My hand lingered along the crystal punch bowl. I flicked it with my finger and listened to the high-pitched ding only real lead crystal can make. Setting out eight matching punch cups, I mixed ginger ale with Hawaiian punch and stirred. It was a time of celebration and the crystal punch bowl made my simple recipe special. Waiting for the guests to arrive, I looked at the bowl and thought of the long journey it had made. 

It belonged to my mother, but in all the years I had known her, not once had it ever been used. It sat silently on top of the antique china cabinet stuffed to the gills with other unused glass items. My mother passed away this year and the crystal punch bowl set was only one among many treasures. Inexpensive second-hand store finds stood next to antique wine goblets. Art glass nestled among hand-cut crystal mugs. Looking at the hoard, a relative exclaimed “Your mother was preparing for a party she never had.” I don’t know of a better description of her life. 

My grandchildren soon arrived to celebrate Christmas. The punch bowl sat in a place of honor. 

“Oh Mimi!” my five-year-old granddaughter exclaimed. “What a fancy bowl!”

“Yes,” I replied as I stirred my Christmas concoction and poured her a cup. “It’s time for a party. Let’s not wait another minute.” 

I hope you see the past four weeks of life management as an invitation to the party of life. It will be the hardest journey you will ever take, but it will be worth it. Life management is not about exercise or staying on a schedule or doing meditation. It is about using those things to heal. It is about changing the inside so the outside can embrace joy. In this last blog of the series, I would like to leave you with these final thoughts.

Recognize Your Accomplishments

I can’t tell you the number of times I sighed at the end of the day and said, “I didn’t get anything done.” It was always a lie and self-defeating to think that way. Write out a list of accomplishments at the end of the day. Include everything. I overlooked things like laundry or grocery lists. How about resting or meditating? Calling a friend? Taking care of your body? Those are all accomplishments. 

1. Accomplishment List

I fed the dog

I ate three meals

I folded the laundry

I took a nap

I did a good job at work

I was kind to myself

2. Use Technology with Caution

iPhones and computers are as much of a curse as they are a blessing. Technology can become a terrible source of stress for trauma survivors. The key is for you to control technology and not to let it control you. 

Turn your phone off

Take a break from it for several hours during the day. Need it for work? Turn it off in the evening. I can’t bear not to answer when that stupid little text message notification pops up. How to solve the problem? Turn the phone off! 

Only check emails once a day

Obsessively checking emails feeds trauma symptoms. Having a framework and control that helps break the grip of CPTSD.

Delete news apps

The daily news engages us by creating a feeling of anxiety. I could not stop checking it until I deleted the apps. Even now I must be very careful not to check the news in hopes of feeling more secure or safe. The news outlets are set up to do the opposite.

Social Media

In some ways, social media represents the worst of technology. It is okay to engage in it as long as it doesn’t take over your life. Put it within the framework.

3. Practice Letting Go

Letting go of the things you can’t control is a wonderful habit to cultivate. When a situation or thought flies at me and causes anxiety, I stop for a moment and ask myself, “Is this something I can control?” If not, I let it go. This sounds simple, but if you suffer from CPTSD you know that as children we were constantly held responsible for things we had no control over. It’s a horrible feeling and something that needs to be tossed out of our lives.

4. Use a planner

Whether you go old school with a handwritten calendar or use a digital version, I have found that using a planner sets me free from pressure. Have a daily “to-do” list. Use it to plan the day, the week, the month, and the year. A schedule really sings when you use a planner along with it. 

5. Use A Dump Book

Recording accomplishments at the end of the day is helpful, but the very last thing I do at night is to write down annoying thoughts. Maybe they are regrets from the past. Maybe they are things I forgot to do. Whatever it is, recording thoughts in a dump book makes it possible to put an end to the day and a beginning to a good night’s sleep.

I am a work in progress just like everybody else. I don’t do all the life management techniques perfectly, but making an attempt is what matters. Living with childhood trauma is really hard. Other people do not understand how much courage and effort it takes to heal. I get it…and I want you to know I am thinking of you and rooting for you. Don’t give up. It is worth the price. Don’t let the abusers win. Defy trauma and embrace joy. February and March blogs will be all about relationship patterns and how to recognize and heal them.

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