Many Americans make changes to their lifestyles over time; some of us are eager to improve our careers, while others want to make the perfect home for a family. Taking steps toward personal growth is an important part of life, but it can be difficult to keep an eye on your mental health at the same time. Change often comes with stress or anxiety, especially if you’re attempting to try something completely new, and that can lead to unhealthy decision-making.
To take care of yourself while you’re on a quest for personal growth, you need to make sure your physical, mental, and emotional needs are met while finding new ways to empower yourself. The key is to get organized from the very beginning so that you’ll be able to make positive changes in a healthy way. Here are a few tips on how to get started.
Spend Time Alone
It will be hard for you to make positive changes in your life if you can’t be comfortable with yourself. Spend some time alone, doing something that makes you happy, and learn what you really like and what you don’t. Think about the best ways to grow. Would you like to go back to school? Learn a new language? Become a more involved parent? Taking a time-out will help you analyze your life without distractions so you can figure out what you really want.
Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Setting goals now and getting organized will help you stay motivated and help ensure success when you’re ready to tackle something new. You might even try creating a “vision board,” which involves making a visual representation of your goals, so you can see what should come next.
Stress is one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to making positive changes in your life. No matter what you want to achieve — a boost in your career, changing your relationships for the better, or helping others — it will be that much harder to do if you’re stressed out. Find ways to reduce stress, such as exercising daily, practicing yoga, learning deep-breathing exercises, and learning how to forgive—both yourself and others. These can help you beat stress in the moment so you’re not left feeling anxious when things start to feel overwhelming. They can also help you make healthy choices. Click here for tips on how to make good decisions for your body and mind.
Much of self-care comes from taking steps to keep your body healthy, and one great way to do that is to get adequate sleep. Good rest can not only help you feel better, it can improve your memory function and keep you sharp for the next day. Start a good sleep routine that will help you get to bed at a reasonable hour every night, and shoot for at least seven hours of sleep each time you lie down. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime, and do something relaxing in the evening so your body will be ready to recharge.
Making changes to your lifestyle to better yourself can be a long road, so it’s important to be patient with yourself and start with a good plan. Talk to your friends and family about what steps you’re going to take to stay on track so they can be a support system. By staying organized and taking care of your mental health, you can make positive change happen.
by Brad Krause
About Brad Krause:
After four years in the corporate world working 15-hour days, 6 days a week, Brad Krause demonstrated the ultimate act of self-care by leaving his draining, unfulfilling job behind. He now spends full-time helping others as a self-care guru, writer and life coach (SelfCare.info). He sums up his vision by saying, “We all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care. And that’s what I’m here to help people discover!”
You can contact Brad at Brad@selfcaring.info.
The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com – You’ve probably read or heard the story, but it’s worth repeating with a final twist.
In the early morning hours of June 5, 2002 — the day after she received awards for excellence in physical fitness and academics at Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City, Utah — 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her home at knifepoint. The next day, the FBI told her parents, “If she’s not home in the first 48 hours, she’s probably not coming home.”
Smart did not return home quickly despite a massive regional search effort involving up to 2,000 volunteers each day, as well as dogs and planes. The search continued for weeks.
Her abductors, homeless street preacher Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee, held her at encampments in the woods 18 miles from her home and in San Diego County, CA. They kept her shackled to a tree with a metal cable to keep her from escaping.
Nine agonizing months of captivity
Mitchell repeatedly raped Smart during her captivity, sometimes multiple times daily, told her she would never see her family again if she tried to escape, and regularly threatened to kill her. He often forced her to drink alcohol and take drugs to lower her resistance, and he both starved her and fed her garbage.
Smart endured the unimaginable for nine agonizing months before she was spotted with Mitchell and Barzee in Sandy, Utah, on March 12, 2003 by a couple who had seen Mitchell’s photos on the news. Smart – disguised in a gray wig, sunglasses, and veil – was recognized by officers during questioning, and Mitchell and Barzee were arrested.
