Suffering is part of the human condition. Each one of us encounters something in our daily lives that can cause us to feel sorrow, anger, despair, resentment, or any other negative emotion you can think of. Even religious and spiritual belief systems incorporate the idea of suffering into their tenets. While suffering exists and is important to acknowledge, there are paths to peace and inner prosperity. Certainly, for those with mental health issues, medications and/or sessions with a licensed therapist can be beneficial, but the truth of the matter is that we have to put in work on a daily basis. Therefore, it is important that we develop a self-therapy toolbox that can help us learn and grow from our everyday hurts and hang-ups.
What Is Self Therapy?
So, what exactly is self therapy? It is truly a broad term that can be applied to any method an individual seeks of healing their psychological wounds. As therapist Daniel Mackler demonstrates, there are numerous ways to positively and constructively be your own counselor. Adopting a healthier lifestyle, practicing yoga or meditation, being socially active, and keeping a journal full of your introspective thoughts are just a few examples of how you can practice self therapy on a day-to-day basis.
Essentially, there are a handful of cognitive and behavioral adaptations that you can make in your self therapy journal that are akin to what a licensed therapist might have you do in therapy. If you have learned how to do any of the following things in therapy, then you are already equipped with the foundational tools you will need along your healing journey. Of course, you should also be aware of the potential internal and external risks of self therapy, which can include altering the dynamics in your personal relationships and digging up old wounds that you might not have realized were still there.
Recognizing and Embracing Your Emotions
First and foremost, as many therapists will advise, it is important to recognize all of your emotions, including the negative ones. Attempting to repress negative emotions tends to result in their intensification. Instead, pay attention to what kinds of thoughts you are having right before an emotion occurs and try asking yourself the following questions:
- What situation did I just experience?
- What thoughts or images went through my mind prior to and during the experience?
- What emotion(s) was I feeling?
- What changes (e.g., increased heart rate, headache, fatigue) occurred within my body?
- What did I do to cope? What could I have done instead that might’ve worked better for me?
It is important to remember that our bodies respond differently to various emotions. For example, when something triggers anxiety, physical effects might involve chest pain or tightness, nausea, and difficulty breathing. On the other hand, when depression is triggered, you might feel more bodily aches, fatigue, and a slowed speech pattern. Finding out what triggers your emotions is crucial to your overall health and wellness, so keeping a written record of events might be beneficial.
If you find that you need extra help with recording your experiences and results, there are plenty of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) worksheets that you can print off and use at home to guide you in your self therapy.
Understanding and Limiting Your Processing Period
Everyone experiences processing periods, which look a little bit different for every person. They also vary between situations. While you might quickly get over feeling betrayed by a co-worker, you might need more time to process the death of a beloved pet. Whatever your situation, allow yourself some time to process the feelings. However, you can set a limit to your processing period.
If you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), you need to be confident in your ability to process the emotions you experience. It is okay to give yourself a certain timeframe (e.g., “I’m going to allow myself a month to get over my job ending”) to work through a particular issue. It is also okay to give yourself a break from emotional processing and just rest.
Swapping Negative For Positive Thoughts
Once you’ve identified the negative thought that led to a difficult emotion and have assessed its harmfulness-versus-helpfulness, select a more constructive thought to replace it. For example, if you are having relationship issues, you can switch “I’m not meant to be in a relationship since nothing ever goes well” to “I gave this relationship my best effort and have grown as a person because of it.”
Go ahead and say these things aloud to yourself. Sometimes, making thoughts auditory leaves a more lasting impression.
Creating a Constructive Distraction
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by challenging emotions. Allow yourself a break from dealing with them by creating a constructive distraction. If you enjoy painting, paint. Have a dog? Take your dog for a walk or to a park to play. If you do yoga, break out that yoga mat. You do not have to devote every spare minute to process your thoughts and feelings. A little rest and relaxation can go a long way!
Ways to Channel and Disperse Your Emotions
When you feel that you are ready to channel and disperse your emotions, carefully consider the means by which you wish to do so. There are many ways to channel your emotions, and what you select should be based on what brings you peace and joy. If you are feeling stuck, here are a few examples of ways that you might work with your emotions:
- Write down your feelings in a journal or poem.
- Practice self-love meditation.
- Join an online support group and discuss your thoughts and feelings with others.
- Compile some inspirational quotes online and share them on social media or print them off and stick them on your walls at home.
Should We Take Self Therapy Seriously?
Self therapy comes in many forms. While many of us benefit from regular sessions with a licensed therapist and/or prescribed medications, our healing journeys ought to include self therapy. There is no shame in taking the time to understand, accept, and work through your emotions. In fact, doing so can help you learn, grow, and serve as a positive example for others.