As a child there was a time I can recall when my foster mother punished me for bad behavior by not allowing me to attend a baseball game with the rest of my siblings. I was about six years old and I can still remember how upset it made me. I cried, yelled, and swore I'd never forgive her but nothing I did made a difference. For me not being able to go to the baseball game wasn't just a punishment, it was a very painful reminder of the loss I felt from my parents and as I cried the reasons I was crying began to change.
Years later as a teenager it would be very different circumstances that would upset me but the feelings would be the same. Eventually these feelings came so frequently that I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It was like all of the individual disappointments and traumas in my life began weighing on my ability to handle even the smallest problems. I realize now that what I had gone through in being taken from my parents and bounced around the foster care system had actually affected my ability to cope and rationally face everyday challenges. Something as simple as a friend not texting me back right away transformed into a major rejection in my mind and I would quickly descend into panic mode or a state of low self-esteem.
For many years I reached out for help from my therapists, friends and foster family but nothing seemed to fix my anxiety and depression. Then one day I learned to help myself by simply going for a run. At first I wasn't even sure why I was doing it. I had felt for a while that there had been a lot of pent up energy in my mind and body so I simply started jogging to make myself feel better and to my surprise I did. Running helped me because it gave me a productive outlet for the tension I felt in my mind and body. When I ran the noise in my head became less loud and I could return home with a better state of mind. What I had discovered on accident was actually the key to success for many people coping with trauma; I had learned a self care practice.
Self care is just a simple action that's personal and important to you that you can practice as a way to check in with your body and mind. By identifying an activity that you're naturally inclined to and using it on a day to day basis to control your mood you can build resilience to challenges that might have otherwise seemed too overwhelming. The idea is that you heavily associate an action with a certain state of mind and so when you're feeling emotionally compromised you can perform that action and guide your mood. Some popular examples of a self care practice include:
Can help clear your mind and give you perspective on different parts of your life. Creates an opportunity for you to breath and relax even if there are stressful things going on around you.
2: Going to a comforting place like a coffee shop
Helps you associate a place with a good feeling so that every time you return there you can re-create that feeling inspite of the other things happening in your life.
3: Playing a sport
Can help you feel like you're part of a team and remind you that you're valuable in your community. Exercise also releases endorphins that make you feel accomplished and satisfied with your body image.
When times are stressful and uncertain it can be hard to maintain a balanced state of mind. Normal responses to stress might make you feel overwhelmed, angry, confused or even cry but it's important to remember that the intensity of these emotions are temporary. Even if it doesn't always feel like it, everyone struggles to cope with change and loss in their life. For foster youth especially though, it may feel as if life has stacked circumstances much too challenging for you to overcome on your own.
While it took me a long time to figure out which self care practice worked for me, there are actually a lot of very helpful websites and videos that can easily help you figure out the practice best for you. Below are a few suggestions and useful guides to help you begin considering a self care that works for you
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