Since I’ve learned to regulate my nervous system enough so that I’m no longer living in fight-or-flight mode, I’ve started to notice the ways my life feels better. It was an adjustment. One that’s been hard to make. Because things feeling better is a different feeling. A new feeling. One I didn’t know for over 23 years. But I’m learning it now, and I’m understanding how much of life is mastering the art of making things better.
If you think about it, the majority of the day is making things better. Whether it’s work or housework or exercise—it’s about leaving something better than you found it. Accomplishing things in your day. Striving to make the world a better place. Striving to be a better person. Trying to make things better.
For a long time before my repressed trauma surfaced, I didn’t want to make things better. I didn’t know how. Then, once it surfaced, it felt like a duty to make things better. A promise to myself. And since then, things get better every day.
It doesn’t mean I don’t have hard days. It’s quite the contrary. Many of my days are still hard, but I try everything to make them better. Like I would for a child, I assess my needs. I practice self-care. And I try to make it better.
For example, I work from home, and I noticed I would get anxiety as household chores began to pile up throughout the work week. It was like everywhere I turned there was laundry or dirt. I even had mold growing on the backsplash of our kitchen sink. I would let it overwhelm me. Consume me. Make me feel frantic. But then I realized: I can make it better.
I can do something every day. I can fold laundry on my breaks if the pile is bothering me. I can use vinegar to kill the mold by the sink. I can make it better.
I’m no longer at the mercy of a predator. My attacker is no longer in my life. I am safe. My home is safe. My body is safe. And because I’m safe, I can work to make things better. Big and small.
That goes for my moods too. Days I wake up and feel dark, I know there are things I can do to feel lighter. I can meditate and do yoga. I can exercise and be outside. I can practice self-care. I can do things that make me feel better. That make my life feel better. That remind me that life isn’t as hard as it used to be. And help me see that things are always improving. If I let them.
So if you are like me and you are sometimes reluctant to making things better, here are some tips for getting started:
- Take action. One of the best things I’ve learned during my trauma recovery is that doing things is what helps me feel better. Sitting around and feeling depressed gets me nowhere but depressed. It’s taking actions to improve my life that makes things better.
- Set goals. Setting goals makes things better because you’re bound to achieve at least one of them. Start with small goals you know you can accomplish—to build your confidence—and then go from there.
- Celebrate goals when you achieve them. If you don’t celebrate goals, it’s as if they didn’t happen. Be sure to acknowledge your goals. And allow yourself to feel motivated to set more.
- Write down what you accomplish. This can be in the form of a to-do list that you check off as you go or written in paragraphs in your journal. You can even draw it out if you choose to. But get it onto the page. Make it come to life.
- Take it easy on yourself. Don’t put so much pressure on making things better that you throw yourself into perfectionism. Instead, take one thing at a time, accept the flaws and problems that arise, and leave it better than you found it. After all, isn’t that what we’re here to do?
- Reflect. Take some time at the end of the day, week or month to reflect on how much better you’ve made things. Look at your goals. See what you’ve checked off your lists. Allow yourself to feel good about everything. And let in the sweetness of it feeling better.
I wish you many blessings as you watch your life improve. Take action, let things be okay and watch your joy unfold.
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Photo by Anna Tarazevich