Posted in self care

Self Care (viii)

This series of blogs expands on Self-Care 1 where I discussed how essential self-care is to recovering from the damage done to us by Domestic Abuse.  I’ve been following the suggestions in 15 MINUTES TO SELF-CARE , and the last suggestion on the list, Think Positively, can be the most controversial.

Think Positively: What it is not

When something catastrophic happens, and I’m told to think positively, I always want to scream.  This little nugget of advice comes over as a criticism to someone who has learned to see things as they are.  Years of ignoring my intuition about my abuser’s actions, and stuffing down my true feelings, have left me unwilling to gloss over the clear realities in a situation.  We have survived the concentration camp of Domestic Abuse*;  we know there are tough times ahead, and we objectively have the strength to move forward. Thinking positively is not magical thinking; it’s not about wishful thinking; it’s a conscious decision to challenge our thought patterns, a little at a time, and return to our own values and inner selves.  Our thoughts do not exist in a concrete way until we put them into action.

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Let’s have a look at some ways of thinking that keep us stuck, and alternatives.  I found these lists helpful when I was first recovering, because I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know where to start; returning to lists like this helped move things for me.  This table uses yoga poses as an activity demonstating types of thoughts; clearly  any activity can bring up these ways of thinking – the remedies are the same for any situation.

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Number 2: ‘We form strict rules and unrealistic expectations’. is an enormous challenge for many of us, because we lived for so long with our abuser’s rules and expectations.  We internalised these rules, despite our abuser constantly breaking them. We also internalised our abusers statements about ourselves:  I recall feeling crippling anxiety about being able to manage on my own, each time I tried to leave our marriage, I was told I would never cope alone, our children’s lives would be awful, but when I saw the reality I was, and had been living, my outlook changed completely – I had existed as a single parent within our marriage, with responsibility for all our finances, organising the house, and caring for our children.  Of course I had the skills to cope as a lone parent! Reframing our habitual thought patterns is extremely important.

Due to the skills we have used to survive abuse, we often have a strong attachment to making things perfect – if the dinner is perfect he won’t kick off.  The lived reality was one of constantly shifting goal posts; we could sense when an outburst was coming, but could never sidestep it.  Perfectionism became a huge waste of energy, leaving us feeling we aren’t good enough.  Good enough is a concept we need to learn, and adopt.

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To help us adopt this belief that we are good enough, we also need to adopt healthy boundaries.  We are allowed to take up space in the world.  We are valuable beings in our own right, regardless of our achievements.  We are important!

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Carving out a space that is yours is challenging to start with, but helps us create the lives we want to have.  We can stop eating porridge for breakfast, because we do not like it.  We can choose to be vegetarian, because we believe it will improve our health.  We can invite friends over for a meal because we live in our own space, and can choose who to invite into it.  We can make our own happiness, because we value our own likes and dislikes, and trust our intuition about people and places.

So, thinking positively is an active choice to live our lives our way, and to that extent is a beneficial tool in helping shape the lives we desire.

I leave you with this.

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*This is not to belittle the dangers when leaving an abusive relationship; the point that women are most likely to be murdered is when they leave.

I hope this has been helpful.  Please share and sign up for my blog notifications.

Sending out peace to you.

Kitty

 

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Posted in self care

Self Care (vii)

As I said in my previous blog post, it is difficult for us to allow ourselves time for self-care.  We do the basics – shower, hair cut, clothing, food – but it takes a conscious decision to set aside time to look after ourselves, especially in the midst of a divorce, and more so when we have lived with domestic abuse; self-care was not encouraged.  It is so important to give ourselves this self-care, because without it we will struggle to take care of our obligations; our jobs, our families, our friendships.  This next suggestion for self-care will be easy to relate to:

Take Time for a Nap

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Self-care is about learning to love yourself again, and consciously deciding to take a nap every day is one of the simplest ways to do this.  Take a look at this graphic.

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One of the main problems I have with napping is sometimes being left feeling groggy for the rest of the day.  I had no idea drinking a cup of coffee before napping could be a solution to this – despite normally avoiding caffeine, it’s certainly something I’ll try.  It’s also helpful to know the optimum length of a nap to avoid that grogginess.

It’s important to rest your body by lying down; sitting and napping can leave your body achy.  I prefer to nap on top of my bed with a blanket, but napping on the sofa with a cozy blanket is just as beneficial. Temperature and light are also important, so pulling the blinds and covering yourself for warmth – use an eye mask if it helps.

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When the alarm goes, give yourself time to waken properly; don’t rush into doing the ironing or preparing dinner.  Take time for a warm drink, and become aware of the changes in your body and mind. You will be able to tackle the rest of the day with renewed energy.

