Self Care When You Feel Dysphoria
Body dysphoria comes in all shapes and sizes and it can have a huge impact on our lives in every way. Feelings of dysphoria can set the tone for a person’s day and it becomes the lens that we see everything through. Our interactions can become charged, we may hate everything around us, or we may completely shut down. A major component of being healthy emotionally, mentally and spiritually is being centered and grounded in one’s body. For trans people, this is incredibly difficult, especially because so much of the transition process is out of our control.
Many times, just acknowledging what we are feeling and giving it a name can be extremely powerful. Here are some other tools to utilize on those bad days:
Focus on the things you like about your body – or the incredible things your body does.
Make a list of the parts of your body that you like.
We tend to take for granted just how amazing each body is. The body does so many things for us that we never have to think about: heartbeat, breathing, digestion, etc. Express gratitude to your body for supporting you on your journey.
Put on your favorite outfit or the outfit you feel you look best in
Whether it’s jeans, sweatpants, or khakis, pull on those pants that make you feel most comfortable, or grab the shirt that makes you feel most attractive! The clothes you wear can have a huge impact.
Watch videos of others that feel comfortable in their own skin.
Sometimes dysphoria means we unfairly judge ourselves in comparison to other people, cis or trans. Rather than compare yourself to others, try to look at them for inspiration or a reminder of what you are capable of. YouTube is a great place to find videos of all different people. Keep in mind to not compare their middle to your beginning if they are farther along in their transition than you. EVERY trans person started their journey with feelings like yours.
Allow yourself to feel.
Sometimes a good cry is exactly what we need to feel better. There’s nothing wrong with crying, screaming, or anything else that feels right in that moment (as long as it is not hurting yourself or anyone else). Journal about it or talk about it with someone you trust.
Meditation can be a great way to put your mind to sleep and push out the negative thoughts. Use an app like HeadSpace, Breathe2Relax or Jiyo to keep on track and direct your feelings into a healthy habit. Pranayama Breathing is another great option for those who are not used to meditating or have trouble quieting their thoughts.
A great way to zone out and focus your attention away from your dysphoria is to doodle or color. There are hundreds of different varieties of coloring books, from Disney to cartoons to adult coloring books. Chuck Palahniuk has an awesome new adult coloring book coming out called Bait!
Do something nice for someone else.
There’s nothing better than making someone else smile (especially when you’re struggling to make yourself smile). Happiness really is contagious. Also, karma points for doing things for others!
Whether you’re feeling dysphoric or not, start your day off with positive affirmations. Make a habit of this, beginning each day repeating your affirmations to set the tone for your day.
“I am beautiful, inside and out.”
“I am enough.”
“I am worthy.”
Create a self-care box.
Use any box or container you like — for me, I use a Nike shoe box. I love Nike sneakers and the box makes me smile because it reminds me of the feeling of opening up a new pair or sneakers. You can even decorate the box or design it however you like. Inside, place items that will assist you in your self-care or moments of extreme anxiety or dysphoria.
For example, I have a book of crossword puzzles (they help me to focus on something other than what I’m feeling at that moment), little notes to myself that read “everything is temporary, feelings are fleeting” and “for every dark night, there’s a brighter day -Tupac.” You can put books, CDs, photos — anything that lifts you up.
Create a Self Care Journal or a Gratitude Journal.
There are “Gratitude Journals” that you can buy online, or you can create and customize your own.
Begin each day by writing one thing you like about yourself, one thing you are grateful for, and one thing you hope to achieve (short-term achievements or specifically an achievement for that day.) When you get to a point where writing one thing for each of these categories becomes a habit or eases up, start writing two for each category.
The entry for Day #1 may look something like this:
I like my funny personality
I am grateful for the ability to wake up each day and feel brand new
Today I will go grocery shopping by myself
At the end of the day, go back to the same notebook and write one thing you enjoyed about your day and one thing you look forward to for tomorrow. It’s okay to repeat things, this isn’t a test. It’s about building positivity and happiness, one healthy habit at a time. This is also a great way to see how much you are accomplishing and growing!
Helping a Loved One Feeling Dysphoria
Many ask, “in what ways can I support my partner or friend when they are experiencing extreme dysphoria?”
Experiencing dysphoria is like experiencing a loss of self, over an over again. It’s painful, it’s heartbreaking and, at times, it can be life-threatening. What is needed at this time is unconditional love, acceptance and compassion.
Show support and validate feelings.
One of the go-to questions in my house, whether it’s myself or my partner feeling down, is “how can I support you right now?” This question allows the other person to acknowledge that their partner is there, they are listening, and they are ready to support you. It’s a loving reminder that you’re not alone but also gives the opportunity for you to respond with “what I really need right now is a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and Pitch Perfect on the TV.”