One of my biggest coping skills is not isolating. I belong to many communities, like my church, several hobby groups, and a support group-I call these my “recovery net” and they hold me up when I need help. I have a sponsor who I call almost every day and she’s someone I can call if I feel emotionally overwhelmed, but I’m not in a full blown crisis. I try to keep my stressors to a minimum by journaling, eating healthy and balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and only working part-time. Lately, I have found a lot of joy and peace in doing more art and in playing piano for my church. I think it is important for people who have any kind of severe illness to find a way to give back to their community, because it helps them feel like they are a valuable member of society, which is important considering the amount of stigma that surrounds mental illness. I will also say that this year I have also discovered the importance of positive affirmations. I used to think they were cheesy, but they are not-the trick is to make them your own-something that you can actually believe in and then repeat them when you feel insecure or worried. Right now, I am working on an art project, which I am going to enter in an art contest in a few months and it is a journal filled with positive affirmations that are ones that I have mostly made up myself. The words we use matter and I have found that replacing my old negative thoughts with more positive thoughts have really helped me feel better about myself and have more confidence. Lastly, I practice the many coping skills I learned in DBT and in the twelve steps.
(My friends call me "the craft queen!")
The trick to positive affirmations really is to create phrases that you actually can believe, at least in some small way. The positive affirmations that are often handed out in institutions are so incredibly optimistic and cheery that they do not seem realistic to me and they certainly did not seem like anything more than a joke when I was in the throes of a depression in the hospital. Telling myself that I am calm or happy or serene when I am not is not helpful-it is denying my reality and so just makes me feel worse. In my opinion, it is better to validate what I am feeling (In DBT, this is called "observing the emotion") and then counter that with a positive statement of where I would rather spend my thoughts: "I am feeling sad, but I need to remember that I will never be perfect and that is fine-there is growth in making mistakes." After validating my feeling, I continue to repeat my positive affirmation to myself until I actually begin to feel more positive, hopeful, or calm. I do this a lot now and it really works! I have created a lot of positive affirmations for my art project and I put some of them down in a handout and here as examples of how different positive affirmations can look. I think mine are really empowering-I can't wait to show you my artwork when I am done!
- I will never be perfect and that is fine-there is growth in making mistakes.
- I don't need to know all the answers.
- My body is beautiful just the way it is.
- I must not give up what I value for any person.
- Reclaim my right to speak my truth.
- I am no longer a victim.
- Take life one step at a time.
- Anger, sadness, and tears are all healthy responses to stress.
- I am enough!
- Disability does not devalue me!
- I am not a job or a number on a scale.
- Choose who I let into my inner circle wisely.
- We must risk to get the things we want.
- I have the power to stop myself from suffering.
- Be nonjudgmental of where I am.
- Comparisons are unfair-we are all unique.
- Boundaries are healthy.
- My needs come first-I must love myself first.
- Healthy relationships are based on love, not fear.
- I have a right to voice my own opinions.
- The world is often a friendlier than I think it is.
- I cannot please everyone, so do not even try.
- I can trust my own intuition.
- Being firm is not being mean.
- I do not need to fear saying no.
- I am not responsible for other people's feelings.
What are your favorite coping skills? Do you have any positive affirmations that you use?