 

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I hope this has been helpful; remember your feedback is important to me.  If you like this, please sign up for notifications, and do share.

Sending out peace to you.

Kitty

 

 

 

Posted in self care

Self Care (vi)

Mindfulness

Self-care is a fairly new concept in our culture.  Most of us have been brought up with the belief in putting others before ourselves, which may explain the epidemic of chronic tiredness we all live with.  Meeting our children’s needs frequently means keeping going when all we want is sleep, but, hopefully, this doesn’t happen too often; we have family routines which generally makes ‘me time’ predictable, and isn’t the same as our cultures belief in putting others first.  Selflessness was often described as a virtue when I was growing up, helping lay a foundation for an abusive man to take advantage of my lack of understanding.  The truth, I have learned, is we can only give to others from our excess – we can help someone move house when we have the energy and resources to do so; we can lend money to a friend if we have extra; we can listen to a friends troubles when we feel at peace.  Taking care of ourselves is not selfish; it is essential to living a healthy life. Reclaiming ourselves from Domestic Abuse is a life long commitment in developing self-love. For me. Mindfulness Practice took a central place in my own self-care. Here is a list of its benefits.

 

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Mindfulness Practice is a form of meditation which has been practiced here in the West for much of the last century.  More recently it has been adopted in business, education and health settings, because it helps us drop the cacophony in our minds, and come to rest in the present moment.

So, what do we need for this practice?  We need only our breath, and a place to sit; a chair, or on the floor, whichever is most comfortable.  What do we do?  We follow our breath, gently paying attention to how it feels, and how it feels in the body.  We are not trying to silence the mind. Here is a simple guide for you to follow – don’t get too caught up with your posture, just make sure you are comfortable and your spine is straight.

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Timing ourselves when we practice on our own needs an alarm of some sort.  Most mobile phones have them, and there are Apps you can download from iTunes.  This Mindfulness Bell Bar app is free to download to your laptop/desktop.

You may find a Body Scan is more to your liking; this is both mindful and relaxes the whole body, and is best done lying down.  After a period of mindfulness, allow yourself to sit quietly for a few moments, and when you are ready allow your body to stretch gently to waken up properly.  Notice any changes in your body.  I hope you notice a mind which is somewhat quieter, and your body feels a little more calm.

Guided meditations are available on YouTube. Here is Breathing Meditation by renowned teacher Jack Kornfield, and  here is Jon Kabbat-Zinn discussing Mindfulness for Beginners. Try this YouTube guided Body Scan from Mark Williams book Mindfulness, or this Body Scan from Jon Kabat-Zinn ‘s book the Mindful Way Through Depression.  Both books include a CD of guided meditations.

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I came across both of these books in a hospital setting.  Previously I found the writings of Thich Nath Hahn, Pema Chödrön and Jack Kornfield accessible.

Remember this is a practice, a training in quieting the mind, and opening up space within.

I leave you with this quote from American Buddhist Nun Pema Chödrön

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I do hope this has been helpful; if you have any questions please do get in touch.  If you liked this post please sign up for notifications, and please do share.

Sending out peace to you.

Kitty

 

 

Posted in self care

Self Care (v)

Music

Reclaiming ourselves is an essential part of recovering from Domestic Abuse, and a central aspect of our lives is music.  From our very first days as infants we have lullabies, as we grow we sing Nursery Songs, at school we learn songs from different countries, and later we form a bond with popular music and find our favourite singer or band.  Soon, our friends introduce us to new sounds, and our taste in music broadens, and includes artists we link to our romantic relationships – these sounds become bitter-sweet, but we usually include them in our play lists.  For those of us who have experienced Domestic Abuse, music can also trigger us into states of fear and distress due the music putting us back into a situation of abuse.  One particular artist conjures this up for me, particularly because one song on her album describes a woman being beaten by her partner – hearing this felt like a warning, and rubbing salt in the wound.  Music that triggers us is best avoided, but sometimes that’s impossible. In those situations try to leave the music behind by changing your environment – just going outside can help, allow yourself to be with your feelings, know they will pass, and know you have left the abuse behind; you are safe!  This is self-care.

Singing and Self-Care

Music has always been part of my life because I come from a family of singers, and a culture of entertainment being provided by the company we were in.  There was a lot of chat at family gatherings instead of background music, and we all contributed in entertaining the group.  Community gatherings were the same – no microphones and ‘star’ singers; just doing your turn.  For me, then, in terms of self-care, singing is a big part of that.

