Healing The Soul

It’s hard continuing this project without painting the entire picture of my healing journey.

I began seeing improvements in my mood after making the decision to create a wholesome and holistic healthcare plan. Therapy alone wasn’t so effective. Medication suppressed my emotions and had me seeing the world in grey. The emptiness in my heart was still ever so present. You know that painful hole we often feel in our heart? Or that cup we either fill up or empty out? Well, that’s the immaterial aspect of our existence and it is hurting. I wanted to tend to this wound. So, I chose to add spirituality to my plan. My counselor at the time was already encouraging me to take daily walks and get back to my yoga practice in order to incorporate exercise into the plan. Getting back into yoga was very hard and I was unsuccessful with that, but I managed to take daily walks. I have a close connection to the Divine– I’m going to use this term, along with Source, to refer to God– but back then, the relationship was dwindling because, for the past couple of years, my life seemed to constantly be falling apart. I was always depressed, closed-off, and lost. But because I had gone through surprising spiritual experiences in the past, I felt that the Divine was real and that without tending to my soul’s growth and its re-connection to Source, I’d continue feeling unfulfilled. Some may dismiss the existence of spirit because what we don’t see with the physical eye is hard to prove. I’m not trying to convince anyone, I’m only sharing my reality.

Soul’s Gotta Eat

The saying, “you can’t pour out of an empty cup” is a metaphor for one’s life-force, or soul. Giving time and energy to jobs, things we may not care for, worries, and people, drains our life force. If it doesn’t get replenished, one feels a sense of lack. It feels like a hole in the chest which we then try to desperately fill with material things and self-harming habits– even less obvious things sometimes. As you know, it doesn’t work long-term. Sometimes, it doesn’t work at all. For me, filling my cup looked like getting back into meditation, which I used to do on a daily basis as a teen. While meditation is now a trend sold as a tool to unwind, its real purpose is to meet the self and develop it. If a meditation practice is done on a regular basis despite one’s goal, spiritual self-development is the inevitable outcome.

As a teen, I had developed an energy healing meditation practice out of curiosity. It was fun, soothing, and it made me happy. I returned to it with stronger intentions this time. My intentions were set on overcoming specific problems within myself and healing from past hurt. I’d ask a question and wait for an answer. The scenario would replay, I’d react (usually tears), then the answer would come. Sometimes, it took a few sessions to heal one issue.

I also prayed. I wrote in a journal I called my prayer book and spoke to Source before going to sleep.
I asked for my depression and anxiety to lift, to find answers to
why this was happening, and I asked for solutions. I also wrote how I felt about the extra 30+ pounds on my body, shame, feeling like a loser, and reaching milestones later than others. I prayed for all those things to go away. Some of it was superficial, sure, but no matter. No one was going to judge me in the privacy of my pages.

When talk therapy began feeling like U-turns from my counselor’s hope-filled sessions back to depression, I switched to spiritual psychotherapy. Spiritual psychotherapy is still given by a licensed mental health professional, and they can combine traditional methods, like CBT. Toronto Psychotherapy Group states that spiritual psychotherapy:

“… incorporates a psychospiritual dimension also emphasizes the journey of the soul, or spirit – which may include the wish to strengthen a connection with a higher power… For some, the focus is not on a higher power or deity, but rather on accessing the wisdom of a higher self, the gifts of transpersonal awareness, or the power of intuition. Others seek to learn more about something that is currently sensed or felt but is as yet unworded or undefined. ”

Toronto Psychotherapy Group

We still talked, the new therapist and I, but we also did other things to connect to the Divine. If therapy isn’t affordable, there’s a plethora of self-help material online and in books!

Traditional therapies and medication aren’t the only ways to get better. If you find they aren’t giving you what you need, I suggest creating a plan that incorporates a mind-body-soul connection. It probably shouldn’t involve everything that I’ve done in my own plan. The plan should cater to your own soul’s needs. It can include exploration of new modalities, an open mind, and something you already love doing.

