that I have witnessed.

So this self-care Sunday, I don’t have a cute or fun activity for you. I have the sobering reminder that far too many people are harmed by sexual violence every day, and that we must take time to grieve, as survivors and as their advocates. If you were harmed by sexual violence, I want you to know that I bow my head and mourn for what you lost. I want you to know that it is okay to recognize what you have lost and to mourn those parts of yourself. You don’t need to be a powerful survivor every minute of every day — some days you may want to stay in your room and cry and eat take-out and watch Netflix. That’s okay. Please do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself — you have suffered, in many ways, a loss. 

You may find some more structured forms of grieving to be helpful to you. Some suggestions I have are:

  • Write a letter to the part of yourself that was lost in your assault or abuse. 
  • Dedicate a candle to yourself and light it.
  • Draw a picture of what you have lost.
  • Listen to sad music and let yourself cry.
  • Sing lullabies to yourself or listen to lullabies on YouTube or Pandora.
  • Read poetry about sexual violence at www.endthesilencecampaign.org/poetry (warning: some of these may be triggering; proceed with caution)

Remember that while grieving your loss, or the pain that you have witnessed, is important, it is also important to not get stuck in this place. Please seek counseling to help you if you feel you need it.  Visit CAPS or SACS for more information about finding services. If you are not a member of the IU community but are seeking help dealing with sexual assault, either as a survivor or a supporter, please visit RAINN.org and consider using the Online Hotline.

Self-Care Sunday: Journaling

Journaling is one of those things that in my experience, most people struggle with a lot. It’s not easy to do it consistently, and some people just don’t really enjoy writing. But at the same time, it is very frequently recommended by just about everyone from therapists to English teachers to health magazine writers. And it does have some amazing benefits. Journaling can reduce your stress and anxiety, help you make decisions, and improve your relationships with others. It can provide insight into your motivations or underlying emotions. So it seems like it might be worth it to find a way to learn to journal, doesn’t it?
Here’s the thing I’ve learned, as a relatively regular journal-keeper since the age of 6. If you don’t enjoy  journaling, you won’t do it. End of story. But that doesn’t mean that if you don’t enjoy sitting down beside a candle with a fancy bound book and a quill pen, you can’t journal! There are many ways to keep a regular journal. Some I’ve tried include:
– Online journaling, in other words, blogging
– Writing, yes, in fancy journals with actual quills and ink jars and a candle
– A plain spiral bound notebook + a ballpoint pen or a pencil
– Carrying a teeny journal and writing down thoughts throughout the day
– Keeping a Word document on my desktop that I update whenever I need to work through some feelings
– Using a writing application other than Word such as OmmWriter
– Journaling on my iPhone (http://iphone.appstorm.net/roundups/lifestyle-roundups/50-unique-journal-and-diary-apps/)
– Drawing a picture every day or every week in a sketchbook
– Keeping a box of old magazines/catalogues and a glue stick and making weekly collages to express how I felt or what was on my mind
– Filling out guided journals (ones that have prompts such as this one)
– Journaling pretending I was someone else
– Writing letters to loved ones that I will never send
– Writing letters to favorite book characters
– Writing a list every evening of 5 things that happened that day, in just key words (in other words, not full sentences)
– Following journaling prompts (http://daringtolivefully.com/journal-prompts)
Those are all equally valid and useful ways of journaling! The point is to express yourself and have an outlet other than “other people” to cope with tough stuff, celebrate happy things, or just remember what is going on in your life. Journals can be great to look over, both for insight and sometimes for laughs. To end this blog post I am going to share a gem from my early journaling — as I mentioned, I began to journal at age 6. Of course everything I wrote was deeply brilliant and beautifully done. Here is a sample of a daily journal entry I wrote at age 8:
Today was the worst day in my life here are FOUR good reasons:
#1. I had to wake up at 6:15 in the morning
#2. Ms.T was apsent so I could not have [cello] lessons.
#3. I really needed a drink but I could not get one.
#4. Some kids made the whole class sit out at recess (5 min) blah! to those guys!
 
Happy journaling everyone and hope you didn’t have as terrible a day as I apparently did sometime in 1997!

Self-Care Sunday: Practice The Art of Thankfulness

[A personal note: so sorry for missing the past two weeks of self-care Sundays! I hope you took care of yourself regardless of my reminder. Two weeks ago was our Fall Break at IU and I tried to “unplug” as much as possible, and last weekend I got engaged (!!!) and, well, I didn’t know it was coming so I didn’t plan for it and missed another deadline! But now I am back on track just in time for the start of November.]

Today I want to talk about thankfulness.

Being thankful for the things you already have, or still have even after a tragedy, is a wonderful way to take care of yourself. Just taking the time to pause and reflect can really make a difference in your mood. Creating a list of things you are thankful for is also a way to create another self-care tool: the list becomes basically a directory. When you practice the art of thankfulness, you tune your mind to pay attention to the positives in your life. In my experience, even taking just a few minutes each evening to think back over your day and name at least one good thing can make your mind more at peace as you go to sleep. So this week my wonderful (and artistically talented) fiancé David created a beautiful Thankfulness Tree for you to print out and use to record the things you are grateful for in the weeks coming up to Thanksgiving!

Make a color printout of this file, and each day from now until Thanksgiving*, just write one word in a leaf representing something you are grateful for. (You may want to keep track of a longer explanation of it in a journal, Word document, or another sheet of paper.) By Thanksgiving Day, you will have a beautiful keepsake to share with your friends & family, and a visual reminder of all that you have to be thankful for.

Happy November, Hoosiers!

* Okay, so there are 29 leaves — one for each day of November up to Thanksgiving Day…plus one. So pick one day when you’re doubly thankful and write two! And anyway, you will have to catch up because you aren’t getting this until November 3rd. Shouldn’t be too hard to come up with a few extra to begin 🙂

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