All posts by ILF Team

4 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference in Your Loved Ones Lives

Advocate, we know you give 110% every single day — to your job, your family, your neighbors, and your friends. The requirements for your daily life are unrelenting. To think about giving more, even just a little bit, may push you to the edge of tears. How can you find one more ounce of strength and courage? Working with survivors is one of the most rewarding things you can do, but compassion fatigue is real. We’re here to help — you, survivors, and your families. Our list below is a hug to all of you, to help you live just a bit lighter and smile just a bit brighter.

These simple things can make a big difference:

Meditate on the gift of family.

You can make a big difference in your loved ones lives by meditating on the gift of family

This one is just for you, Advocate. Take 5 minutes to pause and think on the gift of family. Whether it’s birth family or chosen family, count the ways they bring joy to your life. Think of their smiles, their laughter, the way they crinkle their eyes after they say something funny. Feel their hugs, their warmth when you sit together. Think on the all way they make you feel safe. Visualize the ways they fill your life with color. Two minutes in and you’ll probably feel energy seep back into your heart. Four minutes and you can’t wait to see them. 

Smile when you see them.

You can make a big difference in your loved ones lives by smiling when you see them

Before you allow chores or dinner plans to take over your thoughts, greet your loved ones with a smile. There’s power in this simple act. You convey to yourself that you are happy and hopeful, and to everyone around you that they are accepted and welcome. Try one on right now. Feel your cheeks rise right along with your mood. (In fact, a British study states that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate and can be as stimulating as receiving $25,000. We like the sounds of that study!)

Verbalize Your Appreciation

You can make a big difference in your loved ones lives by making a list of all the reasons you love them

When we intentionally stop to think about all the ways our loved ones add to our lives, our list grows pretty quickly. Make note of things as you think about them. Write an old-fashioned pen-and-paper list. Use the reminders on your phone. Whatever ways you choose to keep tabs on the wonderful uniqueness of your loved ones, make sure you look them in the eye and tell them with your words. 

Share the Reasons You Serve

You can make a big difference in your loved ones lives by verbalizing your appreciation

Think of all the things you do each week to keep your loved ones up and running. Perhaps you grocery shop, run errands, clean the house, wash the laundry, or run the kids to school. Talk to them about why you do it. Here are a few examples:

  • I love washing your sheets so you have a warm cozy bed.
  • I love driving you to school so I can have one last hug before you learn.
  • I love grocery shopping for you so we can eat healthy food and feel good as a family. 
  • Keeping the house clean helps me keep you safe, and I love knowing you’re safe and comfortable.
  • Running errands is so much better when I get to spend time with you. I love hearing about how your day has gone. 

These things not only bless your loved ones, they help you stay focused on the positive things that are part of your daily life.

By doing this, you’ll be able to #fillyourcupfirst. Advocate, thank you for the ways you make a difference every single day, at work and at home. Our world is a better place because you’re in it. 

What Happens After the Shelter: A Daily Self-Care Routine to Keep You Strong

There’s no question that you’re making a difference in the world as a advocate or shelter worker. But when it comes to the day-to-day grind, most advocates find themselves either worn out or headed there. A daily self-care routine can bolster you through the difficult days and sustain you so you’re able to make your long-term goals happen.

a-self-care-routine-allows-you-to-give-from-the-overflow

With a strong self-care routine, you’ll not only be able to support survivors, but also remain safe, healthy, and happy. This trickles down to safe, healthy and happy friend and family relationships as well. Let’s talk about how to get to a healthy self-care routine.

What is self-care?

The Oxford Dictionary defines self-care as follows:

Self-care [selfkair], NOUN. The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health; The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

This definition extends the cliché self-care vision of bubble baths, candles, and massages to a countless array of options. A self-care routine looks different for every single person. Why? Because self-care involves what youneed to preserve your own health. Consider the following self-care routines:

Practice Gratitude

a-daily-self-care-routine-involves-gratitude

Taking time to daily note the things in life that you’re grateful for can lead to an invaluable legacy. (It’s more than just thanks!) Life gets busy and it may feel like it’s not worth it. The house is a mess, the laundry is waiting, and dinner needs to be made. But what if you did it anyway? What if you showed up, took 5 minutes, and learn to be habitually be grateful for the ordinary, seemingly inconsequential moments? This five minutes a day can be life-changing! You can even keep it all in a gratitude journal. Indrani shares her own process here.

