While the belief that we can achieve anything we set our mind to is not enough to fulfill all our dreams, it is one of the important factors that contribute to healthy self-esteem. The luckiest among us are taught by our parents to believe in ourselves and to love ourselves for who we are. However, some people grow up in a dysfunctional family or are exposed to negative childhood experiences that have a negative impact on their development and mental health.

Furthermore, self-esteem issues can be a consequence of an abusive relationship, negative experiences, or a mental health disorder. Poor self-esteem is often associated with depressive disorder, anxiety, and negative thoughts. A poor opinion about ourselves, whether it is about our physical appearance or our intellectual ability, can be an indicator of deficient self-esteem.

If you are aware that you have low self-esteem, you are already one step closer to a solution. Take the time to learn more about self-esteem and what may interfere with it, talk to a therapist, and allow them to guide you through various types of therapy such as but not limited to cognitive behavioral therapy toward positive self-esteem. During your healing process, you can also make use of these 7 effective self-esteem tools and practices:

 

Get to know the real you

The path to healing starts with a clear image of ourselves. Take a step back from everything mundane in your life and get to know yourself. Learn about what you like, what you desire, what makes you happy! Evaluate your emotions and see what you can do to balance or strengthen them. Maybe there are some things you should stop doing to make more room in your life for yourself! Find what you are passionate about and what motivates you. People who are doing things they truly love have more chances to improve their overall quality of life and cultivate healthy self-esteem.

 

Learn to say no

Saying no to other people’s demands of you doesn’t make you a selfish person. Many people neglect their own health and sacrifice their self-esteem to please everyone else around them. But what does this really accomplish? Always trying to please people, to get in activities you don’t actually like, or to pretend to have qualities you don’t possess will only hurt you in the long term and take away from your self-esteem. Every time you try to please others, despite what you desire, you are telling yourself that you are not good enough to be loved and accepted for who you are. One of the first things you can do for positive self-esteem is to say no to others and yes to yourself!

 

Learn to Say No

 

Make yourself a priority

I know this is a lot easier said than done but it’s a necessity if you want to have healthy self-esteem. This is especially hard to achieve for parents and people who have others relying on them. However, when putting other people’s needs above our own, we are neglecting ourselves which may lead to hurting our self-esteem. I am not saying to ignore other people’s needs but I am strongly recommending to meet your own needs too. You matter! You have value!

 

Keep a self-esteem journal

Psychologists often recommend keeping a journal as a form of release but also as a way to acknowledge your true emotions. Your self-esteem journal should be filled with positive thoughts and good things that happened during the day. People with low self-esteem tend to have a negative outlook on life, so a positive journal is a valuable tool to unveil the good in their life. Write every day about positive things that happened to you and, with time, you will see there is more positivity than negativity in the world and in yourself. A self-esteem journal is a great way to discover the real you and boost your life satisfaction.

 

Self Esteem Journal

 

Put a stop to negative self-talk

Words matter! Especially words with negative connotations directed toward ourselves. If you move towards having healthy self-esteem you may want to look at the way you talk about yourself. Whether you are bad-mouthing yourself out loud or just in your head, the damages you do to your self-esteem are significant. Negative self-talk leads to lower self-esteem that consequently leads to more negative self-talk creating a vicious cycle that only you can break. How? Through positive self-talk. Every time you feel the need to say something negative about yourself, stop and instead write something positive. Break the negativity cycle with a wave of positivity!

 

Stop Negative Talk

 

Forgive your mistakes and acknowledge your success

People make mistakes! It’s the way we grow and learn. So, don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes. You are not a bad person because you made a mistake. Mistakes make you who you are. They give you the chance to learn and improve yourself. To make a mistake is human and it’s a great opportunity to adapt and change the way you think. Accept them as part of your own and use them to find the motivation to do better next time. While it is very important to stop blaming ourselves for our failures, it is equally important to acknowledge our achievements and use them to boost our self-esteem. Do not downplay your success! It is a big deal and you deserve the praise.

 

Be mindful and exercise

I can’t stress enough the importance of mindfulness and exercise. The combination of the two can help us improve our mental health, our everyday performance, and our self-esteem. Mindfulness helps us to live in the present without unnecessary worrying about a past that can’t be changed and a future that can’t be foreseen. Only 10 minutes of meditation a day can help you get in touch with your true self and put you on the path to healthy self-esteem. Add to this regular exercising, like running, swimming, dancing, or any other physical activity, and you will notice improved stamina and physical health, as well as an “inclination” to feel good and have a healthy relationship with yourself.

