Have you ever dealt with a major personal crisis or loss?
Yes? Then compare my list with yours.
No? Some of your friends might not be so lucky. Maybe some of the items on this list can be helpful to them.
A few months ago I was handed the biggest loss of my life. My story is about my divorce, but most of the following could apply to other personal trauma situations.
The items on the list below helped me to put my life back together, and they continue to support my healing process.
1. Having or developing a personal mission statement
I am able to understand my purpose on this planet. I think we all have a bigger purpose in life that goes beyond making one person happy. What is my role in society? What difference can I make?
I know what I want to do with my life. This requires time and effort, and I am actually grateful for having the opportunity to catch up on some of the things on my to-do list.
Knowing what I want my life to be about is an important step. It serves as a reminder that my personal struggles are insignificant compared to the bigger picture of what my life can be once I put my emotional pain into perspective.
2. Having a mantra
I have always had a hard time meditating. It is not tangible and progress is hard to document. I do, however, understand the power of a mantra. I have a sentence that I bring to my mind whenever I am struggling: “My life is bigger than this”. It is a reminder of the goals that I have set for myself. This ties into my mission statement, but is shorter and serves as a meditation piece.
3. Allowing myself to feel my pain
I mentioned my mantra. On the other hand, I also allow myself to experience my pain. Sometimes a small event can throw a wrench into my day. Right now I am in a very sensitive phase. My emotional life is like a roller coaster. When I am down I don’t block it out. I acknowledge it, take time to work through it, and then pull myself out of my hole once I am ready.
4. Going to sleep in a positive thinking mode
I try to go to bed before I am totally exhausted, and try to have some positive thoughts in my head while falling asleep. A little bit of journaling often helps to collect myself.
5. Acknowledging my progress
- What’s the longest time I have gone without thinking about my loss?
- Are my sexual fantasies fading away?
- Does the balance between happy and unhappy times in my week shift?
- Does the way I talk about my divorce change?
- Do I still choke up when I talk about it?
- Does my body still feel tight or tense?
I am constantly checking in with myself and monitoring my progress. Many times it is a two-step forward one step backward process, but I know I am moving ahead.
6. Working out
I used to work out 3-4 times a week. Now I hardly let a day pass by without a one-hour workout. Of course, the endorphins are an easy way to make myself feel good. When I am angry a workout usually helps to get rid of that feeling.
7. The magic T-Bar
I have a list of all the things that have improved since I started my new life, and what had been better in my old life. This is an easy reminder that I am not in such a bad spot. Of course some things on the right side of that T-Bar can throw me into the hole again. That’s when I go back to my mantra ;-)
I mentioned that I avoid TV right now. Instead of that I spend more time reading. It is very important for me to find books that help to improve my self-awareness. The books that work for me are different from what will work for you.
Yoga is different from just a plain workout. I am still a little lazy and don’t do Yoga often enough. It puts me in touch with my body and can stretch into a spiritual experience as well. Plus, it gets me out of my head. It is a great tool to get more balance in life.
10. Pursing new interests
I decided to learn how to play guitar. Please don’t ask me to show any of my progress before 2014. I got back into mountain biking. I started dancing again. I am thinking of taking some classes on subjects unrelated to my work to stimulate my brain.
11. Finding a healthy balance between past and future
I will visit my friends, but I will also travel to places I haven’t been yet. I will go back to some prior interests of mine, but I will also pick up new interests. I am trying to find a healthy balance between being grounded and experiencing new beginnings during my transitional process. If I only hold on to my past, I won’t have room for something new, and anything new will excite me and support my recovery process.
12. Very important: Accepting support from friends & family
I needed support. I knew I couldn’t do this alone. This was my time to reach out. More than anything I needed friends that could listen to my self-pity and just let me be. They supported me, but didn’t take over and tell me what to do. They just let me know and feel that they were there for me in a very heartfelt way. Many of my friends understood me better than I expected. Some of them went through divorce and there are plenty of similarities between our stories and recovery processes. I denied that at first. I was wrong.
I also developed some new friendships with people that are not part of my past. Meeting with any of them means that my past is less present, since they don’t know much about it.
13. Letting time do the work
I might sound overambitious by sharing this long list. In the end, I am also patient with myself and allow myself to slack off. I am dealing with my loss one day at a time. This is not a race. I’ll be done when I am done.
What works for me will not necessarily work for you. The title of the blog states that this is an “inside perspective on my personal journey”. Yours will be different from mine.
Please feel free to offer your thoughts and add them to the list.