November 14, 2017

Practice Every Day: How Playing the Cello is Like Healing From Abuse

Quote for blog on how practicing self-care is like taking time to practice the cello.

Think of the last time you learned something new. Were there moments when you felt overwhelmed? Did you ever want to give up? Someone who works here at The Younique Foundation shared this recently.

I’m 35 years old, and I started taking cello lessons about six months ago. This is totally new territory for me, and I was seriously intimidated at my first lesson. My teacher was demonstrating things for me, and she was so good at everything. The sad, squeaky noises the cello made when I played sounded terrible compared to the beautiful music she was making. I kept thinking, “I will never be able to do this!” There was a big part of me that wanted to give up on the spot, but I kept at it, and I practice for about 20 minutes most days. I’m definitely a beginner—I make lots of mistakes, I’m usually out of tune, I feel like my fingers can’t reach far enough. But I’m slowly making progress.

Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves and feel like we need to be perfect at things right away, but this isn’t a helpful way for us to think. Of course, it would be defeating to go to your first cello lesson and say to yourself, “Okay, I need to play like a concert cellist right now.” That’s a goal that simply isn’t possible, and you’ll only get discouraged if you think like that. The reality is that we make progress a little bit at a time by consistently doing small things. You don’t wake up one morning transformed into an amazing musician; you become an amazing musician by practicing a little bit every day.

The same is true when it comes to healing from sexual abuse. You won’t wake up one day completely healed. But there are small things you can do right now to put yourself on a path to healing. Don’t get overwhelmed thinking that you have to do everything at once. Just figure out little things you can do daily. Here are just three suggestions for things you can do right now:

1. Break big tasks into small steps.

Maybe there’s something big you’ve been meaning to do for a while, but it feels too hard. Figure out small steps that will help you get there. Say you’ve been meaning to find a therapist. Today, spend a few minutes googling therapists in your area. Tomorrow, ask friends if they have any recommendations. The next day, call one or two offices to ask about availability for appointments. The whole process of finding a therapist might feel like too much, but doing just one small step hopefully feels manageable. Figure out small steps that you can do each day.

2. Find a go-to grounding technique.

One of the most challenging aspects of healing from abuse can be dealing with triggers that arise in daily life. Figure out a grounding technique that works for you that you can use when you’re triggered. Maybe it’s a simple breathing exercise like inhaling for a few counts and exhaling for a few counts. You can find lots of grounding techniques on our blog like mindfulness, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation. You can even try a podcast like Live Awake or an app like Headspace. If you find a technique beforehand, when you’re triggered you won’t feel stuck trying to figure out what to do. You’ll have a plan.

3. Say positive declarations.

Sending yourself positive messages every day can be a simple but impactful part of healing. You can build positive declarations into your already-existing daily routine. Say a few when you’re getting ready in the morning or as you’re driving to work. Positive declarations can be as simple as saying something like, “I’m a worthwhile person, and I love myself.” Check out more information about creating positive declarations. (Or look at this little girl for an example of how it’s done.)

Don’t let unrealistic expectations for perfection frustrate you. Take things a day at a time, and give yourself credit for the amazing progress you’re making. Just as a beginning cellist is on the journey to make beautiful music, you are on a journey to heal. Every journey takes time, and you’ll inevitably experience some bumps and detours along the way, but have confidence that you’re moving in the right direction and making progress. What simple thing can you do today?