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Listening to Music

In daily life, muzak seems to be everywhere, often feeling oppressive; making a conscious decision to listen to a favourite musician, or piece of music is quite different.  For me, there is nothing better, at the end of a trying day, than sitting myself down to listen to music.  I say sitting, but, in my case, it’s usually lying down!  I get my faux fur blanket and lie it on the floor, light some candles and choose the piece of music that most matches my needs – Leonard Cohen, Eric Clapton, Sarah McLachlan.  30 minutes of this and I’m a different person.

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Play Music

Self-care is about resting from the stresses of life, giving our mind, body, emotions, and spirit a chance to recuperate.  In our society we are conditioned to have a break when the work is done, or a holiday when our employment gives us one.  Moving on from Domestic Abuse is overwhelming and offers no space for having a break, unless we decide to give breaks to ourselves.  My next suggestion is an activity, but mindful activity can change our focus and rest our minds, that is why I include here, playing an instrument.

My guitar came with me from home when I went to college, and has traveled with me everywhere I’ve lived since.  For most of my marriage it remained in it’s case, but I returned to it when I had my own space to play it – no-one to criticise.  I taught myself most of what I know, and don’t claim to be versatile, but love to learn songs I like, and play them for myself and my children.  Playing the guitar was part of reclaiming me!  For you, it might be the piano, the violin, or the flute.

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Music and Dancing

Choosing music to move our bodies to is a great way to change our stuck mood. I love music that makes me want to move my body.  Although I would never claim to be a free style dancer,  I have been known to wiggle my hips to a jazzy tune, while draining the potatoes over the kitchen sink.  So, for your 30 minutes self-care time, try music to dance to.

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As I said before, free-flowing dance is something I find challenging.  For many of us leaving Domestic Abuse, socialising at dances and discos can be a thing of the very distant past, and the strain of abuse can leave huge amounts of tension in our bodies, making flowing movements very difficult.  My salvation came when I discovered Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms .  Her sequence of movement encourages the body to respond to 5 musical rhythms:  Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, Stillness.  The 5 Rhythms is not a performance, but a way of reconnecting with your body, when you dance alone, and also with others, when you dance in a group.  Like Yoga, Chi Gong and meditation, the 5 Rhythms is a practice, and you will find groups you can practice with, but many of us leaving Domestic Abuse do not have the time or financial resources to join groups,  and practicing on our own is what we have.  For us, here is a 5 Rhythms YouTube link to Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms music.  Listen to it first, and then have a go!

I leave you with a Gabrielle Roth quote, which I keep in mind for times when I feel stuck.

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If you’ve found this helpful, please sign up for notifications of my blog, and do share.

Sending out peace to you.

Kitty.

 

 

Posted in self care

Self Care (iv)

Domestic Abuse is such a weak term for what it is.  For me, the word domestic conjures up household pets, organised homes, and, for my granny’s generation, service in a wealthy house; it’s also a term police used to use for a quarrel between spouses – one they did not take seriously, and rarely intervened.  Those of us who have experience of domestic abuse understand the chaotic, terrifying, grinding reality.  There are many terms used to try to name this reality:

  • Gender Based Violence (GBV) – violence resulting from the perception that women are the property of men to do with as they please; this has been prevalent for millennia. GBV doesn’t capture the lived experience and feels like an academic or legal definition.
  • Domestic Abuse – reinforces the idea that women are property, conjuring up household vandalism
  • Domestic Violence – is closer to the mark because it names the violence women experience, but what about those of us who have never been assaulted, and still live in terror, with limited power over our own decisions and actions; those of us who are financially violated, like the woman who is the only earner and carer in the family with a partner who contributes nothing, but expects everything?

There’s no adequate term, so I’ve opted for Domestic Abuse because it’s an umbrella term covering all forms of power and control.  When we leave an abusive partner, we are at the greatest risk of being murdered – in the UK, 2 women a week are murdered by a former partner.  This indicates the level of stress women are under as they leave, and self-care is essential.  I remember feeling like I was being ground down juggling all the plates I was trying to keep in the air, and was often desperate for a breather.  Constant vigilance about our safety and the well-being of my children meant having a mind flooded with concerns and responsibilities; finding ways to rest from this was essential.  One activity took me back to childhood.

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Colouring

We all have experience of colouring in line drawings as children; it was a relaxing activity in a busy classroom helping us let go of our worries about spelling and mathematics, and an absorbing activity on rainy days.  How often have you, as a grown up, sat in Pizza Hut colouring in the pictures offered to the children with you?  Well, we now have special colouring books with designs for adults and they are, in my opinion, great.  They are cheap, and can take ages to complete – I usually take longer than the 15 minutes we’ve allocated!

