As a narcissistic abuse survivor, do you ever find yourself feeling like you’ve completely lost control? Do you worry about everything, even the things you can’t do anything to change or control?
If you’re anything like I used to be, you might even find yourself feeling sick with worry sometimes. It doesn’t mean you’re bad or wrong – it just means you’re normal and that you’re not alone. Many survivors of narcissistic abuse find themselves overcome with worries, thanks in part to the abuse they’ve suffered.
Worrying is a habit that many of us believe is helpful in some way, but the fact is that that worrying only has a negative effect – and that is especially true when we’re worried about things that we have no ability to affect.
Worry less and live more with these strategies:
1. Put your worries in perspective. I know how it feels to worry, believe me. And when you’re dealing with a toxic person, worries can overwhelm you really quickly. But try to shift your perspective a bit here – this is something you CAN control! You are in charge of how you see yourself and how you choose to perceive the situations in your life. For example, if you’re still in a relationship with a toxic narcissist, you may be worrying about how you’re going to get out. Instead of focusing on the worry, focus on empowering yourself with a plan to escape and on how you’re going to live your new, narcissist-free life! Or, if you’re worried about something like your weight, stop focusing on worrying about it and start doing something to change your situation right away – stand up right now and do 10 jumping jacks, or maybe get online and research more effective ways to eat healthier.
2. Expect good things to happen.Going through narcissistic abuse makes you pretty pessimistic if you think about it. After all, every day you spend with a narcissist feels like your own personal hell – right? But here’s the thing: now that you’re moving on (or preparing to), you need to stop expecting the worst and start expecting the BEST. Seriously. The fact is that you can’t worry if you expect a positive outcome. When you assume things will turn out poorly, they often do. If you need to, make sure you’re as prepared for the worst as you can be- but be optimistic. Your worry isn’t going to change anything.
3. Understand what is and isn’t under your control. We spend a lot of time worrying about things we can’t change. What’s the point? Do what you can to mitigate your risk and then see what happens. Let go of the things you can’t control. For me, learning this stuff was a HUGE factor in creating positive personal change in my own life. The moment I gave myself permission to stop worrying about things I couldn’t control, I instantly felt a sense of relief and my life seemed to be so much less painful. This intentional practice is SO powerful when you enact it! (If this sounds like something you’d like to try, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this article and try the journaling exercise I wrote for you).
4. Stay grounded in the present moment. It’s all about being mindful. Mindfulness is another (free!) powerful tool that we can use as survivors of narcissistic abuse. For the duration of our toxic relationships, we spent so much time feeling helpless and out of control that many of us found ourselves sort of living in our own heads. But if you intentionally change that and bring yourself into the present moment, you’ll find that your worries can disappear. Do this by paying attention to what you’re doing right now. Avoid thinking about tomorrow if it stresses you out. Use pattern interrupts if you need to do that to stay focused. Make the best use of your time each moment and the future will take care of itself. This video offers ideas on how to use pattern interrupts to your advantage.
5. Practice gratitude. I know that it feels like we don’t have a lot to be grateful for sometimes – especially when we’re still dealing with a toxic person in our lives, but those are the times when it may be most important to practice gratitude. When you realize how much you do have to be grateful for, the future isn’t as scary somehow. Remind yourself of how good your life is already, even if you start with things like “I’m grateful I woke up today.” You’ll worry less.
Remember: Gratitude is a habit. Take a moment each day and mentally list the things that you’re grateful for. This can do more to enhance your perspective than you think. I like to use my own gratitude practice as part of my intentional vibration management. Try starting your own gratitude journal. Want more information? This video will explain more about that and offer you tips on how to manage your own vibrations intentionally.
7. Look at the facts first. Statistically speaking, we worry about way more than we need to – or at least, more than we should. The fact is that you’ve probably worried about a lot of things over the course of your life, right? How many of them actually came true? And how often did you worry about things that you had no ability to control or even affect? You’ll likely discover that most of your worry was inaccurate or unnecessary.
Most of the things we worry about never happen. And even if they do, it’s not nearly as awful as we anticipate. Conclusion: Any time spent worrying is wasted time. If there’s something you can do to resolve the situation, just fix it. Life is short and worrying detracts greatly from life. Work to minimize the amount of time you spend worrying each day. You’ll enjoy life more, you’ll be less stressed, and you’ll be one step closer to living your very best life!
Stop Worrying Journaling Exercise
Ready to take your narcissistic abuse recovery to the next level? Grab your journal and do the following exercise. If you prefer, you can just consider the questions and meditate on them instead.