Communicate Your Needs

Clear boundaries can be a form of self-care. Even if you aren’t fully clear on what healthy boundaries look like for you, have courage to start somewhere. For some, this first step may be learning that you have permission to take up space in the world. The next step in boundaries may be to learn to be clear about the way you view things. When we don’t communicate these viewpoints, the uncomfortable things often get stuck inside until they blow up. Consider that remaining quiet in difficult situations often isn’t respectful to your own values, your belief system, or your physical needs. Be in tune with how you feel when a boundary is crossed, and know that this ongoing stress can have many detrimental effects.

When it comes to boundaries, you can only control and change yourself in these situations, so focus on steps that you are in control of, no trying to change the other person in order to improve the situation. For more information on communicating boundaries, check out our free Live a Brighter Life course!

Expand Something You Love

Self-care doesn’t have to be about starting something new. It may be strengthening what you’re enjoying or already good at. Identify something you already love and making more space for it. Put more energy into it and make it stronger. Make an effort on the things that are already rooted and shore it up a little. This is the key to sustainability. Find the thing that works and do more of it.

Find Ways to Connect with Others

a-healthy-self-care-routine-connects-with-others

When you’re tired and feel like you’re barely keeping up with life in general, making time for friends and family may seem impossible. We’re built for community — relationships are what bolster us and keep us going. Even introverts need connection. (These moments will most likely look different than an extrovert’s time, but they’re still vital for a healthy you.) Consider some creative ways you can connect:

  • Find a group who is excited about something you love. From board games to cycling, there’s a community group for everyone. Meet regularly with them!
  • Try a weekly online meetup where you can talk face-to-face with others.

These relationships can increase your energy and are helpful for your state of mind and other relationship in your life. Self-care doesn’t have to be just about ourselves and doing things on our own. It can include others, too!

Hold Space for Your Personal Life

It’s easy to take work home with you. Often, we vent about work problems to those we love. While it’s great (and important!) to have a safe space, limit this time. Hold boundaries around your time together with loved ones so it can be a positive experience for everyone. It’s also important to have a conversation about what personal time looks like for each person in the relationship. For example, reading side-by-side may be viewed as together time for some, but personal time for others. These two areas may be defined very differently than what you might expect.

Take Small Steps Towards a Bigger Goal

a-healthy-self-care-routines-starts-with-one-small-step

If you want to run in a marathon next year, start the journey today. Tell everyone about your goal so you’re accountable to them as well as yourself. Reframe how you think about your daily or weekly activities so you’re reminding yourself of that these activities are part of that goal. For example, you’re not working out at the gym, you’re training for a marathon. This simple switch can help keep you motivated and on track!

Meditate

Whatever meditation means to you, pursue it. It may be quiet time to be within yourself. Perhaps it’s prayer time. Yoga can be an exercise of meditation. If you’re just learning about meditation, discover 4 ways meditation can help you stay balanced. If you don’t know where to start, meditate with Indrani:

Whatever form of self-care you choose, start simply.

Choose one thing and do it consistently. If you miss a day, forgive yourself. Get back in and start doing it again without self-condemnation. Remember, you’re doing the best you can for yourself, and it only takes one small step to get started.

For more examples of self-care practices, listen to these two Caring for the Caregivers podcasts:

How to Build Resilience as Advocates

Working with survivors is rewarding, but it can also be exhausting. Most advocates experience compassion fatigue at some point or another. Psychotherapist Dennis Portnoy believes that compassion fatigue is caused by empathy. “It is the natural consequence of stress resulting from caring for and helping traumatized or suffering people.” All this means that when you’re serving and coming alongside survivors, it just might wear you out. Staying healthy and whole as an advocate is vital, both to those your support and the loved ones who need you before and after work. 

Healthy boundaries help Care Givers remain healthy for their loved ones

Two vital keys help support advocates: personal boundaries and remaining present.

