If you are experiencing trauma bonds you may notice how difficult it is to put any attention on yourself except to feel the pain of the trauma bonds. One effect trauma bonding to a narcissist has on you is that it creates an overwhelming impulse to be thinking about the narcissist or trying to rationalize what happened in the relationship.
The gripping emotional pain and the way your mind wants only to think about the narcissist or the pain they caused you can make it feel impossible to even try when a suggestion of self-care is given. There are ways to help you through this and ideas for self-care which can be done simply throughout your day.
Self-care can take many forms, the more commonly thought of things like pampering yourself or treating yourself to something nice may not work for everyone when deeply trauma bonded. It may feel artificial or be hard to enjoy when your mind is on the narcissist. When things are really at a low point you may not even have the energy to do extra pampering things and think self-care will come later, once you feel better.
One thing to remember is self-care works, it just takes repeated efforts and many types of care to get there for some of us. A big piece of breaking trauma bonds is in taking back your life. Once you begin to feel your own joys and your own excitement about life and your activities you will begin to focus more on self and less on the narcissist.
Over time, and with healthy amounts of self-care the bonds lessen and you will feel your focus shift onto things you want to think about instead of things you have been in a sense forced to because of trauma bonds.
Here are 5 ways to use self-care in your everyday life:
Nurture yourself in everyday activities.
As you go about your day barely functioning it may seem impossible to think you can use any amount of self-care or add in anything new because of the exhaustion you feel. This is the perfect time to learn how to make self-care a lifestyle. One of the good things that can come out of being a survivor of narcissistic abuse is you can learn to care for self in a more compassionate, mindful and deeper way through your healing process.
What works great here is to look at the things you will do in a day and add some positive thought or intention to a few of those things. For instance, you are likely to shower or at least brush your teeth, Instead of going about these tasks in a business-like way and letting them just be tasks, use the time to experience self-care.
As an example, try adding in positive intention before showering by thinking something like, “I will let this water wash away a layer of my pain .” Before you get in set the water temperature to just the way you like it and allow yourself to feel the care you are giving to self through small gestures.
Appreciate yourself and try noticing things like the scent of the soap. Understand that you are taking the time for you. It only takes a few seconds and with practice can become a part of your daily routine. Try this when you eat, when you dress, when you take a walk (even if it's just from your house to your car). Pretty much any activity can have an ounce of self-care added to help you regain your sense of self again.
Use your senses
Using your senses for self-care can be the most nurturing thing you can do for yourself. It is especially useful when trauma bonded because it directs the attention, without words, to a more nurturing experience and reaches your emotions without the need for a lot of thinking,
The fastest way to the emotions is through the sense of smell. Since the sense of smell can trigger emotions it's important to find positive scents that please you to have around. While scent may get to the emotions the fastest, all of your senses are important for self-care.
If you can think of ways to use all of your senses to truly nurture yourself, you will be showing yourself love and care in easy to do simply ways. It's the kind of care that needs no words and is simply felt. After all the thinking you are likely doing while healing from trauma bonding it can be the perfect break from thought.
Here are a few for using your senses:
- Get out in nature and experience the sights, scents, and sounds.
- Walk barefoot in the grass or soft dirt/sand
- Choose a favorite food and really let yourself taste it as you eat
- Light scented candles
- Put on your most comfy outfit
- Curl up in a cozy blanket
- Pet an animal
- Sip your favorite hot drink
- Wear your favorite color
- Get yourself flowers and put them where you can enjoy them
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Find an outside focus to put your attention on
When you've trauma bonded, your mind can feel stuck on thinking about the narcissist or the pain they have caused you. You may feel almost obsessed with understanding what happened and why.
Understanding is so important and I think for some people, critical to not only healing but to their not allowing another narcissist into their lives. Seeking understanding, however, needs breaks of focus so that you are also getting the nurturing you need in your day.
One way to get a break from the thinking about the narcissist is to find an outside focus to learn about or revisit. Maybe it's a thing you used to love and have not done in a while that you might take up again, or perhaps it's something brand new.
Taking time each day to seek out not only new things to learn or try but to revisit old things you once did and loved will help you to create a thriving self as the trauma bonds heal. It is never too soon to start this, even if you are still with the narcissist.
Self-care in this way helps us have a sense of who we are which is so quickly lost to narcissistic abuse. That sense of self, as it is restored or maybe gained for the first time will bring you a freedom that is totally separate from the trauma bond and help to allow those bonds to be less intense and eventually heal.
Allow for your feelings but add in breaks for your nervous system
The feelings you are experiencing are real and need validating but after a lot of time feeling so bad it can be extremely draining. By giving yourself breaks from the stress you will build hope for healing.
Taking a break will also calm your nervous system some and bit by bit this will add up to feeling better. I am not suggesting dissociating but rather shifting focus for a limited time to get some relaxation and relief from the trauma bonds. Some ways to get an emotional break in healthy ways might be:
- Set a task to do that will take ten-15 min and do it with all of your attention
- Take a nap
- Gently tell yourself it is ok to have a break from the pain then take a walk
- Create art- paint, draw, photograph, anything that allows you to create
There is a lot of adrenaline and cortisol coursing through you when being abused and that can cause a lot of issues for your health and body. Movement can help to begin healing that. It may feel impossible to get out and exercise and if that is the case do it right where you are.
At any moment stretch, move your arms around, do a squat or two, try a plank, or just touch your toes (or knees if bending hurts). Work within your physical limits and move!! your body care at the same time. Your body takes on a lot of stress from emotional abuse, things, like dancing or even swaying to music, may give you nurturing care. You may find that yoga, Pilates. dance or another exercise class which includes core work and stretching very beneficial. For now, if that is too much to add to your day, just move your body with love and intent on healing.
What are self-care ways that help you to get through emotional pain? Can you think of things you might do to nurture another person and then try them on yourself? What will your life look like once you are healed and thriving?