Posts Tagged: healing

5 Powerful Practices to Heal From a Toxic Relationship

Are you recovering from a toxic relationship? Maybe you feel betrayed, or rejected or used. Maybe you know you need a fresh start, but just need some help getting there. When your trust is broken in a relationship, your fundamental needs of safety and security are shaken. You may feel on edge, tense, anxious or scared. You may feel depressed, lonely or even hopeless, unable to plan your next steps. The aftermath of emotional or physical trauma can powerfully impact mood, sleep, weight, job performance and overall health.

Here are 5 of my most Powerful Interventions for Toxic Relationship Trauma Survivors


1. Restore Order Through Boundaries

Asserting boundaries can be difficult and intimidating, but necessary. I’ve listed Boundaries as the first and most important practice because getting physically, financially and emotionally safe, is the most basic and necessary step for healing.

What are boundaries?

  • Boundaries are invisible lines between you and someone else. Boundaries help you know where you end and where someone else begins. Boundaries allow you to protect what is valuable to you, allow you to be responsible for yourself, and for others to do the same. However, you will never heal and things will never get better if you don’t say “No” to the things that are hurting you, and “Yes” to the things you need. It may be scary to say, “I want you to leave,” or “Don’t talk to me like that,” or “Don’t call again.” But your heart needs safety, security and peace. It’s ok to follow through with your needs and boundaries until you feel the peace and safety you need.
  • Boundaries are Necessary for Healing. Often times, survivors of trauma feel as though their power and control was taken from them. It is important to restore that sense of empowerment through asserting yourself, meeting your own needs and setting limits through appropriate boundaries. Saying “No” to things that you don’t need, and “Yes” to things you do need will help you feel more in control.

2. People

Women often feel pressure to keep their relationship stress private to protect their partner’s reputation or to avoid judgment from others. Many women don’t feel like there is a safe way to share relationship problems with friends or family, so they keep their stress to themselves. Sometimes the truth of the relationship feels too ugly, too unbelievable, or too dark to share.

But, telling trustworthy people what you are going through is important when you want to heal trauma. Loving people lift us up, speak honestly to us, encourage bravery, cry with us, honor us, and remind us that it’s going to be ok even in the worst of circumstances. Loving relationships help heal the trauma, and give new direction. It’s tempting to keep the painful truth a secret, but opening up and sharing your experiences releases the pent up stress and helps with thinking more clearly, creatively and constructively.


3. Self Care

You may feel like you had to let your own needs go in order to take care of your partner’s needs. Hopefully, now you feel like you can take necessary strides toward taking care of your own needs.

  • Rest: Make rest and recuperation one of your highest priorities. Trauma can keep us keyed up, locked down, and frozen in fear. Now that you are aware of what you need and you are getting yourself free from harm, take plenty of time to rest. Recover. Heal slowly. Watch the seasons turn. Take long slow walks. Waste time. Sleep. Cozy up. Be gentle and nurture yourself.
  • Eat: During your time just trying to survive, you may have been too anxious to eat, restricted food or used food to feel better. It’s time to give yourself good nutrition.
  • Move: Your body will feel better when you start exercising, strengthening and stretching. Your body wants to feel strong again. Sometimes feeling strong on the inside comes easier when we practice becoming strong on the outside.
  • Play: if you’ve ever watched a child swing or swim or play with a puppy, you know that time seems to stop for that child and they are just enjoying the moment. Take time to be playful. Laugh at silly things. Blow bubbles. Paint your toes different colors. Be you, and give yourself permission to laugh.


4. Invest in Therapy

Recovery from relationship abuse, betrayal or divorce is not complete until you feel hopeful and ready for your future. Therapy is a way for you to explore unhealthy patterns, and how to change them so you can attract authentic love in your future. It’s not uncommon to work with a few therapists until you find one that understands your unique situation. When you find a therapist that is a good match, you can address:

  • past or recent trauma
  • the importance of following through on boundaries
  • improved ability toward assertiveness
  • ways to manage depressive or anxiety symptoms
  • effective communication
  • how to avoid attracting toxic personalities
  • setting new life goals

5. Feed Your Soul

When our situation becomes out of control, and the old way of doing things isn’t working, we need God to help us. Relationship trauma can cause isolation, depression and feelings of loneliness. Some of us get so exhausted by our busy, chaotic lives, we are too tired or guilt-ridden to listen to our spiritual needs. One thing I know, is that there is never a bad time to seek spiritual help from God. In bed, in the bar, on the street, in the hospital, or in the car, seeking comfort and guidance outside of yourself is a good thing. Admitting that we need God’s help is a first step in healing and recovery, and often results in a feeling of hope and peace. Here are some practical ways to feed the soul.