Therapy, also called counseling or psychotherapy, is a journey. And like all the other journeys it can feel like an incursion into the unknown. The goal of therapy is aimed at decreasing overall emotional stress and other factors that may interfere with your emotional health. It is imperative to work with someone you feel safe with in order to identify your emotional problems and ways to work through them.
Counseling is not reserved only for persons who have suffered emotional and psychological trauma. Therapy can be of benefit at any point in your life. You can turn to a therapist for a multitude of reasons. If you feel like you simply can’t find your balance or you can’t reach your goals, therapy may be what you’re searching for. Mental health is critical and getting help is not something anyone should be ashamed of.
Many people who take their first step on the path to emotional healing and contact a therapist feel a sense of anxiety and uneasiness before their first therapy session. I am here to tell you that this is natural. After all, it can feel overwhelming and frightening to open up. Our role, as therapists, is to create a welcoming and safe environment for you to face your demons and emerge victoriously. Since professional therapists are bound by confidentiality, they will never betray your trust.

 

Therapist with Person

What is the counseling process?

The first counseling sessions will focus on getting to know one another. The initial visit will involve filling out paperwork with information about your medical history and medical record, as well as about your health insurance in some cases. You will also fill out a questionnaire about your symptoms and sign a therapy-patient services agreement.
During the first therapy session, we will establish why you have sought out counseling and talk about your life in general. I will ask you about your symptoms and what you feel is wrong. We will talk about your childhood and education and discuss a bit about your relationships, career, and current situation.
It’s useful to come prepared with something to talk about concerning yourself because therapy is about you! Never forget that talking about yourself is not a selfish act in therapy. It is recommended and encouraged! You will share only what you feel like sharing and go deeper when you are ready. Therapy is and always will be about patience. Patience with yourself and patience with the therapeutic process itself. Deeper issues will be discussed only when you feel you can talk about them.
Therapists never judge their patients. They conceptualize the issue to get to the root of the problem. I will never criticize you or make you feel uncomfortable about anything you feel the need to share with me. We will focus only on your emotions and try to establish what you feel concerning the situations you’re dealing with. Following a few counseling sessions, I hope we can delve into the depth of your being and bring to the surface the real issues that torment you.

 

psychologist with happy couple

How can counselors help?

Before going into therapy, you need to be aware of the fact that counselors will not have the answers for you. They don’t give advice and make the decisions for you. The entire therapy process focuses on your healing journey. You will be the one that identifies the emotions associated with the problems in your life and you will have to learn how to manage and face them. There are no shortcuts in therapy. Your goals for therapy should be realistic, honest, and clear. Your counselor will be there for you every step of the way guiding you along your revelatory inner journey.
While therapists don’t have the solution to your problem, they know how to help you find it. And this is vital for your mental health. You need to remember that your therapy process is based on a relationship with your therapist. You should be clear about what you want to obtain from therapy and what your expectations and preferences are.
While compassionately listening is an important part of the counseling process, therapists will also ask questions. The questions and tone used are meant to create a friendly space that invites open and honest discussions. Counselors use various techniques like person-centered therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, attachment-focused therapy, or existential therapy to help you achieve your mental health goals and open yourself to healing.

 

Psychologist with her patient

How long does therapy usually last?

The length of your treatment depends on a multitude of factors. As you probably already know, therapy requires time and not many issues can be solved with just a couple of counseling sessions. You may need counseling services for just a couple of weeks or it can take years to fully overcome the issue that brought you to them. However, the effects of therapy will be felt from the very first sessions and you will be able to notice improvements on a daily basis. Each consultation will take you one step closer to your goals.
Whether you need a therapist for relationship counseling or you’re dealing with stress, anxiety, family concerns, illness, or depression, the length of your treatment will be impossible to know at the beginning. However, since some insurance plans cover only several sessions, it’s understandable that some hope to find the solution to their problems in the shortest amount of time. It’s important that these things are discussed with your therapist at the outset because a financial fit is also an important part of the process.
My counseling experience allows me to assess your needs, discuss and select treatment options, and guide you toward self-improvement and self-care. My personal goal is to help you walk out the door feeling better than when you arrived. Each and every session will take you a step closer to finding your voice, embracing your story, and feeling whole. This might take time but it will be the best investment you will ever make.

We were taught to be kind to others, turn the other cheek, and work hard. Helping others has always been seen as a noble and praiseworthy thing to do. The thought of putting oneself first was unbearable for many and an act of selfishness for others. We had chores to do, families to care for, and bills to pay. There was no room for silly things like mindfulness and self-compassion!

