Practices That Heal

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Losses and pivotal life changes can make us feel as if our world of comforts and familiarity is crumbling away beneath us, leaving us with a sense of emptiness and shaken emotional instability. However awful these times may seem, they can also offer us the gift of intimately knowing ourselves, and the opportunity to grow and learn. We are at our most vulnerable, our most creative and, in a sense, our most awake and alive during times of emotional duress. Our sensitivity is heightened, and although many of these feelings are extremely painful, our ability to experience this pain also leaves us open to the possibility of truly feeling everything the world has to offer: excruciating suffering but also the promise of immense joy.

When we think of healing we often think of taking medications, receiving treatments or long courses of therapy. We often overlook the importance of the little, comforting things we can do to help nurture ourselves through painful times. These rituals and small comforts are powerful healing facilitators; we only need the courage to turn to them and to trust that we are on the right path.

Journal, to express yourself and to release the thoughts and emotions that surface.

Speak candidly to someone who will listen with empathy, without interrupting or offering advice.

Write a letter to a trusted friend and gain some perspective and comfort from his or her response.

Confide in a parent.

Read a book or watch a movie about someone who is going through a similar experience, even if that movie happens to be Eat, Pray, Love.

Make expressive art, especially if it’s so imperfect you can’t stand looking at it; that might just be a representation of your emotions as you move through this time.

Eat chocolate, but also recognize that it’s just not worth it to self-medicate with food, drink or to fall back into patterns of self-harm.

Continue to take care of yourself as best you can through nourishing nutrition, restful sleep and exercise.

Cry until exhaustion, removing every last trapped emotion.

Exercise, exercise, exercise, until you sweat. Just try not to overdo it.

Gain a little perspective by contemplating nature; our problems seem infinitely small and our intellectual wisdom profoundly humbled when compared to the vastness of the universe.

Hear your own thought processes and experiences expressed verbally, in the company of a trusted therapist or compassionate friend.

Make plans with friends; have something to get you out of the house and something in the near future to look forward to.

Give and receive a hug; a pet will do nicely.

Try going through the motions of life, even if your heart isn’t in it at first.

Journal some more to help make connections and consolidate any lessons this experience has to offer.

Have trust in yourself and your ability to survive. As a friend recently told me, “One day you will wake up and, the sadness won’t have disappeared completely, but it will have lessened.” Look forward to that day.


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