  • Journal: Journaling slows your thoughts down to the speed you can write. This is helpful when you feel emotionally flooded or triggered. Journaling helps you see your thoughts and feelings as valuable, and worthy of being expressed. Journaling is especially helpful when you are angry or stressed and can’t focus on anything else but what’s troubling you. Once you get it on paper, you can leave it there, validate it as important, and move on to your next healthy step.
  • Dependence Prayers: When worry and guilt creep into your daily life, it is important to give yourself permission to hand that worry and guilt over to God. There are many matters that are out of your control and worrying over them just makes you feel worse. Depending Prayers sound like, “I don’t know what to do, but I know You do, and You will help me.”
  • Creation: being creative and enjoying creation is healing to mind, body and soul. Experiencing God through creation, gives new energy and perspective.  Gardening, hiking, crocheting, writing, painting, sculpting, and making music are ways to communicate with God, soul to soul, as deep calls to deep. Creating and recreating takes methodical, patient steps. The heart rate slows to steady, the breath deepens, and the mind clears. Our hope returns and our problems don’t seem so overwhelming.

“Come to me… I will give you rest.” – Jesus to the hurting.


Surviving relational trauma is not easy, but it is important work. These five steps can help you not only survive a toxic relationship, but get free and happy again. I know that saying goodbye to a relationship, even if it’s toxic, can be a painful and scary road. Healing from that pain takes time and effort. Sometimes, when I know I’m at the beginning of a long journey, I like to envision what it will be like when I’m already there. Imagine yourself healed, free and happy. It will happen, and these practices will help you get there.

Surprising Pathways to Healing from Trauma and Pain

When you think of recovering from traumatic events or a painful past, does creativity come to mind as a method of healing? Creativity is something most of us do when we have extra time- and extra time seems to come almost never. We set goals for work, we drive kids to practice, and we make food for dinner (or get something on the way) but prioritizing creativity doesn’t cross our minds in life’s hustle.

But it Should. Especially when healing is needed.

If you are recovering from a divorce, or adjusting to an empty nest, or working through childhood sexual abuse, or rebuilding after bankruptcy, or recovering from chemo, you have encountered trauma. You have been dealt a blow that affected your body, soul and mind, and you need extra care and attention.

That care and attention may come in surprising ways. I’ll show you.

PTSD results in tightened muscles, shallow breathing, racing thoughts, rapid heart rate and hyper vigilance. Contrarily, creativity directly affects those symptoms by relaxing the body, deepening the breath, focusing the mind, slowing the heart rate and calming response triggers.

Creativity helps you deal with your trauma through the back door of the brain. When you create, you don’t have to think about painful memories or traumatic events. You can give your brain a break, and just let it create. The creative energy does the healing for you. Here are some examples that work:

  • Play Without Competition- Play for playings sake. Blow bubbles, roll play-dough, play games, play with children and play by yourself without competition. No winners, no losers, no competition, just play. There is so much about our current day lives that demand our A Game, (work, parenting, surviving!) that PLAY is forgotten. Work some play time into your schedule, and dont stop until you laugh.

  • Creativity Without Judgment– Making things is good for you. You are made in the image of God, the Master Creator. If you dont CREATE, you will feel incomplete. But when you create something, make sure you dont judge yourself for it. I volunteer in an art class for children, and once they are given a compliment for completion, some will say, Well, its not very good. Where do they learn to judge their art so critically. Say to yourself what I say to these children, “Well, I like it. I like it because YOU made it!” When you create something, be careful not to judge it poorly- that steals the creative juices. Just let your creation be. Let it have its day. Let it have its space in the world. Its valuable because YOU are.


  • Art, Poetry, and Photography for the Soul, not for the Wall- Often, people wont create unless its for an audience, a purpose or to show others. So here is a challenge- buy an art journal, a writing journal or a picture portfolio that is PRIVATE, and just for you. Write for yourself, create for yourself, experiment and explore for yourself. Dont judge your creativity as valuable only when it is used for something beyond yourself. Some creative work is ONLY for you and should be a gift back to yourself. I think of God creating the universe, the billions of stars, the things humans have never seen but imagine, yet those ancient, far away creations were made and still exist, like a private portfolio just for Him.