Setting and Maintaining Personal Boundaries

Personal boundaries are the mental, emotional, and physical limits you establish to protect yourself. They separate who you are, what you feel, and what you believe from the thoughts and feelings of others. In other words, they’re what define your “you-ness.” Any time someone crosses these boundaries you’ve established, it’s an infringement.

Unhealthy boundaries show up in a lot of ways. 

You might need to establish healthier boundaries if any of the following ring true for you:

  • You’re a people-pleaser.
  • You give for the sake of giving.
  • You take for the sake of taking.
  • You let others define you.
  • You expect others to fulfill your needs.
  • You feel guilty saying “no.”
  • You don’t speak up when you’re treated badly.
  • You play the victim.
  • You accept advances without first granting permission.
  • You don’t keep yourself safe.
  • You hug people you’re unfamiliar with.

Healthy boundaries allow you to be confident in who you are, what you feel, and what you believe.

What a better way to live! Unhealthy boundaries push you into lying. Wait, what? Unhealthy boundaries cause you agree to things you don’t want to do or don’t believe in to please people, gain approval, or avoid guilt. You quickly say, “Yes, I’d love to,” when you don’t have time, energy, or passion for it. You can wind up stressed out, exhausted, and failing to keep up. No one wants to see you there! 

A brighter life for Care Givers is possible

It’s important to remember that healthy boundaries are often a work in progress. Establishing healthy boundaries starts when you know your values. And from there, you can begin to say “no” by saying “yes” differently.

Remaining Present Physically and Emotionally

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone but suddenly realize that your thoughts are a million miles away? How about playing with your child but mentally trying to solve a difficult situation at work? It can be difficult to remain physically and emotionally present at home, especially when you’re working with traumatized and suffering people at work. 

Take a few minutes to center and grounding yourself takes only minutes but makes a big difference.

When you find your mind wandering, a few deep breaths through your nose can help pull yourself back to the present. When you’re transitioning from work to home, take a few moments as you leave to intentionally leave work at work. Listen to a meditation with Indrani on your way home.  

Care givers can take a few minutes to center and ground yourself.

Unpack your emotions related to the problem you’re trying to solve.

When you have healthy boundaries, you are able to live confidently. If something keeps tripping you up mentally or emotionally, it’s often the result of a boundary issue. Take a few moments to ask yourself what boundary is being crossed and whyyou have that particular boundary. Once you’re able to unpack the root cause of the problem, you’ll be able to pursue a healthy solution.

Establish a gratitude practice.

Start a gratitude journal! Bookend your days with a short list of things you’re thankful for. Surround yourself with positive people who make you shine. The more we shine, the more we’re available for love. And if you aren’t sure where to start, consider uncovering your strengths. When we pursuse our strengths, we’ll be able to handle stress and life challenges, become happier, and develop more satisfying relationships.

Boundaries setting and remaining present takes discipline and practice. Training can provide the tools to make the process easier. It also helps you establish a support network of like-minded people. If you don’t know where to start, jump into our free Live a Brighter Life course. These six classes with teach you to live a more empowered life. If you’d like training for your shelter, organization, or group of Advocates, contact us. We’ll show you how to respect yourself, establish healthy boundaries, and build resilience. A brighter life is possible!

How to Help a Friend Who Is Being Abused

We all hate the thought of abuse, but many don’t know how to express concerns about a friend who is being abused. What we do know is that abuse is all around us. More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the U.S. report having experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 

How to Help a Friend Who Is Being Abused

According to the National Center for Abuse and Domestic Violence (NCADV), “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.”

According to JaneDoe.org, 90% of all domestic violence survivors are female and most abusers are male. As a result, we refer to survivors in this article as “she,” but realize that men can be abused as well.

If you suspect someone you love is being abused, it’s important to broach the topic with her. It’s tempting to want to rush in save the day, but abuse is complicated. Confronting abuse has the potential to be dangerous, especially for the abuse survivor. There are many ways to help a friend who is being abused. We cover a few below:

Voice Concern

When we see a friend getting hurt, whether it be physically or emotionally, let her that know you’re concerned. Initiate the conversation rather than wait for her to say something. Let her know you’ve seen some things that don’t seem healthy for her and ask her how these make her feel. It’s important to allow her space to identify these situations and work through the pattern of abuse.

