“The foundation of self-improvement, self-confidence and self-empowerment is self-care!” Sondra, Yoga in Our City Instructor
At MHC, we know that everyone is facing something. We also know that when we practice self-care, we can strengthen our resilience and our ability to deal with life’s challenges. For Mental Health Awareness Month 2023, we are partnering with Yoga in Our City and taking the time to give back to ourselves. Join us each Sunday in May for #SelfCareSunday! Today we share how storytelling can be a valuable self-care tool.
Storytelling is often how we share our experiences, communicate our resilience, and pass on advice to help others. We are storytellers whether we practice the art of storytelling intentionally or sit with our friends or loved ones and casually share our experiences. When we talk about events, characters, actions, themes, feelings, and ideas, we use storytelling techniques daily. So, how do we move from sharing experiences to using storytelling as a self-care practice?
When we go through situations that are heavy and at times life-changing, we can often default to suppress those events rather than discuss them. We may think we’re taking the power away by not thinking about it, but in reality, we are often giving it the power to appear in our emotions in unexpected ways. As we have learned through MHC’s Write On! Program, how writing and storytelling can also help address self-stigma, a common barrier for many living with mental health conditions.
Writing and storytelling can be a valuable tool in promoting your resiliency and your ability to convey, relay and identify your thoughts and feelings into words. Evidence shows that storytelling has multiple benefits including identifying emotional states, developing a vocabulary to allow for self-advocacy, encouraging the use of strategy, and promoting a sense of hope.
Storytelling helps us to recognize, understand, relay, and convey our emotions in a way that can help add to our self-awareness and help us to better care for ourselves. We asked Yoga In Our City instructor Sondra, what self-care means to them, “When we take care of ourselves, we are better able to show up fully for our personal and professional lives, and we can be more effective in helping others. It is not a selfish act, but rather a necessary practice for building resilience, reducing stress, and promoting overall health and well-being. It is a way of honoring our bodies and minds and treating ourselves with the love and respect we deserve.”
If you want to try incorporating storytelling into your self-care practice, consider trying one of the below:
Practice in a pair:
Tell Me About a Time When…
This can be done out loud, or as a written exercise. Have each person come up with a prompt. Tell or write down a short story describing a memory of an event. Prompts should be concrete and short, and stories should be true. Practice remembering specific moments, and the thoughts and feelings associated with these moments. Don’t worry about writing a story, just write what you remember.
Depending on the memory, this step can be very hard. If you anticipate that this will be difficult for you, consider asking someone you’re comfortable with to be near you or on the phone while you’re writing. When you’re done, consider sharing some of your work with someone you trust.
Practice in a group:
Have people go around and tell a story about something themselves. The next person will then say, “speaking of…” and relate back to the storyteller before them. Prompts can be adapted to be more specifically about certain events or details about a person. Practice relating and connecting to people and their experiences, also, get to know one another.
Practice storytelling on your own:
Write about it.
Think about an experience you would like to process and begin writing. See if you can answer the basic, “who, what, where, why and when,” questions about the situation. If you can, move on to describe how you felt, or how you feel when you think about it and write about it now. If it’s something that is bothering you, is there a step you could take that might help you feel better about the situation?
You can practice your self-care with Yoga In Our City all summer long, and on May 21st Yoga in Our City will be back in parks near you! Join the kickoff event and visit yogainourcity.com to learn more and find free classes near you!
This year, MHC invited Connecticut residents to practice storytelling through our #LetsFaceIt campaign. Gifts from the campaign help to support the launch of The Art of Wellbeing, an arts and wellness program at the Hispanic Health Council’s (HHC) Family Wellness and Cultural Heritage Center in downtown Hartford. A donation to the #LetsFaceIt campaign is an investment in the safe and welcoming environments for those we serve and it’s an investment in our future.
Stay in touch with us on social media @mentalhealthct and keep up with our blog posts so you don’t miss a #SelfCareSunday in May!
Take a mental health screening
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Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741