Janine Phillips | YWCA MV Support Group Coordinator
With 2023 in full swing,
now is the perfect time to take a deep breath and reassess our lives. Spring has officially arrived (although Mohawk Valley weather might disagree with that!). Hopefully the brunt of winter snows has passed, and the days will continue to grow warmer and brighter. It’s okay to acknowledge that 2022 and any trauma associated with it has passed.
So now what?
What sort of resolutions did you make with the new year? How many have you stuck with? I find making resolutions never works for me. They seem like a punishment, a reminder that I’ve messed up in the past and now is my chance to get it right.
Rather, I look at the new year as a blank canvas, a way to manifest my reality into something wonderful. There’s no time like the present to change things up, so why not start now? The whole year is waiting for you to live it, and now is the time start.
So, what kind of actions and thoughts can be embraced to help make 2023 the healthiest and happiest year yet? It’s a difficult task for anyone to live a healthy life free from stress, but survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence have additional obstacles keeping them from living a happy and fulfilling life.
Below is a compilation of goals that can work toward living a healthier life. There’s no need to sign on to all of them, picking one or two can be life altering. Or perhaps the goals can be distributed throughout the year, providing a year-long game plan.
Regardless of how these goals are addressed, it’s important to remember to do so with an open mind and a genuine determination to put the past aside so that there is room to focus on creating a new reality.
The goals are divided up into three categories: Internal Dialogues, Interpersonal Relationships, and Personal Guidelines. Sometimes Internal Dialogues can be harmful, and even downright cruel. Often people are taught that self-blame is the same as accountability, but it isn’t. Blame is associated with “bad” while accountability is healthy. Everyone should practice accountability in their lives.
So, let’s start with Goal #1. Release the harmful inclination to self-blame.
Victim-blaming by other people is bad enough, self-blame can be even more damaging. Survivors do not have to believe their trauma occurred because of something they did or didn’t do. Don’t listen to people who say, “You should have . . .” or “Why did you . . .?” Acknowledge the reality that someone deliberately set out to cause harm, and that is entirely on them. Sometimes we stay in bad situations to prove we didn’t make a mistake, to avoid blame.
Consider the affirmation of:
I deserve peace, respect, and to live a life free from mental, emotional, and physical harm regardless of the choices I make.
Goal #2: Try to live a life that is limitless and free from absolutes.
Promising to never cry, or never get angry, or trying to always be happy is not healthy or realistic. Healing from trauma is like riding a wave on the ocean. Some days the ocean is calm, with the surf gently cresting over your reality. Other days it has the force to reshape the whole shoreline of your existence. Understand that things change, and people are constantly transforming. Nothing is absolute, so setting limits to how you will and will not act may only bring disappointment.
Refrain from promising to never again break down or cry or yell at a loved one. That’s not realistic. Instead, focus on creating awareness. Pledge to be more aware of the negative feelings and decrease the amount of time focusing on them.
Instead, practice the affirmation:
I am constantly evolving and transforming, and I embrace all positive aspects of who I am and who I will become.
Goal #3: Be prepared for rough days.
Many people set goals and the first time they falter they give up. Remember that failure does not happen when you fall. Failure happens when you don’t get up. So, if a bad day rears its ugly head, don’t be so harsh with yourself. It’s not always easy or healthy to put your trauma behind, or to forget about it like others may advise. Remind yourself that this trauma helped make who you are today, and it’s just as much a part of you as the good times. The strength, resilience, compassion you show today may be indirectly linked to the trauma you suffered in the past. So don’t get angry when you have a bad day. Tell yourself it’s going to be okay and that the depression and anxiety that seems overwhelming will soon pass. Healing takes time. Tomorrow is another day.
A good affirmation for rough days, to help you ground and move past the memories, is:
Now is the Only Moment.
Interpersonally, there are things that can be done to help maintain healthy relationships.
That brings us to Goal #4: Set Boundaries.
Setting boundaries for yourself and others in your life provides rules for others to follow and guidelines to ensure safe interactions. Survivors have often had their boundaries ignored, so eventually they just stop trying to set boundaries all together.
2023 is the time to recognize that having healthy boundaries means living a healthy life. Setting personal and interpersonal boundaries is essential in maintaining optimum mental and emotional wellbeing.
