In the early stages of betrayal trauma, women have a difficult time with self-care.
Most women have spent so much time focusing on trying to get their husband’s attention that they’ve forgotten how to take care of themselves.
Now that they’ve been traumatized by the discovery or disclosure of the betrayal, self-care is more important than ever.
But how will she know if she’s practicing good self-care?
Is there a guide for beginners on how to practice great self-care?
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, and Trish White, Shero, coach and counselor from Saskatchewan, Canada, provide women with a Beginner’s Guide To Great Self-Care. Previously, Trish shared her tips for Self-Care In The Early Stages Of Betrayal Trauma.
Trish has been a stay-at-home mom, pastor’s wife, dog groomer and, most recently, post-secondary college graduate. As a counselor, in her new practice, she has the privilege of working with people whose lives have taken them in a different direction than they had planned. Trish is an excellent support as she helps them create their Plan B.
The Beginners’ Guide To Great Self-Care: What Is Self-Care?
After years of being told that she needs to be more, do more, and say less, a betrayed woman needs to start taking better care of herself.
This is called self-care.
Some may call it selfishness, but it’s not at all selfish.
If a car isn’t taken care of and driven to the point of breaking down, it’s not going to get its passengers to and from their desired locations.
If a woman isn’t taken care of and she breaks down, she’s not going to be able to take care of her family.
If she goes and goes and goes, and never takes time for herself, eventually, she’ll collapse from mental, emotional or physical exhaustion.
Trish White, who had to go on her own journey to learn about self-care, says women usually want to avoid triggers, but triggers are a signal that they need to stop and take care of themselves.
“Often, we want to get rid of the triggers, but the triggers are simply a sign that we need more self-care and attention and more healing.”-Trish White, coach and counselor
Self-care is more than just bubble baths and chocolate, it’s an opportunity to find someone that’s been lost for a long time.
Trish says she found this part of self-care to be the best part of her healing.
“‘Am I getting to know myself?’ I think that is the biggest gift of this journey.”-Trish White, coach and counselor
Self-care is learning to love one’s self again.
Self-care is getting to know one’s self again.
Self-care is becoming one’s self again through caring for one’s self.
The Beginners’ Guide To Great Self-Care: The 4 Essential Parts Of Great Self-Care
When a woman finds out she’s been betrayed, she may begin to question everything else about her life.
She may even question who she REALLY is.
She’s just discovered that she’s spent X number of years believing she was living one life, when, really, she was living a lie.
At least, that’s how it may feel to her.
The lies she was told by her husband and others, based on what they heard from her husband, have shaped her life.
Now, she has to figure out what is real.
Now, she has to figure out who she is.
That’s where being committed to practicing great self-care comes in.
This won’t be a piece of cake (unless that’s what she needs for her self-care at that moment) but, with practice, she can become an expert on taking great care of herself.
Anne discovered, for herself, that commitment is going to be essential and make it a little exciting.
“The cool thing about being committed to self-care is that it can be an experiment.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
That commitment, along with experimentation, will help a woman rediscover, or discover, what makes great self-care for her.
“If we’re committed to self-care and we’re willing to be honest with ourselves and gentle with ourselves, we’ll see what’s working and what isn’t.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
What makes great self-care, though?
Trish says there are four essential components of self-care.
The 4 Essential Components Of Great Self-Care
These four components shape the greatest self-care because they show what a woman has learned or is learning about herself.
The Beginners’ Guide To Great Self-Care: Soothing
This is what a woman does when she finds herself triggered and needs to calm herself down.
Trish recommends women find two or three things that calm and soothe them.
These are the things she will reach for when she starts feeling anxious because she drove past THAT place, or she sees HER, or on a triggering anniversary.
These things could be music, pictures, silence, a friend, anything that helps calm her down.
Once she’s calmed down, a woman needs to be nurtured.
The Beginners’ Guide To Great Self-Care: Nurturing
Nurturing is a term often associated with babies.
For self-care, Trish recommends going back to the basics.
