How You Talk to Yourself Matters Part II
Self-Care Starts with Self-Talk
Stop the Woeful Worries!
By Eleatta Diver
Prints available HERE.
Addicted to worry
My name is Eleatta, and I am a worry addict in recovery. A fretful undertow of anxiety courses through my thoughts gripping my gut like the cuff of a blood pressure gauge. BUT I am learning how to construct dikes to alter the watery swells. I'm learning self-care really starts with tending to our thought life. When my confessions of fretful consternations are met with surprise, I concur with a smile, ‘Yeah, I hid it well…until I didn’t.’ And I explain how the undertow pulled me into darker and darker places until it became obvious that I had two choices. I would either learn how to redirect the flow of my ruminations or drown underneath their force.
Tools to change
Through adept counseling, good friends and self-education, I’m learning to manage the tides of worry by building preventive barriers. Much like sand bags are filled, stacked and used as dikes to hold incoming flood waters, I’m filling my thoughts with new substantive weight to strengthen and protect the borders of my emotional well being. I wish I’d learned this skill much earlier, but as the saying goes, ‘Better late than never!’
Building strong dikes
Dike building experts say the strongest dike reinforcements follow specific guidelines.
Step 1.) Clean away the base area, thoroughly removing any debris.
Step 2.) Determine how high the dike needs to be based on the flood predictions
Step 3.) Properly fill sand bags.
Step 4.) Tap, press and pack the bags as they’re stacked to create a tight seal.
Similar steps can be taken to build strong ‘thought dikes.’
Step 1.) Clean away debris.
Task- Identify thoughts that are scattered around the edges of your thinking. For me, those thoughts were fragments of fearing rejection left over from childhood wounds.
Step 2.) Get clear on a particular type of flood you anticipate.
Task - Again, mine was fearing rejection, so when faced with new opportunities for my business, I could predict the oncoming waters with a meteorologist’s accuracy.
Step 3.) Properly fill those sand bags.
Task - Through meditation, I poured new, healthier thoughts into my psyche.
Step 4.) Press bags to create a tight seal.
Task - With purposeful intention, I tapped , packed and compressed these stacks of thoughts with determination.
If you’re as much of a visual a person as I am, here’s a short video of a sand bag dike being built.
Self-care starts with self -talk
I have come to equate the skill of assembling ‘thought dykes,’ to that of offering the truest type of self-care. Indeed, tending to our thoughts may even give just as much emotional release as a spa massage.
A deeper diver
For a deeper dive into the practical how to’s of changing thought patterns, I highly recommend Deepac Chopra.
Deepac has a fantastic app too. It’s full of simple self-care practices with an emphasis on our thought life and it includes numerous leading voices in well-being. Check it out HERE.
How You Talk to Yourself Matters Part I:
Positivity Breeds Positivity
Bubble Baths and Clay Masks
I see lush, filtered photos of bubble bathing, clay-masked women, sandy stretches of serene beaches, and vibrant spreads of fruits and veggies. They peddle self-care mantras and quotes from sages and stars. Ok. Agreed. We do need to take care of ourselves. We do indeed need reminders that we become better versions of ourselves when we respect our requirement for nurturing. But the photos can be misleading.
Don’t get me wrong
Mindfully holding yoga poses, slowly sipping steaming tea, and luxuriating in spa massages certainly have their place! Oh my god, do they ever! But the very best self-care practices really begin in our heads. We should pamper ourselves with these luscious practices, for sure. But we should also take a look at the kinds of words we use on ourselves. If we’ve got negative thoughts playing on an internal loop, a bubble bath has limited power.
No, I haven’t yet
I've not yet mastered the art of conquering every single cruddy self-deprecating thought in my head. But I can honestly say I’ve made some huge strides
Sipping green tea
We sip green tea to rid ourselves of toxins. We seek out massages to loosen stiffened muscles. And seeking to transform our running negative monologue can release tight emotional kinks.
Why do we tilt toward self-criticism? Maybe it’s a human condition of brokenness. (Some personalities lend themselves to a darker disposition). Maybe it’s from damaging chapters in our lives (Mine sprang from a thumb amputation at the age of six). Maybe we tell ourselves we’re no good because we think it'll shield us from other's opinions. I'm sure the reasons are limitless.
But, whatever the reason lurking behind our self-disavowal, there’s only one result - stinking’ thinking’. With each condemning thought we entertain, we end up digging trenches in our brains that beckon an ever-increasing stream of nay-saying thoughts.
Of course, the intention here isn’t to become some pie-in-the-sky pollyanna with fake, shallow positivity. No, the idea is to look at our negative thoughts head-on. Then take a measured, prescriptive approach.
Grab it and stare it down
Here's how we need to deal with our negative-nelly thoughts. When we see one approaching, grab it. Stare it down. Then challenge it.
Here’s an awesome diagnostic checklist from positivepsychology.com that include free worksheets that helps give insight into the nature of our glass-is-empty narratives.
A Deeper Look
For a continued probe, healthline.com gives a relatable list of 'the sky is falling' and it's all because of me scenarios.
Here’s an excerpt. For the full article, click here. Which of these rings true for you? I confess, I've probably done them all.
Your colleague sends you back an article you wrote with some amends. You decide you’re rubbish at your job.
Your boyfriend said he’d text you when he got home okay. He forgets, and you get scared he’s been attacked and is lying in the street.
Your friends forget to add you to a group chat, but you incorrectly assume that you’ve been excluded on purpose.
Someone gives you a funny look on the street because they thought they recognized you – but you assume they’re thinking that you’re ugly.
You pass your driving test with 5 minors. Instead of celebrating your success, you beat yourself up for the 5 mistakes you made.
Discounting the positive?
You get a top mark on a piece of coursework, but you explain it away as a fluke or sheer luck.
Making “should” statements?
A client at work is unhappy because you missed a small section of a report. You demean yourself because you “should” have seen it and “should” be better and “shouldn’t” be making mistakes.
Your feel guilty, so you reason that you’ve definitely done something wrong.
You accidentally upset a child, so you label yourself in single, total terms: “a bitch” or “evil.”
Do these sound as familiar to you as they do to me?
Our thoughts mold our self-perception and frame our self-esteem. I remember my Mom always saying, "Pretty is as pretty does." And even from an early age, I understood her meaning. How we think of ourselves is reflected outwardly. I only wish I'd read articles such as these long ago.
We all have negative thoughts. It’s just part of being human. But being aware of them, understanding their origins, and knowing how to deal with them puts us on the best path toward true self care. So, when you think, “Ugh! I didn’t get all the things done today that I’d wanted!” Bookend that thought with affirmations of what you DID accomplish.
Curating our thoughts gives us control over the “noise” in our head. Though negative thoughts are inevitable, learning to navigate up, over and through them is the very foundation of self care.