Fortunately, times are changing and, with them, the idea that we deserve less attention and care than the people we care for and love. Millennials have found the courage to talk about the power of self-care and there is no going back. We know the truth now! We know that self-love is the shortest path to follow if we want to live happy lives. We know that self-care is not selfishness, indulgence, or a trend. Self-care is a necessity!

As a matter of fact, studies have shown that self-care practices have a major impact on the successful management of diseases like diabetes mellitus. Patients with diabetes manage to have better glycemic control when they include self-care activities in their daily routine. From healthy eating and exercising to monitoring their blood sugar levels, everything contributes to the reduction of complications and a better life for patients with type 2 diabetes. However, you don’t have to be diagnosed with something to start exercising self-care.

If before the COVID-19 pandemic, we associated self-care with yoga classes, gym sessions, going out with friends, and spa treatments, given our current situation, we should think about self-care at a smaller scale but not lose sight of the big picture. There are plenty of self-care activities we can do in the comfort of our home that will invite self-love, peace of mind, relaxation, and motivation in our hearts and minds. We just need to make self-care a priority and treat every day as a mental health day!

 

lady exercising

Exercise daily

You can exercise as much or as little as you want and can, but do it regularly. Whether you take a short walk around the block, do yoga in the courtyard with your dog, or jog for 15 minutes, you will feel the difference. Any exercise is better than no exercise at all. There’s no need for me to tell you about the importance of staying active. It’s common knowledge. However, I will remind you that exercise has the power to improve your mood, well-being, and mental health. It boosts your energy levels and invites positivity into your life. Moreover, exercise helps you achieve better sleep. In other words, exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have against anxiety, depression, or simply a bad day. And of course, it helps you maintain a healthy weight and improve your body image, both important aspects for a healthy relationship with yourself.

 

woman taking a bath

Take a long and mindful bath

Forget about showers on the run once in a while. We know, the world needs you but it will not crumble if you decide to immerse yourself in a world of fragrances and calming music. Your bath can easily become an aromatherapy session if you add jasmine, lavender, or ylang-ylang to your bathing ritual. A 2009-study discovered that fragrances can affect our mood, physiology, and behavior, so include essential oils in your life for indulgent self-care experiences. Try to relax during your bath and focus on the present. Mindfulness is about focusing on the moment and experiencing everything it has to give. Keep any worry away from your bathtub. Focus your attention on yourself and all the positive feelings you exude on your self-care journey.

 

chamomille tea

Make time for tea

Tea time is not reserved only for royalty. It can be the best excuse to take some time off from your daily duties and enjoy a few moments spent all by yourself. Tea time is not necessarily about drinking your tea, although it has been proven that green tea may lower your LDL levels and black tea can lower the risk of heart disease. Tea time is about the ritual of mental self-care. You can savor your tea near a window or in the courtyard while reading a book or eating a piece of cake. The idea is to create a corner of serenity and inner peace. Silence the outside world and think about yourself for a moment or two while spending time away from your phone, to-do list, and everyday life.

 

friends talking

Talk to your friends

Humans are and always will be social animals. We need to interact with each other to protect our mental health. Whether we do it for support or simply to say hi, it’s important to make time for friends. We don’t necessarily need to meet face to face for our interaction to have a positive impact on our mood and state of mind. Hearing the voice of someone we care for floods our body with positivity and oxytocin, a chemical in your brain that boosts the feel-good sensation. Some time alone is a great way to reconnect with yourself but so are conversations with good friends. We often listen to ourselves better when voicing out our thoughts, hopes, and worries. Healthy and smart conversations may reward you with a clearer picture of your life.

Studies show that about 60% of the US population has reported experiencing at least one trauma symptom in their lifetime. The good news is that this is not a permanent condition, there are effective treatments! Read on to learn more.

What is Emotional and Psychological Trauma?

Emotional and psychological trauma occurs when a person is exposed to very distressing circumstances that leave them struggling to function normally afterward. The emotional response can range from extremely upsetting emotions and anxiety to feeling completely numb and disconnected.

Typically, when most people think of emotional trauma, they associate it with life-threatening events such as military combat, domestic violence, or sexual abuse. However, there is a very broad range of situations that can yield traumatic experiences.

What is a Traumatic Event?

A few elements that are commonly present in traumatic events are:

  • The person was not prepared for the situation or it was completely unexpected
  • The individual felt incapable or powerless in preventing the event
  • The stressful occurrence happened during childhood
  • What transpired was associated with extreme cruelty

Even though we typically associate trauma with a single event, it’s not always necessarily the case. Though people can certainly experience trauma from a single occurrence, it can also be the result of continual exposure to unrelenting stress. It may be the cumulative toll of living in a dangerous neighborhood, daily bullying, years of domestic violence, etc.

