Creating a safe space in your living area where you can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed is an important practice that can help you prepare for whatever comes your way this holiday season. Learning how to do this, and how to bring the practice and tools you learn in treatment into your home, is the focus of today’s blog.
Preparing Your Home for the Holiday Season
Treatment is a unique experience in so many ways. How each person experiences their time in a day treatment or an IOP program like ours will be unique: their experiences, struggles, strengths, and goals are all tailored to meet their needs and adjust accordingly. How you arrive in treatment and how you choose to approach it will be unique to your situation and may look different from others navigating their way through different challenges. But there is one constant: treatment becomes a haven all its own.
So how can you recreate the haven of healing when you’re moving within your day-to-day life?
Surrounded by environmental cues, old habits, and reminders of your trauma, those tools may feel inaccessible. We want to help you re-create your Haven at home.
Let’s explore some tips and tools to bring your support system into your daily life.
One tool, many uses
There’s a collective of research that says that our brains are capable of drawing new lines between vastly unrelated things. Environmental cues can bring to mind the cause of trauma, or ingrained habits can pull us towards old or damaging coping mechanisms; but we we can also access these same pathways for our benefit. By the power of brain plasticity, we can create memory pathways to access the new, more helpful tools that allow us to feel empowered and move toward our betterment. This technique is called associative memory and thrives on repetition.
In some areas of your healing, it’s possible to create or mimic the DBT tools you use during treatment in your living spaces. By repeatedly associating one action with another experience, you can create a connection so your brain recognizes the ties between them. It’s like making your own triggers or signals to your body. However, these are designed to cue comfort, healing, protection, and allow you to more easily access the mental spaces you cultivate during your healing.
While not everything will have a direct conversion, there are a number of tools or techniques you can use to signal to yourself that it’s time to enter a therapeutic space.
If you’re a music lover, this may be the key for you. Create a playlist or just choose an album or single song and listen to it before engaging in important therapy work (like your individual sessions). If you’re in a day treatment program, it can be something you use to signal the transition between daily tasks and your therapeutic schedule. There is no need for something long or complicated, or even particularly meaningful. It doesn’t even have to be music. You could choose an alarm sound on your phone, a bell, or even relaxing pitter-patter of rain.
There’s no limit or parameter to what sounds may work for you. Choose something you like and have readily accessible, and use it every time. Then, when you find yourself needing a bit of grounding outside of those moments, you’ll be able to turn on your sound of choice and tap into the headspace your mind has grown to associate it with.
Much like how you can apply the process of association to access a calmer headspace, or as a reminder of all your hard work toward healing, you can use activity much the same way. At THIRA Health, we offer yoga and meditation therapies, and these are both great ways to bring the practice of recovery into your home life when you’re away from – or have finished – your treatment program.
Yoga operates on a similar form of memory as music, but it also brings in literal muscle memory. If you bring yoga and meditation together in your practice of reclaiming your life, you’ll be able to bring your mat back into your daily world and access a sense of grounding when you return there. Yoga can provide you the chance to sink into an oasis of healing and focus that’s rooted simply in the way your breath moves with your body.
If yoga isn’t your thing, you can use any activity in the same manner. Maybe you add running or weight lifting into your therapeutic toolbox or simply a short walk. If you don’t consistently have the same spaces available, you could create a pattern of steps or stretches to repeat before therapy so that you can engage in that same routine later when you’re feeling untethered. Using this strategy can help you to return to a space of focus.
Routine can be action-based, and for many, it is, but there is also a lot to be said for time-based routine. For example, if every day at 4 pm you have a cup of tea just before you sit down to journal, you will begin to think about that journal as you sip your tea. A morning alarm set for the same time each day triggers your mind to a wake-up cycle of activities: get up, shower, dress, have breakfast, etc.
Time can be used in much the same way for therapy purposes in order to recapture the space of empowerment you feel when working actively on your healing. Try making your therapy appointments at the same time or returning to your recovery classes on the same day each week. When those sessions end, you’ve already carved out that time for yourself to use on these activities, and continuing to do so won’t be a burden.
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