Take a moment to think about how much time you spend worrying each day. Has any of that worrying ever accomplished anything positive in your life?
Think about the things you worry about. Make a list of your concerns.
Evaluate your worries. Go back to your list and decide which of your worries are under your own control – as in, are there things you can do to change the outcome of the situation you’re worried about? If the answer is yes, take a minute to write down the actions you can take to change or affect the situation. If the answer is no, cross the worry off your list.
Imagine what you could do with all of that time and energy. Imagine how much happier and comfortable you would be if you could minimize the amount of time you spend worrying each day. What would it mean for you? How would your life look if you didn’t have so many worries? Take a few minutes to write down your ideas.
“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.” ~Thomas Szasz
Do you know who you are? Do you know what you believe? One of the biggest complaints I hear from survivors of narcissistic abuse as they progress in their recovery is that they don’t feel like they even know who they are anymore – and in some cases, they never did.
That’s because, while you may have had your own identity before you met the narcissist, over time, “you” disappeared and your identity became whatever the narcissist wanted it to be – often, an extension of him or her self.
Add in the fact that narcissists really don’t have an identity of their own and that they often sort of leech off of yours, or whomever the “flavor of the moment” happens to be – and well, you’re left spinning when the relationship ends. You aren’t sure where you end and the narcissist begins – or you just feel like “nothing” – like you don’t matter and you’re not important.
This is a normal perception for people who have been in abusive relationships, but it’s not accurate. You ARE important and you DO matter. And you’re right about the fact that the narcissist tried to completely erase your identity. However, unlike the narcissist, YOU will be able to find your true identity, because it’s still in there somewhere.
I told a story a few years ago about how I had gone through a bit of an existential crisis after going no contact with one of the primary narcissists in my own life. You can read that here, but the gist of it was that I had all of these inaccurate beliefs and off-base ideas in my head that had been sort of planted there by this person. It turned out that in many cases, I didn’t actually believe what I thought I believed. This, for me, was the first step in really taking back my identity: I had to release limiting beliefs that were holding me back.
Are you struggling with limiting beliefs, too?
Narcissists love to keep you “stuck” and one of their most effective ways of doing this is to gaslight and manipulate you into thinking you’re worthless. This negative mindset is reinforced with nearly every interaction you have with them. When you’re ready to take back your life, one of the most important things you can do is to release those “wrong” perceptions and to create new, healthier ones – and then to operate from there.
So, in a nutshell, you need to by-pass the negative mindset that you’ve adopted and shift to optimism and positivity. That’s because what you attract into your life is highly dependent on what you think and talk about most of the time, as well as the beliefs that you hold in your mind. This means that being positive (and intentionally choosing/curating your beliefs and understandings about yourself and the world around you) will attract more positive experiences and outcomes in your life, while negativity will attract more of the opposite. Implementing a practice of repeating positive affirmations every day can help you attract and manifest everything you desire in life.
You can also use my favorite practice of writing down or reciting to yourself 10 things you’re grateful for and 3 things you love about yourself – it’s the ultimate “vibe changer” – I call this intentional vibration management. I discuss that concept in more detail in this video.
Once you’ve released your limiting beliefs, you can start working on sort of “filling your vessel” or deciding what it is you really want for yourself and your life. Figuring out who you are and what you need to do in order to have a fulfilling life could be the most important and satisfying questions you’ll ever answer – and this is true no matter what your age and no matter where you are in your own narcissistic abuse recovery.
So how do you “find yourself” after a toxic relationship? How do you decide who you are and who you truly want to be?
Start here: try these suggestions to guide you in your search.
Clarify your values. Knowing your values helps you to make sound decisions and prioritize your activities. Consider how your values relate to your daily life. Look for opportunities to live in agreement with them. Summarize your philosophy into a personal values statement you can refer to when needed.
Understand your strengths. Do you know where your talents lie and what you feel passionate about? You’ll accomplish greater things with less stress when you choose a path that lets you leverage your main assets.
Build support. Finding yourself is tough work. You’ll need a sturdy network of family, friends, and colleagues you can rely on for advice and support. Being generous about sharing your resources with others increases the likelihood that they’ll want to do the same for you. **Note: since a lot of survivors of abuse find themselves isolated and removed from friends and family during the abuse, we often find ourselves feeling pretty alone afterward. That’s why I’ve created the SPANily, which includes several free online support groups and offers a great way for you to start building your own support network with people who truly understand where you are and where you’ve been.