“Learning to have compassion for and take care of yourself, is the last part: self-nurturing. When these crises happen, we are down to ground-zero of what we are able to do. Think of what a baby needs to survive, predictable sleep, food at regular intervals, and some sort of loving relationship, that is where the growth takes place because it’s pretty bare-bones, to begin with. We can always up our self-nurture game for years.”-Trish White, coach and counselor
Now that she’s calmed down, a woman can make sure she’s doing the basics: eating, sleeping and connecting with someone safe. (We highly recommend BTR Group!)
Once she’s got these basics down, it’s time to add the last two components.
The Beginners’ Guide To Great Self-Care: Discipline And Compassion
Self-Discipline And Self-Compassion.
Trish knows that self-discipline doesn’t sound pleasant and not necessary for self-care, but it is.
“It seems harsh to introduce self-discipline because everything else seems cozy and warm, and when we think of self-discipline, we think of a drill sergeant. That’s why it’s balanced with self-compassion.”-Trish White, coach and counselor
These two components should always be balanced out by each other.
It’s good to have self-discipline, but she’s still in trauma. She needs to have self-compassion. She’s still barely surviving.
What does it look like, this self-discipline balanced by self-compassion?
Self-discipline says: “I need to wash all the dishes today.”
Self-compassion says: “I know I need to wash all the dishes today. I also know I’m barely making it today. I’ll work for 15 minutes and call it a day.”
Self-discipline isn’t beating herself up for not getting things done, it’s just knowing that things are going to get done, or knowing what’s going to happen if she does something else, Trish says.
“Yes, you want to eat a bag of Oreos. Self-discipline says, ‘I’m probably going to feel sick tomorrow if I do, but I’m going to eat some.’ The thing with self-discipline is that it comes eventually. Self-discipline is more about keeping our promises to ourselves. There’s something that builds self-esteem in that, when you keep your promises to yourself.”-Trish White, coach and counselor
Anne reminds women that early in trauma, when she’s in crisis-mode, self-beating isn’t going to help anyone.
“If an entire bag of Oreos, or whatever, is helpful to you, then go for it. You absolutely do it. Then, as you get a little bit stronger, then you can add limits, because guilt, at this point or worrying about anything other than just survival, is not going to help.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Trish agrees that self-discipline does develop as women get better with self-care. She also reminds women that there is a difference between pity and compassion.
“Self-compassion is different than self-pity. Self-pity says, ‘This is too hard for me, I can’t handle it.’ Self-compassion says, ‘Yes, this is hard and I’m going to look after you. I’ll get you through this.’”-Trish White, coach and counselor
Trish emphasizes the importance of maintaining a good balance between all four components of self-care, especially self-discipline and self-compassion.
The Beginners’ Guide To Great Self-Care: Practice Makes Progress
Right now, a lot of women are probably thinking, “I’m never going to get this down!”
Anne shares that she used to think that too.
“I want to give you some hope that, it might take a while, but four years out, five years out, ten years out or whatever it is, that things will get better. I know when people told me that, I wanted to shake them and be like, ‘You don’t know how bad it is. It’s so bad.’ Now, it feels good. Life is really good.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Trish shares one simple tip that anyone should be able to do that can help a woman get started on self-care.
She recommends creating a photo file of the people and places she loves.
Trish has done this, and loves to look at her beaches in the middle of her white winter.
“I put those in a file of places I’ve walked, beaches I’ve been on, and when I need to just give my brain a break I head there and flip through. Scatter them with pictures of people, your children, learn to just sit and focus on some of those and remind yourself that there are some good things. We will get back there.”-Trish White, coach and counselor
Anne shares one final tip that helped her immensely, but may seem a bit extreme to some women. However, she says it’s one of the best things she ever did.
“I deleted all of my social media accounts. That was part of my critical-systems-only phase. I thought it was really important to just focus on myself and how I was feeling in the moment and not worrying about how other people were perceiving me or what type of image I was projecting to the world.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
As women travel on their path to healing, they may find that they aren’t getting perfect at self-care. That’s okay, because she’s just looking for progress. As long as she’s taking care of herself and learning about herself, she’s getting better and better at self-care.