  • Memorial Making– You may need a way to honor your past, your memories, and your inner child. Collect objects, symbols and important words to build, create, collage or organize your feelings. This is important work. A while ago, a friend of mind was having difficulty grieving the death of his daughter. He wanted to just get back to life and couldnt even let himself cry. He decided to build a memorial for her by hand. Shovel, stone, brick, and grit- he painstakingly created a small memorial where he could go to remember her. This moment by moment building project allowed him the time to grieve and let go. You may want to make a memorial to your innocence, or to the person you were. It doesnt have to be big, it just has to be meaningful. This kind of project can help you let go of the pain of trauma, and accept the goodness your future holds.
This is a little memorial marker that Sweet and Sassy made in the rocks.

This is a little memorial marker that Sweet and Sassy made in the rocks.

  • Gardening- Gardening is a process that requires patience. Sometimes we get inpatient with ourselves when we are not recovering, rehabilitating, or healing “fast enough,” as if our recovery should follow our instructions for speed. But gardening, with its seasonal requirements, makes us slow down our expectations, dig our hands into the dirt, and nurture delicate life. When we nurture someone or something else, our desperate insides receive the nurture too. We slow down our expectation for ourselves and receive nurture from God and nurture from ourselves.
This is my garden box in the back yard that Mr. Dashing made for me out of one of our old doors. Sweet and Sassy picked the plants and placed them where they wanted. I'm the one who does the watering. :)

This is my garden box in the back yard that Mr. Dashing made for me out of one of our old doors. Sweet and Sassy picked the plants and placed them where they wanted. I’m the one who does the watering. 🙂

With each Creative media, whether art, building, playing or planting, slow down enough for it to replenish you. Use your creative time to push back the demanding outside forces, and nurture the life within you. Give creativity a chance to console you, heal you and revive you. You may experience a kind of life cycle with your creation- a degeneration and death of things that must go, a season of dark, and then a spring of new life. Ride your creativity all the way through, employing faith that you are worth the time, money and effort it takes to create, to heal, to flourish.

Just start creating with what you have at home. I created the pictures in this blog with my phone camera and a free app called Aviary. I create these pictures for fun, for this blog, and to bless the world with beauty and words. But mostly because it's just fun!

Just start creating with what you have at home. I created the pictures in this blog with my phone camera and a free app called Aviary. I create these pictures for fun, for this blog, and to bless the world with beauty and words. But mostly because it’s just fun!

How about you? What have you created that has given you healing in return? What creative project or playful activity has given you happiness and health? I’d love to hear from you for more ideas!

What to Do When Bad Things Happen

In light of the recent devastation to communities in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico and now the tragedy in Las Vegas, I wanted to offer help to those affected. Truly, all of us are affected when bad things happen in our world, just some of us are closer to the tragedies than others. For those of you who are pained by the recent events but not sure what to do or how to feel about them, please read the following example and tips that I wrote awhile back.

Stacey’s Story

“Everything is pretty terrible actually.” I ran into a friend at the store, when this tumbled out of her mouth. She had recently been in a car accident and sustained a concussion. As an employee and student, she had to get extensions from her boss and instructors for deliverables and assignments. She said, “I just can’t concentrate. I can’t focus. I can’t get anything done. My life changed in an instant. I’ve been sidelined.”

I was so sad to see this beautiful young woman struggle like this. She was always a real go-getter, a runner, a successful sales person, and now she was stopped in her tracks. Stacey verbalized what she felt as a victim of brain trauma, but she could easily be describing what people everywhere say about trauma in general. Her story is much like injuries to the soul- what I call Soul Holes. Whether you’ve experienced trauma to the brain, the body or the soul, trauma hurts. It affects your functioning, your confidence, and your relationships. Loss, divorce, abuse, theft, assault, bankruptcy, natural disasters all can have traumatizing effects.

She could easily be describing what people everywhere say about trauma in general.

What Trauma Does…

To your Brain: Trauma impacts new learning, focus, concentration, and memory. You may not be able to function after the trauma at the same level you functioned before the trauma. Healing takes time and a lot of effort.

To your Relationships: Trauma affects your ability to trust, cope, and form healthy relationships. Bonding may be more difficult for you because you are wary of something bad happening consciously or unconsciously. Your brain is so occupied with survival, that things like affection, intimacy, and empathy essential to healthy relationships, don’t come naturally.

To your Emotional Health: Trauma disrupts your ability to self-sooth, control your feelings, and your ability to distinguish between safe and unsafe people. Everything inside feels messed up and unstable. You question and doubt yourself and the people around you, and possibly even trust people and places that shouldn’t be trusted. Your flight or flight responses could be locked into over drive leaving you emotionally spent and confused.

To Your Body: PTSD results in tightened muscles, shallow breathing, racing thoughts, rapid heart rate and hyper vigilance. Contrarily, creativity directly affects those symptoms by relaxing the body, deepening the breath, focusing the mind, slowing the heart rate and calming response triggers. Trauma has been linked to heart disease, obesity, addiction, pulmonary illness, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain disorders.