After years of delays and mental evaluations, Mitchell was found guilty of kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines with intent to engage in sexual activity. On December 11, 2010, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. For her role, Barzee eventually was sentenced to concurrent terms of fifteen years in state and federal prison.
Forgiveness is not acceptance
For Smart, the ordeal carried a heavy price tag but she says she has long since forgiven her captors and has not allowed it to define her life. During a recent presentation at Indiana University Kokomo, she explained it this way:
“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a victim anymore. I see an activist, I see a wife, I see a mother, I see a friend, I see someone I’m proud to be.
It’s not what happens to us, it’s what we decide to do next, how we move forward, how we pursue our lives.
It’s not the acceptance of the action done against you. I don’t think forgiveness is saying, ‘It’s OK that you raped me.’ It’s not saying, ‘We’re going to be friends now.’
I will never be OK with the act of rape. There is no circumstance on earth in which I will say rape is OK.
It is not that you accepted the evil that was done to you. It is an acknowledgment that it has happened, and that you have dealt with your anger, your grief, and your pain, and you are able to then move on.
It’s loving yourself enough to let go of your pain and move forward.
If I get to the end of my life, if I die, and I find out religion is one big lie, I still won’t regret it because it’s helped me to live a better life, to be a better person, to care about people, to believe in forgiveness, to believe in hope.”
Since her abduction, Smart has gone on to become an advocate for missing persons and victims of sexual assault. With encouragement from her family, Smart has stepped into the public eye, writing two best-selling books, and lobbying with her father for laws to protect children including the Protect Act of 2003.
Smart also founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, to raise awareness of predatory child crimes. She is now married to Matthew Gilmour; the couple has two young children.
Kidnapped at 14, held captive and raped, Elizabeth Smart says now: I was lucky – The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com
Elizabeth Smart shares story of hope, triumph, forgiveness – Indiana University Kokomo
Elizabeth Smart Biography – BIOGRAPHY.COM
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“Forgiveness is like a superpower that hardly anyone ever uses.”
“Forgiveness, once you know how to do it, is transformational. It will bring you a freedom and a peace that will make your whole life feel easier.”
“This book. . . is your opportunity to meet forgiveness afresh and learn how to use it to change your life, and your world, for the better.”
Barbara J. Hunt enthralls her readers with precious nuggets like those in the introduction to her new book Forgiveness Made Easy: The Revolutionary Guide to Moving Beyond Your Past and Truly Letting Go.
Yes, those snippets are all from just the introduction. Wait until you read the gems in Chapter Two – Forgiveness Is For You; or those in Chapter Six – Resentment; or the seven-step forgiveness process she lays out in Chapter Nine – The Forgiveness Made Easy Process; or. . . well, I think you get the idea.
Forgiveness Made Easy is crammed not only with real-life forgiveness guidance but also with real-life accounts of how Hunt has helped real people learn how to forgive and create a new life for themselves. Those stories come from Hunt’s more than 25 years of experience as an international mentor, life coach and facilitator.
“I wrote this book because I see forgiveness as a fundamental life skill that is rarely taught. Or, if it is, not taught at the necessary depth to be effective, let alone transformational,” Hunt explains. “I offer a forgiveness practice that is simple, effective, and easy.”
Hunt closes out the book with an invitation, as well as a challenge: to join her in connecting with the grandest vision for forgiveness–achieving global peace, one heart at a time.
“Forgiveness is the laying down of arms and defences,” she writes. “When you put aside your personal weapons and surrender the shield over your heart, your forgiveness becomes an act of amnesty for humanity. Together, we can be the (r)evolution of peace.”
This book review was written by Dennis Blang, Director, International Forgiveness Institute.
According to an editorial in the February issue of an international humanities journal, forgiveness interventions like Dr. Robert Enright’s 20 Step Process Model, should be employed on a much broader basis and, in fact, national leaders should be assessing “when or how it might be appropriate to cultivate forgiveness on national and international scales.”