As you take your journey of healing, there is hope that things will get better and you will find yourself again.
To help you on that journey, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group provides a safe place to share with other women facing similar circumstances. With UNLIMITED access to more than 15 live sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a BTR Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
I’m continuing last week’s conversation with Trish White. I read her bio last week, so if you did not hear the first part of this interview please go to last week’s episode to listen to that before you come here.
Before we get to that, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is such an amazing community of women you can talk to live, online, on a daily basis. When you join our group, you get unlimited live sessions monthly, weekly, whatever you need. You can attend as many sessions as you want.
Women are so supported and loved there. You can go to a session with every single one of our coaches to see their different personalities and the insights that they’ll have for you. To learn more, go to btr.org, click on Services, and click on Daily Support Group.
During this time of being quarantined and being isolated, it’s an amazing way to be with women who totally understand you immediately. You get to see their faces, hear their voices, and interact with them in very personal, vulnerable, real authentic ways that you cannot find anywhere else.
Self-Care Is Self-Compassion
Sometimes, I have parties where I have Sheros come to my home. Some of you may have seen that on Facebook where I’m like, “Hey, I’m having a party Friday night. If you’re in the area come on over.” It’s amazing how women who have been through what we’ve been through, we can just immediately connect with each other and understand each other.
Women I’ve never met come to my home and we’re talking about the most personal details of our lives one minute and then talking about burritos the next minute or how we love puzzles. It’s just this amazing way to really be yourself, and though we can’t really do in-person events right now, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is the online version of that.
I really encourage all of you to join if you haven’t already.
Now to continue my conversation with Trish.
Anne: The cool thing about being committed to self-care is that it can be an experiment. Once I got on the anti-depressant and I could get off the couch, I’d be like, “You know what, when I sit on the couch my neck hurts.”
About three months ago, I moved that couch to a different area, and guess what I replaced it with? A treadmill. That has made a big difference, but that has been an evolution.
Now, when I want to relax, I walk on that treadmill rather than sit on the couch. If we’re committed to self-care and we’re willing to be honest with ourselves and gentle with ourselves, we’ll see what’s working and what isn’t.
When I sat on that couch, I ended up gaining 30 pounds, which was not great from me, physically, emotionally or mentally. Do I feel bad about it? Not really, it’s fine. I started realizing it wasn’t really working for me, but it was a coping skill that I had used.
Unless your intention is self-care, I don’t think that evolution of “What is going to really bring me peace and happiness?” is going to happen. I think the experimentation is okay. Am I making any sense?
Trish: Yes. “Am I getting to know myself?” I think that is the biggest gift of this journey. I have self-care broken down into four different aspects because there’s self-soothing and then there’s self-nurturing. Those are the two main ones.
Self-soothing is, “What calms me down? What do I need at this moment because my system is activated, I’m not able to think or concentrate? What do I need at this moment to calm myself down?”
Really experimenting with yourself, looking at your senses, finding two or three go-to’s that you just really know work when you’re triggered. Often, we want to get rid of the triggers, but the triggers are simply a sign that we need more self-care and attention and more healing. Let this send you to “What are ways I can calm myself down?”
We have self-soothing and self-nurturing. We’ll get back to self-nurturing. It’s like the wings on your airplane. It’s the things that balance you. It’s self-compassion versus self-discipline.
Self-Care Can Happen Anywhere
It seems harsh to introduce self-discipline because everything else seems cozy and warm, and when we think of self-discipline, we think of a drill sergeant. That’s why it’s balanced with self-compassion. When you’re practicing self-care there are tons of opportunities to practice your self-compassion.
Yes, you want to eat a bag of Oreos. Self-discipline says, “I’m probably going to feel sick tomorrow if I do, but I’m going to eat some.” The thing with self-discipline is that it comes.
I like what you’re saying, that there is a progression. This doesn’t all happen right on Day One. Self-discipline is more about keeping our promises to ourselves.
I know there are women that would never break a promise to anyone else. They will always keep their responsibilities and, yet, we renege on our commitments to ourselves all the time.