Create flow states. What activities boost your energy levels and make you lose track of time? Whether you love playing the piano or solving physics equations, chances are these flow states will suggest the fields in which you can excel. I discussed the flow state for survivors in this video if you’d like some additional context.
5. Set goals. Having a destination in mind guides your steps and keeps you on track. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years?
Finding and Accepting Your Truths
Listen to yourself. Finding yourself is about living authentically. Pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you. Notice when you feel engaged and when you feel lost. Is there a pattern behind these situations? You have to learn how to trust yourself again! I made a video about that – you can check that out right here.
Accept your feelings. Acknowledge your emotions, even when they cause you discomfort. Trying to suppress the truth will backfire and produce more stress. When you accept your anger or sorrow, you can start thinking about positive options for dealing with it. Remember that during your abuse, your feelings were likely invalidated consistently. This is why it’s so important that you accept (and validate) your own feelings during recovery – because they do matter and they are worth having.
Ask your friends. While you’re cultivating self-knowledge, you may benefit from listening to how others view you. Their feedback may point out the qualities and habits that you overlook.
Read literature. Observing how characters in movies and novels behave may teach you how to handle similar events in your own life. You may find yourself viewing a long-standing conflict in a new light or experimenting with a different way of responding.
Welcome new experiences. Breaking out of your comfort zone is bound to reveal surprising facets of your personality. Taking an exotic vacation or leading a pilot project at work may inspire you to plan a bigger transformation.
Get spiritual. For many adults, spiritual beliefs play an essential role in defining themselves and their goals. If your faith or spirituality is central to your life, study the scriptures in your tradition, talk with other members of your community, and put your beliefs into action. If you’re not already involved with a particular brand of spirituality, now is a good time to start thinking about what resonates with you. Whether you’re into traditional religion, science or something else, get clear on what feels spiritual to you.
Finding yourself is an ongoing process that lasts a lifetime. Remember that you didn’t “lose yourself” overnight – and that it might take time to fully embrace who you are and to step into your power. But being willing to discover the truth about yourself and to accept yourself unconditionally, flaws and all, is the first step you need to take.
I realize that the idea of unconditional self-acceptance and unconditional self-love is foreign to most survivors of narcissistic abuse, so I am also going to share this video with you, where I offer some tips on how to develop rock-solid self-confidence that leads to unapologetic, unconditional self-acceptance and self-love.
You can do this. If you’re still feeling confused and don’t know where to begin, consider downloading my free “Life Reset Button,” which will help you to really dig in and discover your true passion and purpose in life. Are you ready?
“There are as many forms of advice as there are colors of the rainbow. Remember that good advice can come from bad people and bad advice from good people. The important thing about advice is that it is simply that. Advice.” ~Al Franken
As a survivor of narcissistic abuse (who may also be an empath), it makes sense that you’re all about improving yourself and growing forward in all kinds of ways. Most likely, you listen to, watch and read the work of several different self-help experts and various other guru-types. And for the most part, you get advice that serves you well, right?
But be careful, my friend. Take the good bits and use what you can, and leave the rest behind. Because the truth is that not all self-help advice is great advice. All of those gurus are just human, and not all advice works for everyone. Just as doctors and lawyers are wrong from time to time, your favorite self-help guru may have spread some poor advice, too.
Plus, while there are certainly many well-meaning coaches and gurus out there, there are a few who are actually dangerous and even predatory. And for survivors of narcissistic abuse, some self-help tips can actually be kind of triggering or produce the opposite effect. Some of the most common self-help tips have been shown to be ineffective or even detrimental.
A few important things to remember:
If something doesn’t feel right to you, you don’t have to do it.
If you aren’t sure, ask your doctor, or an appropriate professional, whether the tips are safe to try.
If you are trying something new, try it for a while, and then evaluate how it is working for you before you continue.
Follow your intuition! How do you do that? You start by listening and paying attention to your SELF.
Your body and your intuition are constantly sending signals about what’s right and what’s not right in your environment. Going with your instinct, your gut reaction to a request is often the best response. When you’re asked to do something, before you answer, take a moment to check in with your body’s reaction.
Learn to read your body’s responses so you can make the right decision for you. Think about it. How does it feel when you’re asked to work on the weekend? When your kid wants a puppy for Christmas? I’m sure you know very well.
The same goes for self-help advice. When you hear it, listen to it, consider it and then pay close attention to your body and your thoughts. If your stomach clenches, your toes curl or you break out in a cold sweat, steering clear is probably the best response. You feel me?