The influential American Journal of Public Health, continuously published for more than 100 years, further editorialized that:
“If forgiveness is strongly related to health, and being wronged is a common experience, and interventions. . . are available and effective, then one might make the case that forgiveness is a public health issue. . .
“Because being wronged is common, and because the effects of forgiveness on health are substantial, forgiveness should perhaps be viewed as a phenomenon that is not only of moral, theological, and relational significance, but of public health importance as well.”
“Forgiveness promotes health and wholeness; it is important to public health.” AJPH
The editorial cites Dr. Enright’s Process Model (also called his Four Phases of Forgiveness) as one of only two “prominent intervention classes” now available. “Interventions using this model have been shown to be effective with groups as diverse as adult incest survivors, parents who have adopted special needs children, and inpatients struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.
“Forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced nicotine dependence and substance abuse; higher positive emotion; higher satisfaction with life; higher social support; and fewer self-reported health symptoms. The beneficial emotional regulation (results in) forgiveness being an alternative to maladaptive psychological responses like rumination and suppression.”
Read the rest of this compelling editorial: Is Forgiveness a Public Health Issue?
Learn more about Dr. Enright’s Four Phases of Forgiveness
.Betrayal can be very painful and difficult to overcome. When the resentment builds, it is important not to let it have its way. Otherwise, it could live within you for a very long time, chipping away at your happiness, making you mistrustful of those who may be worth of trust, and spilling over to your loved ones. This is why betrayal is such a challenge, particularly the effects of such betrayal that can take the form of excessive anger, anxiety, and depression.
Here are six suggestions that may be helpful to you as you consider forgiving:
First, you need not have forgiveness wrapped up in a day or a week. Forgiveness is a process that takes time. Be gentle with yourself as you begin to consider forgiving.
Second, to experience some emotional relief in forgiving, you do not have to be a perfect forgiver. Even if you have some anger left over, as long as the anger is not dominating your life, you can experience considerable emotional relief. For example, in a study of incest survivors, all of the participants started the forgiveness therapy with very low scores on forgiving. After about 14 months of working on forgiveness, as the study ended, most of the participants were only at the mid-point of the forgiveness scale. In other words, they began to forgive, accomplished it to some degree, but certainly had not completely forgiven. Yet, their depression left and their self-esteem rose. Forgiving to a degree, but not perfectly, made all the difference in their emotional health (see Freedman and Enright, 1996).
Third, as you forgive, try to see the humanity in your boyfriend. Is he more than the cheating behavior? If so, in what ways? Does he possess what we call “inherent worth,” or unconditional value as a person, not because of what he did, but in spite of this? Do you share a common humanity with him in that both of you are special, unique, and irreplaceable because you are human? This is not done to excuse his behavior. Instead, it is a thought-exercise to see both his humanity and yours.
Fourth, are you willing to bear the pain of the cheating so that you do not pass it on to your brother or sister, to your classmates or co-workers, or even to your boyfriend himself? Bearing the pain shows you that you are strong, in fact, stronger than the cheating and its effects on you.
Fifth, as you forgive, bring justice alongside the forgiving. In other words, ask something of him. What is his view of fidelity? Does he need some counseling help to deal with a weakness of commitment? Does he show remorse and a willingness to change? If so, what is your evidence for this? You need not unconditionally trust him right away. Trust can be earned a little at a time, but be sure not to use this issue of “earned trust” as a weapon or punishment against him. Allow him to redeem himself as he shows you he can be trusted.
Sixth, and finally, know that there is a difference between forgiving and reconciling. If he does not deeply value you as a person, if his actions show self-centeredness, and if this seems like a pattern that he is not willing to change, then you can forgive and not reconcile. Forgiving in this case may not give you this relationship that you had desired, but it will free you of deep resentment and allow you to be ready for a more genuine relationship in which you are open to the true affection and care of another.
Posted in Psychology Today March 18, 2018
Freedman, S. R., & Enright, R. D. (1996). Forgiveness as an intervention goal with incest survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64(5), 983-992.