Whatever the source, its magnitude or perceived severity is less important than the effects on the individual. There is no shame in experiencing trauma from stressful events that others may not perceive as severe. Every person is different and their causes for, and reactions to trauma are also different.

 

girl experiencing emotional trauma

Symptoms of Emotional Trauma

Emotional reactions to trauma vary from person to person. Though there are many common reactions, each person may exhibit their own subset of symptoms of trauma. They encompass a wide array of emotional and physiological responses. We won’t cover all of them here, but among them are:

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Easily or frequently startled
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive alertness, always looking for threats, low sense of safety
  • Racing Heartbeat (Tachycardia)
  • Constantly agitated or on edge

Psychological Symptoms

  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating, loss of memory
  • Disorientation
  • A persistent sense of fear
  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Guilt and/or shame
  • Numbness, feeling disconnected
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Mood swings, irritability

Remember, people don’t need to experience all of these symptoms in order to qualify as a trauma response. However, if some of these symptoms persist for at least a month, it is very likely the case.

Effects of Untreated Psychological Trauma

If emotional trauma is left untreated, it can continue to worsen and slowly make the world of the affected individual smaller and smaller until they’ve completely isolated themselves. These individuals can manifest avoidance behaviors, aggressive behaviors, and various self-destructive behaviors that can worsen over time. Effective treatments for trauma are available and it’s important to get help. If left unchecked, common effects can be:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Depression
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Alcoholism
  • Compulsive behavioral patterns
  • Hostility
  • Sexual Problems
  • Self-destructive Behaviors
  • Dissociative Symptoms

When to get Treatment for Trauma

When you begin to feel that your past or current traumatic experience is interfering with your life, you should get help. Particularly, if your symptoms are worsening; even if the event was months ago. There are many effective treatment options available and trauma recovery is possible.

A licensed mental health therapist can assist you on the path to recovery. Studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be especially helpful for trauma. This is a type of talk therapy where negative emotions and thoughts are identified and then discussed. The goal is to replace them with healthier ones.

For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy isn’t always as effective. However, there are other treatments like computerized treatments or animal-assisted therapy. A mental health professional can help you find the right treatment for you.

Immediately I can hear some of you asking, how long does it take? Though unsatisfying, there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. Every person is different and their journey to recovery and restoring their sense of security is different. It can take weeks or months. No matter how long it takes, it’s worth it. It’s also important that you understand that anyone guaranteeing that you can recover in x number of days is either uninformed or more interested in your wallet than your mental health.

 

Girl by the ocean

Tips for Recovery

Though there is no substitute for the help of a qualified mental health professional, there are several things you can do to help promote healthy behaviors and reduce the frequency and development of unhealthy ones.

Exercise

The physical symptoms of trauma can put your body into a constant state of hyperarousal. The fear spikes your adrenaline and it’s healthy to engage in activities that help burn through it. Exercising for at least 30 minutes on most days can provide relief. Rhythmic exercises where you can involve your arms and legs, for example, walking, running, swimming, or dancing are best.

Connect With Others

As time goes by, you may feel the urge to isolate yourself. It’s important that you don’t give in to that and instead connect with your friends, family, loved ones, meet new people, etc. Needing some time alone is healthy, but too much time alone dwelling on your traumatic event is counterproductive. Try to cultivate hobbies that you can do with others, accept lunch invitations and spend time with other people. If interacting with others is uncomfortable or creates anxiety seek help from a counselor or therapist that can help you work through it.

Meditate

The traumatic event can generate a lot of stress and anxiety. Meditation is a great way to alleviate some of that stress. Your goal during meditation is to bring your focus and attention to the present moment. Focus on your breath instead of engaging with your distressing thoughts. It can be difficult, but with practice, it can help reduce the stress you are feeling.

One More Thing

We covered a lot about emotional trauma today. We discussed physiological and psychological symptoms, treatments, and even a few helpful tips that you can practice on your own. The last thing I want to add may also be one of the most important.

Remember that even though it may not feel like it, your feelings are normal. It’s the event or circumstances that created the trauma that is abnormal. It’s critical to understand that, so I’ll say it again, your feelings are normal. During this time, remember to be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion, you deserve it.

There are many great options to help you manage and overcome your trauma-related symptoms. If you’d like my help dealing with trauma, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be honored to take this journey with you.