Shame smothers us and makes us want to be invisible. Trauma scrambles our inner compass. Rage, and the pain underneath it, builds armour that pushes others away.
It can take a lifetime to feel ready to share your inner world with another person. You might never want to. That doesn't mean you can't find your way. It doesn't matter how you do it, the important thing is finding something that works for you. Something that brings you back to yourself and your inner resources.
Below are some resources that may help. The fact that you're reading this is significant — it means you have already started your journey of healing. Good luck.
Samaritans — if you're in distress call free 24 hours a day: 116 123
Alcoholics Anonymous — if alcohol addiction is ruining your life call free: 0800 9177 650
Al-Anon — if your life is being affected by someone else's drinking call free: 0800 0086 811
Beat Eating Disorders — adult helpline: 0808 801 0677; young people: 0808 801 0711
Narcotics Anonymous UK — call 10am to midnight: 0300 999 1212
You are so much more than your thoughts. Meditation is a practice that enables you to discover and rediscover this truth experientially. It's free and, with a little discipline, it's powerful. I do it in the mornings. As you spend time outside the frantic hamster wheel of anxious thinking you may notice the soothing effect it has on how you feel and behave. You can begin with an app like Waking Up or if you want full immersion you might want to roll the dice and attend a 10-day vipassana retreat to establish your practice in the Buddha's ancient technique (there are vipassana centres all over the world — for more information visit Dhamma). I've been on three retreats over the years and they've helped me a lot. Watch the video below to see my impressions after attending my first one in 2014.
There is so much evidence that time in nature calms us down and soothes us, but we don't need evidence because we all know this to be true. Watching natural phenomena such as clouds, birds, flames and water changes our brainwaves and switches us over from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to rest and digest. Many people go for long periods with broken sleep and too much screen time on top of work stress, forgetting to give their bodies the chance to relax. It's really important that we take care of our whole being, not just the mind. Going for a walk, if that's possible, wherever you are, is probably the easiest way to help yourself today. It's free, and research suggests it's the best all round exercise for your body. Try to do it once a day.
This is so easy to neglect with all the premade and takeway food around us. But by cooking your own food you're giving yourself a little ceremony and celebration. You're spending time on self care, you're practicing a kind of mindfulness as you feel and chop and stir your ingredients, and you're creating something unique. The process is therapeutic and takes you out of your head and into the present moment. Cooking for others feels good too. The other thing about cooking is you're learning to listen to what your body wants. When you do it regularly you'll become familiar with the feeling of your body asking for certain foods, and as you respond you'll strengthen your instincts and trust in your senses. Don't worry so much about whether the food you're cooking is super healthy, it's more important to build a good relationship with food. This relationship will support and nourish you, and those around you.
When was the last time you felt good when you woke up in the morning? We can't live well without a healthy circadian rhythm. Some simple boundaries can help you manage this essential part of your self care. Get up at the same time every day, even if you haven't slept well (an app I find useful for this is Sleep Cycle). Don't take naps in the day. Don't take your phone or iPad into the bedroom. Give yourself an hour without screen time before bed. Try reading instead. If you're interested in understanding more about who you really are, keep a notepad next to your bed to write down dreams before you forget them. Then explore what comes up for you when you think about them: who or what do you think the characters represent? What might the message be? You don't need to be qualified in depth psychology to do this. These stories are coming from deep within you and they offer a way to listen to your inner wisdom. Believe it or not, you already have all the answers you will ever need deep inside you.
We're a social species and too much time alone alienates us from our true nature, yet we can become the architects of our own isolation and misery. This is a trap that's easy to fall prey to in the modern world, where it's not unusual to live alone, a long way from friends and family, with no sense of community. If you can face it, some social time, however that looks, can bring you back to yourself. We rediscover ourselves in our interactions with others.
This was my first vipassana retreat in 2014