Be kinder to yourself.
And then let your kindness flood the world.
And then let your kindness flood the world.
Self care seems to be turning into a big trend as we see a lot more crimes stemming from mental health diseases in the news, Trump news becomes more and more UNBELIEVABLE, and our world going to shit at a rate of X times the acceleration due to gravity! In response, we are coming clean about how life is taking a toll on us, and the corporations, non-profit organizations, and small businesses are answering with apps, products, and experiences to increase self care.
If you’ve read any of of my blogs from this year, then you know that depression is something that I have battled with, and the pressures of society in the last ten years has not made it any easier. This year I became determined to get to the source of it, and to deal with how it affects my life and my relationships. I have downloaded a few self care apps, listened to podcasts related to mental health for Black women, joined small groups, and pampered myself beyond recognition. Just last month, as negative thoughts seem to be taking over my mind more and more, I started a 30 day self care challenge. It’s a calendar that tells you what action to take each day to take care of yourself. I found a couple of them on Pinterest that I liked, and I began to do something from one of them each day and share it in my Instagram story. By day 12 though, I quit the challenge.
A lot of the actions on the calendar were things I had started doing a while ago, or were things I did anyway--and not because I was “taking care”--but because they were just part of my routine. These particular actions included cooking a meal, taking a walk, and reading a book. I understand that some of us are super busy and don’t always have the luxury of time to just go for a walk or read a book of our choosing, but for me doing more of what I was already doing wasn’t going to address the bigger issue...
So Why Did I Quit?
Since I was referring to a few different challenge calendars, I would choose actions that I actually wanted to do and that I didn’t already do as part of my regular routine. These included decluttering, making of list of things I was proud of, and taking a nap. I thought to myself ,This is what I need to feel better. Whenever it came time to complete my daily challenge act, I tried to be extremely mindful and think about what I was doing instead of just getting it done like everything else on my to-do list. But even with being selective with the actions and being mindful while completing them, I didn’t feel better. Negative emotions, and especially negative self-talk persisted and even worsened. By day 12 I was fed up. I felt like the challenge was pointless. It was pointless to try to trick myself into caring. I didn’t care and I didn’t care to care. I convinced myself that I wasn’t worth me caring for. I won’t tell you the things I said to myself, but you can imagine from me feeling and believing I wasn’t worth the effort that it wasn’t anything nice…
Negative Self Talk
This is where I am... I am at the place where I take what you say, how you treat me, how you ignore me, and I come up with conclusions about myself. I try to explain WHY things are happening to me by concluding that something is wrong with me.
You’re not a good friend.
You’re not likeable/loveable.
You’re a poor mother.
Anyone you meet you life will eventually get tired of you and abandon you.
This is not only how I talk to myself, but I also write these things down--and these are just the ones I’m choosing to share with you. I repeat lines like these with every mistake I make, or any situation that doesn't seem to be going my way. Every disagreement and oversight ends with me reaffirming these statements. So I’d complete my self care challenge action in the morning and then by the evening when my daughter lies to me or misbehaves, in my head I’m saying Martina, you’re a poor mother. And then when things didn’t go my way it was, Martina, why are you fronting with ‘self care’, no one really cares about you and you know why. Yikes! That’s a harsh way to talk to yourself, right? It makes me cringe to even write this post, but I think what I’m doing here in this post is the best way I can care for myself.
Beginning to Care
A week after I quit the challenge and the negative thoughts, self-talk, and emotions continued, I decided I had to get to the root instead of trying to put a band-aid on the issue. I am tired of coping. I am ready to do the dirty work that healing requires. I’ve been praying to Allah (swt) to help me with my attitude, but I have also been reflecting on what actually triggers the negativity. I noticed that I can be stubborn and adamant about having things go a certain way, and that I can fall into the comparison trap quite easily. My husband also told me that I tend to focus on the negative aspect of a situation instead of the positive (glass half empty mindset), and that I dwell on the issues instead of working to quickly correct them and move forward. So I’m starting to notice my tendencies, and I’m even beginning to notice them in the moment. Once I notice that I’m practicing the habits that lead to the negative emotions, I think about what I can do in that moment to yield a positive outlook and ultimately grow in my character over time.
The most powerful practice to counteract the negative emotions is positive self-talk. I used to read Bible declarations, and write out positive statements like "I’m beautiful" or "I’m confident and fearless", etc. The problem was they felt contrived and I didn’t believe them about myself, instead it felt like I was simply reading a postcard. On the other hand, speaking positively in the moment--in response to what was actually happening that would typically start my negative spiral--I’m finding to be the most comforting. So when my daughter is misbehaving or my husband and I disagree on something, I stop, I reflect on how my actions or words have contributed to the situation…Then I tell myself I have peace...I tell myself this is not about you...She needs your attention and gentle correction...he needs you to listen and not react...You are not perfect, but you have control over your emotions.
My journey to healing has only just begun. God tests us at the level of our faith, and I don’t plan on staying at my current level, so that means there will be other tests. However, I am being proactive about equipping myself to pass those tests. I am taking the steps necessary to really care for myself NOW. It’s hard and it’s uncomfortable, but continuing to beat myself up, being unproductive, and hurting others in the process is a lot worse.
5 Steps to JUMP START Healing from Negative Emotions
These are the steps I have come up with to help deal with negative thoughts and self-talk:
1.Determine your triggers
The last step I haven’t started yet… I will post an update once I’ve been doing it for a while. My husband told me I need to write out the things I believe about myself that are positive, and journal about the wonderful days and moments we share together as a family.
The whole idea is to meditate on the positive things in our lives--and there is plenty if we really take a moment to reflect--and practice gratitude. Hubby always reminds me that this life is just a moment in time. Our goal and mission is to secure our place in Paradise through our deeds in this life. So don’t just download a meditation app or complete a 30 day challenge, take the time to learn about yourself and what makes you tick. Think about what makes you angry, insecure, and fearful. But make sure you give just as much thought to what makes you smile, laugh out loud, and motivated to leave a positive mark in this life.
How do you cope with negative thoughts and feelings?
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