You had weird dream? You received an unpleasant email from your boss? Your partner commented on dinner? All surviors of abuse know that feeling when even the slightest negative experience sends us into a whirlpool of self-doubt and anxiety. Instantly we hear our abuser saying: “See? I was right! You are good for nothing!” and we seem lost at sea without a raft or a life vest.
Here is the Good News: Your Abuser is Still Lying!
Negative experiences are part of life, and they do not really mean anything. Most people can shrug these experiences off quite easily, so dinner was not great – you were tired. So you made mistake, your boss is possibly overreacting because she is anxious about her dentist appointment later. That is how most people would respond, but with a bully in your head, it is all too easy to follow your own thoughts down a whirlpool of depression.
“Sometimes I just feel down and anxious because of nothing, because my partner was cranky over breakfast or because I forgot to get a pint of milk. I just get trapped in a bad mood and feel like a miserable failure and fraud”
So what we need to do is evict the bully! Shut them up and we will be able to simply move past the negative experience and continue on our merry way.
Get that Bully to Shut Up
You may have spotted the following saying knocking about the social media in some variations:
Don’t Let Negative and Toxic People Rent Space in Your Head.
Raise the Rent and Kick Them Out!
It is great advice, but not always so easily done. The trick really is to actively engage your mind in positive feelings and activities. That will distract you and have your body creating some happy hormones to boot!
Here are some suggestions:
1. Visualize Positive Outcomes
See that email from your boss? Try and think of the best possible outcome to whatever was in that email. Do you need to re-do some work? Then see yourself doing that work and getting praise for your efforts. Just live through that positive experience in your mind. See it, feel it, have the conversation. By focusing your mind on positive future experiences, you automatically shut down the negative conversation you were having with yourself.
2. Get Moving
Exercise is great for getting your happy juices flowing. Go for a run, hit the gym, whatever you like. You don’t even have to go for an hour, even a few minutes of exercise will make you feel better and ready to face the world again. Run up and down the stairs a few times, run around the block, or even just do a couple of jumping jacks. Perhaps all it takes is doing some stretches to get the positive energy flowing again…
3. Call a Friend
No, you are not a participant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” but calling someone you feel close to will make you feel like you belong. Making connections to people is important for us humans, and talking to someone you like and appreciate will energize and motivate you. Don’t just tell them about the negative experience, but make it a real social call.
4. Create Something
Whether you are a painter, a baker or an author. Get going on a project and focus! Both creativity and doing something you like doing will create flow, this too will energize and motivate you. By being creative you activate different areas of the brain, so you effectively have less brainpower to chew over things and listen to that bully. And if you are not in the mood to create your own, perhaps try some coloring pages instead. SwanWaters have created some especially for those occasions.
5. What Are You Grateful For?
Even when it is not Thanksgiving, remembering the things you like and are grateful for in your life will focus you attention on them rather than the negative voices in your head. Make this a very conscious effort and write down the three things you are most happy with at the moment. Coming up with three, and only the best three, means you really need to put some thought into this. Once written down, stick the note on the mirror or fridge to trigger some bursts of positivity over the next few days.
6. Grab Your Favorite Book
A little escapism never hurt anyone, but make it a book and not a movie. Reading is a much more active… well… activity. Watching TV or going to a movie does not nearly engage your imagination as much, and that is really what you want. You want your brain busy with something pleasant and positive, so the bully loses their bandwidth.
7. Make Yourself Useful
Especially when a day starts off in a negative way (when you have had a bad dream or just wake up on the wrong side of the alarm) it can be very helpful to set yourself some goals for the day. Making a to-do list or setting some short-term goals for the day can be a good way to keep yourself and your mind focused and occupied. Make it goals and tasks that will not trigger any more negativity though. So if you know the money is tight, this may not be the best day to start paying bills, as that may make you feel more anxious. Instead clean the floors, get that last moving box unpacked or cook yourself that healthy gluten-free vegan recipe you have been dying to try.
8. Look at Something Pretty
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and whether you like modern art or landscapes, looking at something aesthetically pleasing is a great way to clear your mind. So treat yourself to a day at a museum or a walk through a beautiful park, hang out with a lion in the zoo… Whatever constitutes beauty for you will do. No cheating though! Don’t Google “Van Gogh” and look through the image search. You may not live down the block from the Louvre, but there is beauty everywhere is the world, so go out and find it!
Always wanted to travel to Paris? Could you just see the mansion you would buy if you would win the lottery tomorrow? Do you really need a new dress for that party next month? Some surfing and dreaming can be a great way to focus you mind positive things. Don’t look at the price tags, just start planning the perfect trip, have a search for the perfect house or find that stunning designer dress you would love for ever (in this last case ignore both the price tag and size label). You may even consider going shopping in your favorite “so not within my budget”-store without your wallet.
10. Find some fellow survivors
Our ultimate advice is always: find some fellow survivors! Connecting to people who “get you” is probable the strongest way to feel like you belong. That sense of belonging, the feeling that you have people to back you up, is so important when you are trying to let go of negative thought patterns. Other survivors are always willing to add some positive voices to your mind, and the more positive voices you have in your life, the more they will start drowning out the bully. This may not be quite the quick fix that the first 9 were, but some long-term investments are good too.