Generational violence normalizes abusive behavior, so it may be difficult for her to realize she deserves a safe relationship. When you voice concern, it’s important to ensure this talk is at time and place that is private. It’s helpful to have this discussion in person, as well.

Listen

It may be tempting to share your concerns and then walk away, letting her decide whether or not to heed your warnings. Or worse, tell her what she should do. An abused woman is already being told what to do by their abuser. They don’t need you trying to control them as well. Instead, invite conversation. Ask her what she would like to see in her relationship. Abuse is about power, so ask how she would like to see herself regaining some of her own power. 

If you suspect a friend is being abused, voice concern

Be patient as you listen. It’s often difficult for a survivor to talk about her abusive. She’s learned to live in denial to survive, so a shift in thinking may take time. 

Support

Far too often, people choose to support an abuse survivor only if she leaves her abuser. When we offer this conditional support, we are no better than her abuser, who uses manipulation to control behavior. And if she chooses to remain in the relationship, your conditional support only isolates her more.

An individual who has been abused may lose her voice — her ability to speak for herself. Encourage her to talk and explore some potentially new thoughts concerning her relationship. Sometimes support looks like helping her find someone to talk to who has experience in dealing with abusive relationships. 

No matter what she decides at the end of your discussion, remain supportive. If she decides to remain in the relationship, you may voice concern, but again, remain supportive of her.

Don’t Blame

Let her know that the abuse is not her fault. It’s common for a survivor to think that if she had handled the situation better or used a different tone of voice the abuse would not have happened. An abuser chooses to abuse, and this choice has nothing to do with the actions of the survivor. Never blame an abuse survivor for her abuse.

Help Make a Safety Plan

If you suspect a friend is being abused help her create a safety plan

Creating a safety plan might involve a packing bag of essentials. It may be developing a code word so she can let you know that she is in danger without her abuser suspecting she is sounding cry for help. You can help arrange a meeting place if she needs to leave at a moment’s notice. It’s also helpful to have a list of local shelters in the event a safe, private shelter is needed.

Well-Known National Resources

If you work with abused women, thank you! We encourage you to remember to continue to care for yourself through the process. Self-care and a practice of gratitude is necessary to keep yourself centered and to remain strong. Our Live a Brighter Life Course and Caring for the Caregiver is a unique and powerful resource for people just like you. We also host monthly Caregiver Call. Check our Facebook page for details on the next call.

How to Say No by Saying Yes Differently

We can all learn to give a powerful and positive “no.”

Have you ever struggled with boundaries? Perhaps you’ve been able to say “no” to someone but doing so filled you with anxiety. Or maybe you were plagued by guilt afterwards. There’s a way to say “no” differently, in a way that is helpful and — believe it or not — easy.

Learning to say “no” is important. In fact, there’s a world out there that needs us to say “no” once in a while (or all the time). It’s a world in which you can create what you want, protect what you want, and then change what no longer works. There’s a way to not just say “no,” but to say it powerfully and positively. 

Below you’ll find some solid principles on how to say “no,” taken straight out of William Ury’s book, The Power of a Positive No. (Over the last thirty years he has helped millions of people, hundreds of organizations, and numerous countries at war reach satisfying agreements.) We love this book! 

An unhealthy “no” shows up in three ways.

Before we get to that empowering place of “no,” we need to understand the ways in which we’re currently giving an unhealthy “no”: 

  • Instead of saying “no,” we accommodate. In the process we lose power.
  • Instead of saying “no,” we attack. In the process we lose the relationship.
  • Instead of saying “no,” we avoid. In the process we lose both power and the relationship.

These are all unhealthy noes. If you’re unsure what type of unhealthy “no” you tend to give (and it may be more than one category), think of an instance in which you’d like to say no to someone or something but don’t know how to say “no.” What emotions do you feel? What physical symptoms do you experience?

Yes, all that.

In this moment as you think about the situation, you might feel anxiety. The beginnings of a headache. Guilt. Defeat. These feelings and emotions are great signals to let you know that you need to learn how to say “no” in a healthy manner.

A healthy “no” centers on our values.