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Reducing Anxiety Attacks

At the moment of an anxiety attack, your reasoning goes out the window. Thoughts race, and any attempt to catch up to them is as good as none. If you’re like me, you may experience shortness of breath as you watch the world tumble before you. Negative thoughts are hard to control during anxiety/panic attacks, but over time I’ve learned to incorporate certain techniques to lessen their impact. There’s no quick fix to get rid of frequent, intense levels of anxiety, but I believe in holistic practices that help us manage them so they become less frequent. (I have high levels of anxiety less frequently now, but it is easily triggered by financial worries, huge crowds, self-consciousness, and other triggers that get me worried about my future.) These tricks work by slowing down the whole process of an attack:

Deep Abdominal Breathing

Taking deep breaths helps reduce anxiety attacks by allowing you to be more present with your thoughts. For me, it’s as if I’m giving myself time to think about why I’m feeling this way, and it just allows me to calm down a bit. Here’s how to do it: Inhale deeply from your diaphragm as soon as you realize you’re having an anxiety attack, and exhale deeply. Do it on the spot discretely, in through the nose and out the same way.

A Gentle Pep Talk

You can repeat to yourself, in your mind,“I recognize this emotion, but I am not this emotion,” until you calm down. It might take a while before that happens, so be patient. Separating yourself from the feeling of anxiousness tricks your brain into observing the experience as something that is simply happening to you, and not something that is part of your identity. In other words, you are not an anxious person, but you are experiencing anxiety at the moment.

Take One Step at a Time

Last year I went through a major depressive episode spanning the length of that entire year.  Summer was rock-bottom, but to the advice of my counselor at the time, I pushed myself to start taking walks outside. Sometimes I would get seriously nervous about going, so I started telling myself I just needed to get downstairs to the building’s main entrance. I wouldn’t walk too far, and that was key for me. This method is for when you are too anxious to move and get yourself anywhere. If the task is broken down into small steps or miniature goals, you’ll find it easier to push through the anxiety.

Don’t Feel Guilty

I used to feel guilty about my sensitivity; actually, while my self-judgement isn’t as bad as it was before, feeling guilty is still something I need to work on. But everyone’s level of sensitivity to environments and situations is different. We also carry experiences from our past that may make us feel the way we do. It’s totally okay if you can’t handle being somewhere like an overcrowded bus, or a funeral, or a call centre while your friend can!

All that is important is that we manage our emotions.

A Realistic Way to Set Goals for Mental Health

It’s after the new year, just about that time where people drop their resolutions. It may be hard to keep up with what you set out for yourself if the resolution is too big, too vague, too strict, or without a plan. But maybe you’re still going strong. Go you! And if not, that’s ok.

I don’t set a resolution in January, but throughout the year, I set goals with month-long deadlines. It really depends on where I wish to be with something, if it will cost me money, and how long I think it will take. For example, if I want to take a course in the summer, I look up the cost, note the start and end date, and save up the appropriate amount. Very simple example.

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned, but that’s all right. Still, if you think this way of structuring goals is a good idea, here are some examples geared toward managing your mental health that you can make:

  • Start therapy on March 2, once a month. Cost: $100/month.
  • Write a daily log of my feelings for a year.
  • Save $80 for anxiety management workshop on July 1.

For me, big goals don’t have deadlines. That’s important for me because it reduces stress around meeting that goal at a certain time, and eliminates the possibility of disappointment if it isn’t met. It also gives me the proper time to transform and heal because life is not a race. But also, sometimes it’s just a life-long lifestyle change I want to make. Here are some examples (inspired by my own):

  • Go to Reiki 2x/month and do inner child work in between. (Specific but no deadline)
  • Manage stress with exercise. (Lifestyle change)
  • Watch the sunrise every morning before work. (Lifestyle change)

So, I hope this gave you some clear ideas of how you can manage your mental health in an achievable way! Don’t let the new year be a reason to start something you really want to do; begin anytime!