If all I’m committing to today is to just get up out of bed and do something for myself, putting some healthy food, or something, in myself, that’s self-discipline. At the end of the day, you can say, “Okay, I did it.” There’s something that builds self-esteem in that, when you keep your promises to yourself. Does that make sense?
Anne: Yeah, your self-esteem is so fragile when you’re so traumatized. There is something to be said for that momentary comfort. I think there’s something to be said if an entire bag of Oreos, or whatever, is helpful to you, then go for it. You absolutely do it. Then, as you get a little bit stronger, then you can add limits, because guilt, at this point or worrying about anything other than just survival, is not going to help.
Trish: Yeah, and that whole self-compassion piece is different than self-pity. Self-pity says, “This is too hard for me, I can’t handle it.” Self-compassion says, “Yes, this is hard and I’m going to look after you. I’ll get you through this.”
Being able to talk to our self with that more nurturing voice, I had to develop and learn that. It’s a learning curve to be able to get rid of that inner critic because, often, that beats us up and makes us feel guilty about everything.
Anne: It’s coming to me that I think the most important thing is the intention. Being intentional about it. If you’re going to say, “Right now, my alarms are going off and I know if I eat this or if I go do this thing, that this is going to help. I also know the consequences of this, but this is what I’m going to choose right now because my pain is too intense.”
I remember one day when I went into the closet and I put a really soft blanket over my head and I just laid in the closet and just cried and cried and cried, but that was an intentional choice. I think intentionality is really the thing that we’re looking for, in the beginning.
Trish: Yeah, that whole just learning to have compassion for yourself and take care of yourself, that brings us to that last part, which is the self-nurturing. Self-nurturing is like the rhythms of life.
When these crises happen, we are down to ground-zero of what we are able to do but, if we think through what a baby needs to survive, they need predictable sleep, food at regular intervals, some sort of loving relationship, and they need some sort of movement or stimulation. If we can just break down that last to the very basics so that you’re just, “Am I putting something in my body? Am I drinking some water? Am I making sure I’m doing what I can so I can sleep?”
That’s the whole self-nurturing part, and that, I think, is where the growth takes place because it’s pretty bare-bones, to begin with. We can always up our self-nurture game for years.
Self-Care Helps Trauma Survivors Process Emotions
Anne: Altogether, I want you to repeat those four components and how they interact with each other.
Trish: Okay, so self-soothing is what we do when we find ourselves triggered and we know we need to bring our system down. Quite often, it happens with trauma, our systems get stuck in overdrive. We need to find ways to slowly calm it down, and it takes time. Self-soothing is finding two or three things that calm and soothe you, heading to your senses for what works to calm yourself down.
Self-nurturing is the rhythms of the day. Am I putting something good in my body? Am I making sure I’m looking after my sleep patterns? Do I have loving people I can connect with? That’s a hard one, but we always need safe people, and that may even be a coach or a counselor, if your family system is really broken down.
Anne: Or like Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, our online group, might be an option.
Trish: And holding onto your children. There you have self-soothing and self-nurture at the same time. There is nothing better than a baby fresh from the bath, right? Loving relationships. Some sort of stimulation, just like you would with a baby, getting outside or mental stimulation, watching something, doing something so that you’re moved out of just curling up and crying all the time. Self-nurture, and those expand.
Then, down the road, you’ve decided you’re now eating regular meals, but you recognize, “I need to be eating more vegetables so I’m going to start putting vegetables in my smoothie.” You can up your self-care game, almost endlessly.
That’s self-soothing, self-nurturing, and then balancing them out with self-compassion and self-discipline. Today I need to get something done so we’re going on self-discipline but when I started, I’m in tears and can’t do it so then self-compassion says, “Hey, it’s okay. Just work at it for 15 minutes and then call it quits.”
Anne: Yeah, that’s perfect. At the beginning, I asked you for a really simple one, like my suggestion was to go outside and yours was to look out the window with a hot drink. That was perfect, I loved that.