Consider things that are not acceptable in a healthy relationship. Name calling? Sarcastic ‘joking’? Swear words? Passive aggressive, or just plain old aggressive conversations? How about the pressure to say ‘yes’ all the time, or to answer phone calls or texts right away even if it is inconvenient? These are just some examples where boundaries would be healing and helpful.
Decide what is most bothersome, then reaffirm which rules can be set in place either verbally, mentally, or by physically writing them down to help to prevent unhealthy behaviors from happening.
Examples of boundaries can also be used as affirmations:
I deserve to be respected when spoken to.
I will not say YES when I want to say NO.
Can you think of a boundary you can use as an affirmation as well?
Goal #5: Ask for help.
Asking for help can be difficult. All too often, people avoid asking for help because they don’t want to appear vulnerable or incapable. Other times, people won’t ask for help for fear of rejection. Maybe they’ve asked before and had no one respond. Finally, they believe if they ask for help, the person who responds will demand something in return.
Sometimes the help that is needed may be therapy or counseling, which brings into consideration the stigma society has regarding therapy and mental illness. There’s no shame in recognizing the benefit of speaking with a professional to help sort things out. In fact, it’s a sign of resilience and strength and courage when therapy finally begins. It shows a true commitment to healing.
For help embracing this concept, try the affirmation: I’m going to ask for specific help when I need it.
Goal #6: Only allow positive, supportive relationships in your life.
Learn the red flags of harmful behaviors and then steer clear of people who present red flags. This includes people who consistently ignore the boundaries put in place, who belittle or correct others constantly, who victim blame, and/or who support people who are harmful or abusive to you.
The affirmation you can use for this goal might be:
I deserve supportive, loving, compassionate people in my life.
Personal goals are important as well.
Goal #7 first and foremost should be: Prioritize Your Self, Your Needs.
How this looks can change throughout the year, and that’s totally okay. Listen to what your heart needs, what your mind is whispering to you, what your gut is telling you. In the end, you know what is best for you, if you carefully weigh all the information provided.
The affirmation to help remember this goal could be I am worthy.
Goal #8: Practice Self Love.
With this goal, we choose to let go of all the harmful lessons we’ve been taught about ourselves through the years. We are deserving of love, both from ourselves and others. We know our truth and we honor it. Do not let others invalidate your worth. And the best way you can do that is by knowing your own self-worth, loving yourself, and not tolerating any less from others. The more we love and respect ourselves, the more others will follow. The more respected we feel, the easier it is to give self-love and respect.
A great (but sometimes difficult) affirmation to verbalize and embrace is simply:
I love myself. Or I am worthy of love.
Goal #9 is: Consider what is lacking in your life, then make it your reality.
This ties in with a lot of the previously stated goals. Has the concept of self-love been embraced? Have boundaries been put in place? Maybe it’s a bit simpler: more sleep, more exercise, better eating habits. All these suggestions are healthy concepts that should be practiced regularly, but oftentimes people deny themselves these things because they feel undeserving. Stop that. You deserve to have a better quality of life overall, and 2023 is the time to make that happen.
The affirmation for this goal could be I manifest my own reality.
The tenth and final goal overrides all the previously stated goals. And that is: No Pressure.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to make and stick with goals if it is too overwhelming a concept. There are so many other people making demands of you daily. If the suggestion of goal setting becomes a chore, a challenge, distressing, or anxiety-producing, then put it on the back burner. Or maybe narrow it down to one goal only. The bottom line is to not force the process. Healing will come when you are ready. If we try to force this, or if we pretend to ourselves and others that we are healing, no good will come of it.
Failing to follow goals is not a sign of failure. It’s an indication that there might be a need to practice more self-love. It means that it’s okay to be gentle with yourself.
Always remember, tomorrow is another day. Have patience and compassion with yourself.
Don’t push the river: it flows by itself.
YWCA MV is Here for You
In addition to all of this, know that help is only a phone call away. YWCA Mohawk Valley is available 24/7/365 through our hotlines and confidential advocate chat. If you need someone to talk with, need help in getting safe, or any of our domestic violence crisis services, call our hotlines. In Oneida County, call or text 315.797.7740. In Herkimer County, for our sexual violence and child advocacy services, call 315.866.4120.
If you are experiencing a life-threatening domestic violence emergency, always remember to call 911 first.