To Your Paradigm: Trauma affects the way you see the world and yourself. You may not see the world as a trustworthy place to grow, in which to take risks and thrive. You may not see yourself as having the ability, the confidence, the worth-whileness to accomplish good things in the world.



Just like the Trauma Flower.

The Trillium is a perennial that grows in the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest. It’s usually found in the wild protected by a canopy of pines and maples. It loves the ample rain fall and blooms in the spring. It’s so special to see on a hike through the forest it just makes you want to pick it. But picking the bloom traumatizes the plant. Picking the bloom retards its growth because the corn is unable to gather enough nutrients from the sun for next year’s bloom. Once traumatized, the flower may never bloom again.

The Trillium is our very own Trauma Flower. It reminds us when our bloom is plucked, we must be very careful to restore ourselves for future blooming. If we don’t take care of the trauma after-math, our insides start to die. Without plenty of attention, healing and nurturing, we can’t be restored to health.

sun through trees

What Will Help You:

Getting Safe: Doing whatever it takes to make your world safe and secure. Your body and soul need rest, recovery time and patience. You may feel effects from the trauma for weeks and months after the traumatic event. This is normal. However, getting yourself physically and emotionally safe is paramount for healing to occur.

Having Choices: Victims of trauma will feel like their choices were taken away, and the trauma was forced upon them. Whether by accident or by will, you went through something in which you had little to no choice. You will need the ability to make choices about your recovery, your resting period, and your healing to feel powerful again.

Being Empowered: If you were traumatized by someone or something, you felt a loss of power and control. You still may feel that way. You may not be able to control your stress level, your emotions, your anger or your drug or alcohol use. You need help to bring back a sense of empowerment. Setting boundaries with the help of safe people will get you back to a state of Empowerment.

Do Something: Those who do something fair better in the long run than those who do not. For example, those who donate money, volunteer to help, give blood, call a friend or relative, make a plan, or organize a crisis response feel less helpless and more confident. The feeling of being able to help someone else through a bad situation can be powerfully healing. Today, in response to the Las Vegas mass shooting, I published this blog and made an apple cobbler for my family. Bringing comfort to the people I care about makes me feel more in control and less helpless when bad things happen.

Having Help and Collaboration: You won’t be able to recover fully on your own. You will need the help of healthy people, experts, people who’ve been there, and people who care. Even though trauma can leave you feeling isolated and ashamed, reach out to helpful people. Allow safe people to help you make decisions about your recovery and your next steps. Opening up to trustworthy people is a wonderful first step in getting “yourself back.”

Having Reliability and Predictability: Trauma can leave your inner and outer world disorganized with lots of loose ends and unfinished business. You can’t expect to get your life back in order right away. Give yourself time and routine. As much as possible, set your calendar with routine and predictability in mind with plenty of margin for rest and self-nurture. Accomplish one small thing a day and congratulate yourself for the movement, no matter how small it is.

Take Heart

What Stacey Did Right:

Asked for Help: Once she learned she wasn’t thinking clearly, she immediately asked her superiors for extra time to complete projects.

Was Patient with Herself: She didn’t expect herself to recover right away. Sure, that would be nice, but she was listening to the doctors about what was realistic to expect. She, like the trillium may need to wait a few seasons before her bloom returns. She understood that growth and healing were happening behind the scenes, even if there was no evidence of it yet.

Talked About It: Though my friend and I hadn’t caught up in awhile, she didn’t hide her recent struggles. She opened up about the real circumstances she experienced. She even saw a counselor to help her prioritize the things that were now important for her.

Didn’t Pretend it Didn’t Happen: My friend could have been tempted to deny the negative affects of her trauma and pretended she could carry on business as usual, but she didn’t. She knew it is always better to face reality than to hide from the truth.

Wasn’t Ashamed: My friend was experiencing weakness, real struggle, and even a sense of failure. But she decided that she wasn’t going to be ashamed of her struggle, she was going to bring it into the light and talk about it.

I know it’s hard.

There are many of us out there that wish we could talk about our trauma as freely as my friend talked about her head injury. Some traumas like abuse, bullying, betrayal, or significant loss are just not that easy to talk about or get help for. I totally get that. I’ve struggled with things in my life that I felt were so taboo to talk about.

But talking about them is exactly what will bring us healing.

Trauma loses its power when its brought into the light. Pain doesn’t seem so big when it’s brought out of hiding. As we feel the pain of trauma in our own lives, and see the pain of trauma in others, let’s give ourselves the space needed for healing, and the will to move forward in a positive direction.


My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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