Here is a list of reasons why colouring is good for us:

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One of the easiest ways to acquire pictures for colouring, when you are near a printer is to download them from the internet.  My favourite tool to search for anything is Pinterest.  Here are some links to save you some time:

Colouring Books for Adults

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20 Free Printable Coloring Pages

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In the Garden

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When you don’t have access to a printer, but you want to colour in, the solution is simple; take a piece of blank paper and start doodling.  Doodling is as absorbing as colouring in, and you can colour your doodle when you finish.

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How simple is that?  An easy self-care time-out for you!

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And here’s me taking my own advise!

I hope this has been helpful.  Please do comment, and share your own ideas – and don’t forget to share this blog!

Sending peace to you.

Kitty

PS.  In case you are wondering – I’ve used both the British spelling of colour, and the American spelling of color because I am from the UK and the links are from both countries.

 

Posted in self care, Uncategorized

Self Care (iii)

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It’s the end of the day, children are in bed, and there is a pile of ironing to do before tomorrow.  You are drained from a day at work, activities with the children, and you know you have a meeting with your lawyer tomorrow.  You split from your abusive husband three months ago, and he has moved in with his latest girlfriend.  He returns to the family home regularly to see the children, sometimes these visits end up in an argument, but you know he won’t stay.  You know he hasn’t been responding to lawyers letters about the divorce, but you are determined to move things along as quickly as possible, because you want your own space, and your husband has right of access to the family home until you are divorced.  Do you do the ironing and plan questions for tomorrow’s meeting, or do you take some time out for yourself?  Please take time out for yourself!

Call a Friend

It’s time to sit down and call someone you are close with; your best friend, your sister, a neighbour, or a friend far away.  You can phone, email, Skype or FaceTime, depending on how you feel.

I well recall the difficulty I had picking up the phone to chat when I was feeling overwhelmed.  Abusive relationships can leave us feeling isolated, and worthless – I didn’t have anything interesting to say, so why would anyone want to listen to me? This question is one of many falsehoods absorbed from our abusers.  They didn’t want to listen to us, and didn’t want us having friends who did.  They would belittle our friends and question their motives, but we need to listen to ourselves and pay attention to the connection that brought us together with our friends.

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We all have intuition, it’s not magic; it’s a way for us to know what is right for us.  Being in a relationship with an abuser strips back intuition, because the ground below us keeps shifting, and we are constantly responding to crises – we don’t have the space to listen to our own inner voice.  Now, in a space free of abuse, we can reclaim that intuition, and decide who it feels good to call, and pick up the phone.  Friends, sisters, aunts, will be thrilled to hear from you, and happy to share their news too.  We want to make this a time to relax, and feed our inner selves, so think about what you want to say before keying in the number; this gives the opportunity to lead the conversation in a positive direction. There can be much to share with trusted people about the aftermath of an abusive relationship, including the legal and financial elements – you probably don’t want every conversation to be about this, though.  I had an aunt who became a parent figure when, as a young adult, my parents died ; she was amazing, always letting me decide what I wanted to share at any given time.

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FaceTime and Skype are ways to have video calls with friends and family, and a good way to stay in more personal touch with those you don’t see often.  Obviously it depends on who you are contacting; my aunt wouldn’t have known what to do on a video call!  I don’t do it enough, partly because I dislike how I look on the screen!  I’m always happy to see the person I am calling, but, because of the position of the camera on my laptop, I look like I have 3 chins, and don’t recognise myself, which I find distracting – I keep trying to alter my position!  I’m middle-aged, and late to the ball;  I know younger folk are much more at home with this form of contact.

When contacting friends and family overseas, I prefer email for letters, and Facebook for quick messages.  We want to spend some quality time, so I find email is the way to go – I like the anticipation of a response, too.

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(This picture is clearly not me; I never have time to do my nails!)

During the most difficult times in my divorce, my closest friend was living overseas.  I remember the mixed feelings I had about her family moving away for two years.  I was excited about the opportunities for them, but had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because I wouldn’t see her for so long.  As it happened, we were in constant touch by email, and the occasional phone call.  We instinctively knew when the other was having a difficult time, and we would be in contact.  Her letters were full of detail about her experiences in her new country; I loved hearing about her adventures with her children. I kept her in touch with what was happening in my life and with home; my letters helped her feel connected.  Even in our most turbulent times, we have stories to tell, and something to give to others.

Remember, don’t let fear keep you from staying in contact with those you care about, and care about you.