I want everyone to know that, four years out, I’m doing yoga almost every day. I am back to weightlifting. I’m skiing again and paddle boarding. I love outdoor sports. I’m feeling more and more like myself every day.
If you’re listening and you’re like, “This seems impossible” or “I can’t do this,” I want to give you some hope that, it might take a while, but four years out, five years out, ten years out or whatever it is, that things will get better.
I know when people told me that, I wanted to shake them and be like, “You don’t know how bad it is. It’s so bad.” Now, it feels good. Life is really good, so let’s go back to more of those simple tips for women who are in intense trauma right now because I’d say that’s the bulk of our listeners.
Why don’t we leave our listeners with one more practical self-care tip that any woman, no matter what stage of trauma she’s in, especially the women who are in intense trauma right now, could implement today.
Trish: Safety is so important in the first while, right? Finding that safe place, and so one suggestion, quite often, we end up being hooked to our phones, and so I recommend putting together a photo file of people you love and places you love.
If you love the beach, have beach pictures on there. If you’re like me and half your world turns white and cold, I have pictures of summer so that I can remember that life does come back to this barren planet. Put those in a file of places I’ve walked, beaches I’ve been on, and when I need to just give my brain a break I head there and flip through.
Scatter them with pictures of people, your children, learn to just sit and focus on some of those and remind yourself that there are some good things. There are great places in the world. We will get back there.
Anne: Yeah, that’s a great tip. I just thought of one that I did that really helped a lot, and when I say this most women gasp. They’re like, “You didn’t?!?” I deleted all of my social media accounts.
I found that very helpful because I wasn’t like, “If I post this what will he think? Will it look like I’m doing well? Or do I want to look like I’m doing well or like I’m not doing well?” I didn’t want to have any of those conversations in my head.
That was part of my critical-systems-only phase. I thought it was really important to just focus on myself and how I was feeling in the moment and not worrying about how other people were perceiving me or what type of image I was projecting to the world.
Self-Care Is Vital For Healing
I highly recommend it, if women can, and then I never did it again. My Anne Blythe Facebook profile is the only one that I have. I don’t have any personal accounts on Twitter or Instagram or anything. I have the BTR stuff to run, but I don’t have any personal stuff. I really love that.
I don’t know if women want to do that, but anything that works for you is going to be the right thing. Also, you can try something and then see, “Oh, this isn’t working,” then you can try something else. It’s not like any one of these tips or these things needs to be this permanent installation that you then have to do every day for the rest of your life.
Trish: That’s right. My favorite one has been, and it goes under discipline for me, forcing myself to take 24 hours off every week. The truth is, this may be a little crude, but we’re going to die with things on our to-do list. Taking 24 hours off each week gets you practiced for that, that it can be left undone.
The laundry can wait. Stuff can wait. I don’t have to be busy all the time. I just fill that day with things that I enjoy. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a goal.
Anne: Thank you so much, Trish, for coming on today’s episode and sharing your insights with us.
Trish: This has been good. Thank you.
Anne: If this podcast is helpful to you, we really appreciate your monthly support. Go to btr.org, scroll down to the bottom, and click on Support the Podcast.
I appreciate every one of your comments on these episodes. If you want to comment or ask questions. I always respond to those on the podcast section of our website, which is btr.org. You can find this episode and comment on this particular episode, and questions that you have or share your story there.
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If you are listening and you have a desire to share your story or to come to talk with me on the podcast, of course, it will be anonymous, please email my assistant Kari at firstname.lastname@example.org. I absolutely love hearing your stories.
I love connecting with you and love sitting in the pain with you. That sounds kind of grotesque, but it’s true. I just love being with my people, so if you are wanting to share or if you’re ready for that part of your journey please contact my assistant Kari at email@example.com and let us know. We’d be happy to have you on the podcast.
Please continue to stay safe. My prayers are with you during this time. I know it’s really hard, especially if you’re still in the home with a man who is exhibiting emotionally and psychologically abusive behaviors, including sexual coercion. I know it’s difficult. My prayers are with you and know that you are not alone.
Until next week, stay safe out there.