We’ve discussed a number of ways to strengthen your brain health and to try to ward off cognitive decline. Today, I’d like to address one more, and that’s meditation. There are a host of great things you can obtain through this practice. Enhanced brain function is just one of them. Join me as we take a look at the mental benefits of meditating regularly.
Slowed Aging Process Meditation has been shown to actually alter the connectivity pathways in your brain. The result is the actual slowing of cognitive decline that comes with age. Studies of meditation have resulted in demonstrating that memory loss can be reduced and attention increased in participants who take part in a meditation or mindfulness program.
Stronger Mind Meditation causes you to focus your attention in specific ways and to block out distractions from the outside world. Doing so is one way to increase the levels of neurotransmitters and connections in your brain. Ultimately, your mind will be stronger, more alert and better-performing due to this regular practice.
Memory Retrieval The process of meditating offers you many benefits. One of these is the ability to access long-forgotten memories. The mindfulness and focus attained during meditation give your brain the ability to ignore the outside distractions we’re bombarded with every day. Your mind is then free to go deep into the seldom-used recesses in order to call up memories you may have essentially locked away.
Better Focus and Concentration Meditation encourages mindfulness, the process of being in the moment. Every day we’re faced with tons of outside stimuli. It can be incredibly difficult to gather our thoughts and to pay attention to any one thing, even if that thing is an important one. Through meditating, the neural pathways are strengthened ways that allow for increased focus. In fact, a concept known as neuroplasticity says that these neural connections are actually physically altered within the brain structure, leading to concrete changes.
Increased Memory Storage The areas in which memory is stored are the frontal brain lobe and the Hippocampus. Both of these regions light up on scans when measuring brain activity during meditation. This is evidence that the neural pathways are being stimulated. Your capacity for storing additional memories grows as you practice meditation and stimulate these areas of the brain on a regular basis.
There you have it. Meditation is great for your brain. Give it a try and see if you start to notice a difference in your ability to remember and in your focus.
Part of taking care of yourself during and after narcissistic abuse is taking care of your head – more specifically, your brain. We’ve touched upon the types of food that can enhance brain health, but now I want to get into the nitty-gritty of what the brain-boosting foods you eat should contain. You should strive to consume a mix of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients for your brain in order to keep it functioning at its best levels. Read on to learn more about these components, what they do and how you can get more of them.
Proteins Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in the brain that allow communication between cells. They are made up of a number of components including amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Eating foods high in protein help you to maintain a healthy balance of neurotransmitters. When neurotransmitter levels are low, you could experience a number of difficulties. These include poor concentration, low mood, inability to concentrate and difficulty sleeping. Poultry, meat, fish, dairy and eggs are all good sources of protein.
Antioxidants With age, the nerve cells in your brain become susceptible to damage by destructive compounds known as free radicals. Not only do these unstable molecules of oxygen exist freely throughout your body, but they’re also found in the environment in the forms of pollution, smoke and ultraviolet radiation. Antioxidants are found in nutrients like selenium, beta-carotene and Vitamin C, and can protect your body from the damage done by free radicals. Eat foods like blueberries, dark chocolate, coffee, pecans, artichoke, cranberries and kidney beans to be sure you get sufficient antioxidants in your diet.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids As we age, our brains encounter additional inflammation, the nerve cells decrease and blood supply begins to decline. All of these issues, combined with fewer neurotransmitters, reduce the efficiency of cell communication. Omega-3 fatty acids help to improve brain cell communication by restoring the efficiency of electrical signal release among them. They also work to reduce inflammation and have been shown to keep memory loss at bay. Oily fish like salmon and trout are full of these fatty acids, but there are lots of other foods containing them, as well. Eggs, walnuts and leafy greens are good sources. As are oils like krill, flaxseed, chia and cod liver.
Complex Carbohydrates Energy can’t be stored in your brain cells. Therefore, they must receive a constant supply of glucose in order to maintain a healthy, working supply. These types of carbs keep blood sugar levels stable and provide the fuel needed to move nutrient-rich blood to the brain. This energy is delivered efficiently through complex carbohydrates in vegetables and fruits. Whole wheat can be problematic for brain health, though, as it causes blood glucose levels to rise too quickly. Blood sugar spikes are believed to contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Now that you know some of the best nutrients for your brain, you can make wise choices regarding your food intake. Try adding some of your favorites from these categories as you work to improve your overall brain health.