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I hope this post has been helpful; if so please share with your friends.  I look forward to hearing your responses, and suggestions.

Sending out peace to you.

Posted in self care

Self Care (ii)

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For those of us who have found ourselves leaving an abusive relationship, it may seem trivial to focus on these small activities for self-care; 15 minutes a day, in the midst of the chaos and anxiety of leaving an abusive partner can seem inconsequential, however, in my experience, it’s these small gestures of kindness toward ourselves that lay the foundation for rebuilding our lives.  The sensation of being overwhelmed is very real and ever present, particularly when we have distressed children to care for; our children’s needs tend to come before our own.  We need to give ourselves relief from the storm, to carve out small spaces for ourselves, and I know, from my experience, these short activities do help give breathing space.

Going Outside

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I’ve been fortunate to live in places where getting outside has been easy; woods and rivers have been within walking distance, and I’ve been fortunate to have gardens.  Gardens are a bit of a mixed blessing!  I know that mine was the typical garden of a single parent for much of the time – grass needing cut; borders needing weeded, but I overlooked the weeds and always had a place in the garden where I could sit.  Just sitting in the garden when my children were in bed allowed me to open into the space, freeing myself for walls helped enormously.  I’m interested in astronomy, so locating stars and constellations in the night sky was a frequent activity.  Being outside automatically took my attention away from the latest problem and made me listen the birds, watch the ants crawling around (fully aware that whatever I tried to do to move them along, they were staying!), and feel the fresh air on my face.  Being able to sit in the garden took me out of myself while still being available to my children if they needed me.

For the times when I was able to take a walk on my own, the act of walking helped move the things inside me that seemed stuck, and when I was angry, walking vigorously helped release it, and find what I should do about the issue causing the anger.  Like the experience of sitting in the garden, going for a walk, and changing my environment, took me out of myself.  We had cows in the field next to us, and they often came for a chat;  standing on the bridge over the river gave me the chance to see how many trout were jumping, and walking into the woods in the late evening I’d hear the bats flying around.  With so much to take my attention, I found a rest from my concerns and the demands of my life.

I know some of us do not  have a garden, or the freedom to go for a walk on our own, so we need to think a little outside the box.  Do you have a doorstep you can sit on?  We don’t see folk sitting on doorsteps much these days, but, if you are comfortable, go ahead and do it.  Your step just needs to be mud free like the step below; bring a cushion to add some comfort, and a throw blanket to keep you cosy;  to add some atmosphere bring a candle.  Allow yourself to sit and be present with what you feel, hear and see.

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If you live in an apartment block, sitting on a step may not be possible, however, you may be fortunate enough to have a balcony.  Bring out a chair, a cushion, throw and candle and have the same experience there, paying attention to your senses.

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There are many reasons why we can’t get outside easily; on those occasions bring the outside in.  Create a spot by the window where you can have plants. You don’t need to spend much money, and you can use a variety of containers to plant in.  Often friends will be happy to give you cuttings, which will grow roots if kept in water.  Make sure you open a window.

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Another way to bring the outside in is to make a feature using the bits and pieces brought home from family walks in the woods, and at the sea.  I love the sea, and always bring back stones and sea glass, and my children loved collecting shells.  On my window sill, I have jars full of stones, shells and sea glass, with driftwood and candles completing the display. When I can’t get outside, I open the windows to let the outside in, and enjoy the air, and the feel of the stones in my hand.  You can do the same with the plants on your window sill, becoming aware of the feel of the leaves, the patterns and the fragrance from any flowers, and if you don’t have a window sill, use a table.

 

 

 

 

Outdoors isn’t just for keeping physically healthy, it’s about bringing us back in touch with the here and now.  My final suggestion for getting outdoors is another simple one – walk barefoot on the ground.  I know it might sound a little Hippy Dippy, but trust me.  Look back to when you were little, and loved nothing more than kicking off your shoes, and walking in the grass, on the sand, or in the soil.  It was so freeing, and brought us into touch with the earth, our home – the place where we belong!  Months, years, decades of living with violence and intimidation can leave us totally disconnected from ourselves; we survive by becoming detached from the violence and pain, this disconnection can leave us feeling we do not belong anywhere.  Giving ourselves the pleasure of walking barefoot in the grass helps to root us.  Feel your toes wriggling in the blades of grass, the damp and cold on your feet, and the smell of the earth.  Wonderful!

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I hope you have found this interesting, and you feel able to try out some of these ideas.  Next time I’ll talk about the benefits of phoning a friend.

Please share this blog if you feel able to, and do share some of your ideas.

Sending  out peace to you.