Journal prompt: Where in your life do you feel most like you? How can you become even more you?
Journal prompt: What veils have been laid over your soul? Think about the ones added in childhood, that told you who you are, who you aren’t, what the world requires of you? …what are you doing to do the lifelong, sacred work of removing those veils from over your soul?
Journal prompt: What path are you forging right now? What feelings come up as you picture yourself forging it on your own?
I love the idea of menus- you get to choose what you want, what you need, in that particular moment. So I often work with people to create their own menu for self-care- options that they can look to a choose from when they’re overwhelmed by anxiety or other emotions.
Self Care Menus should include options that involve all 5 senses, things you can do alone as well as ways to connect, items appropriate to each time of day or weather conditions. Make it versatile so that no matter when your negative emotions threaten to overtake you, there’s always something you can try from your menu.
Your menu can be scribbled onto a post-it note, typed into the notes function in your phone, pinned up to your wall, or whatever works for you! It can be as simple as you like, or as complex and beautiful as this example:
Mine would include some of these options:
- Take the dog on a walk.
- Light a candle.
- Do yoga, in a class or at home.
- Call a friend (go ahead and write the name & number on your menu!).
- Box breathing.
- Put on pajamas and cozy socks.
- Diffuse essential oils.
- Have a piece of dark chocolate.
- Look at old pictures.
- Listen to favorite songs.
- 20 minute reading break.
- Go to bed early.
Homework item: Create your own menu! Where can you put it so that you remember and can access your menu when you need it?
Journal prompt: How can you hold onto your beautiful fragrance, your sweetness, as you forgive?
Do you know your ACE score?
Here’s what the CDC says about ACEs:
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being.
The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors.
Find out more about ACEs here.
The short of it: Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, harm children’s developing brains and lead to changes in how they respond to stress and damages their immune systems so profoundly that the effects show up decades later. In our field, we believe that ACEs cause much of our burden of chronic disease, most mental illness, and are at the root of violence.
ACEs Connection adds:
There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the ACE Study. Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment.
But there are many other types of childhood trauma — watching a sibling being abused, losing a caregiver (grandmother, mother, grandfather, etc.), homelessness, surviving and recovering from a severe accident, witnessing a father being abused by a mother, witnessing a grandmother abusing a father, etc. The ACE Study included only those 10 childhood traumas because those were mentioned as most common by a group of about 300 Kaiser members; those traumas were also well studied individually in the research literature.
The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.
People are talking more about it, and even some doctors are beginning to consider the ACEs score of their patients…but I think it’s important that we’re all familiar with it and know the scores for ourselves and our loved ones.
Look at one of the questionnaires here.
Journal prompt: What did you learn as you determined your ACE score? Next, sketch out a family tree or genogram. Based on what you know from your family, what do you think the ACE score is for your parents, grandparents, significant others in your life?
Journal prompt: What’s helping you grow? In what areas do you want more growth?
Recently on a podcast about the Enneagram, I heard an acronym for OWN UP. After it sticking with me for a few days I thought about how my clients could use something similar for the things we talk a lot about: gaining awareness of our feelings, and “riding them out” until the intense emotions morph into something more bearable. So perhaps this can be a helpful reminder:
Observe– What are you noticing- feelings, thoughts in your mind, and sensations in your body?
Welcome– Welcome the feelings, however uncomfortable. Don’t waste energy trying to change them or outrun them or you’ll miss the opportunity to learn from them and to let them evolve!
Name– Name the feelings; put words to the thoughts and to the what you’re experiencing in your body.
Investigate– Where’s this coming from? Can you identify a trigger?
Tolerate– The feelings won’t kill you! Let them come like a wave- grab your surfboard and ride it out, using the tools that you’ve picked up. Breathe through it. We know that feelings will change (they have to!), so give it a little time and see what fruits can come from staying with your feelings.
OWN IT- and it won’t own you!