We feel these things because whatever uncomfortable situation we find ourselves in is typically a situation contrary to our values. Our values are unique to each of us. We could define values as a GPS system that helps us remember where we’re going. Values are something we carry with us every single day to help us make our decisions. Values point us to our purpose in life. They’re what make us work the long hours, give until we don’t feel we can give anymore, and then go home and give to our families. Our values allow us to know what’s a true yes and what’s an actual no. 

A healthy “no” follows a formula.

A healthy “no” involves three parts: yes, no, yes. 

  • The first yes is a yes to ourselves and the values that are important to us. 
  • No is a firm enforcement of our boundary.
  • The second yes offers another possibility or option. An “I won’t do that but I can do this.” This is another yes to ourselves but in way that aligns with our values. There isn’t always a second yes.

Let’s visualize this. Imagine a tree. The first yes is the root system. It provides the stability for the tree. Our values provide our stability. The no is the trunk of the tree. It is firm and straightforward. This is how we stand in the face of something that is contrary to our values. The second yes is the branches. A branch the possibility we offer as a different solution. We can choose one of many options. This isn’t a compromise or an accommodation — it’s a different plan, one that aligns with our values and reinforces them.

A-healthy-“no”-centers-on-our-values

Occasionally, we might experience some pushback to our positive “no.”  If we waver in the face of this pushback, it’s a sign that we need to go back and explore our values and identify a more important one that supports our first yes. Once we discover our core values — the deep ones — we won’t waver, feel guilty, or second guess our positive “no.” 

If you’d like to learn more, are struggling with setting healthy boundaries, or find it difficult to say “no,” sign up for our Live a Brighter Life Course.

In this free course, we teach people to live with more joy and more freedom. And that involves learning to say “no.” Whether you’re a survivor of domestic violence or a CEO of a world organization, living in a shelter or running a shelter, this course will challenge and encourage you!

Setting Up Fundraisers to Support Domestic Violence Shelters

Domestic violence shelter needs may seem daunting. They need healthy food, personal hygiene items, laundry detergent, children’s toys and games, and clothing. Often survivors need medical attention, counseling, and legal advice. All need a clear path to stability. And it takes funding to make it happen. With a little ingenuity, a solid plan, and a willingness to ask, many people can raise more funds than they might believe. And it only takes one person to get the ball rolling. After all, it only took one woman — Rosa Parks — to start the civil rights movement. It took one man — Ghandi — to start a non-violent protest that led India to independence. Martin Luther nailed his 99 Theses to a church door and started the Protestant Reformation. Thomas Edison electrified the entire world with carbonized sewing thread.

And yet it also took a village, as these individuals built on the story they were given, one that was started by others before them and carried forward by others after them. The same is true when it comes to making an impact on your community. It takes one person with a vision and a passion to inspire others to rally around a worthy cause. Why can’t that person be you?

Whether you’re a shelter worker, a business owner, or a stay-at-home mom, you have the potential to change the world and impact your local domestic violence shelter in big ways. Below are a few steps to get you started on the road to setting up fundraisers and community events:

Set a goal.

Set a goal and be specific. You may want to raise a certain dollar amount. You may want to raise one ton or 100 cart-fulls of food. It may be all about stocking up on hygiene items. Whatever your goal is, make it specific. Whatever goal you set, share that goal with as many people as possible. People and businesses can’t rally around you unless they know the goal exists.

Build a team.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It takes a village.” This is true when it comes to fundraising as well. No one person can pull off a fundraising event. It might all stem from one person with a vision, like this woman in Kentucky who raised $40,000 in just one month for Welcome House. But it takes a whole posse of passion-filled people to plan an event. Together they can gather supplies, donations, and procure any entertainment. 

Your team needs to have variety and enthusiasm for the cause because no one person can do everything well. Some people are born planners. Some are born sales people. And others love to talk and put people at ease. Each person in our community has a special set of giftings. When setting up a fundraiser, match your tasks to the people who can do them well. When everyone is strategically matched to their job, your event can move forward more efficiently, but also more enthusiastically. 

Tell the story.

It’s one thing to say, “We need $3,000.” It’s another to share a story about how much $100 will go: 

  • 2 nights at our shelter
  • Meals for 20 individuals
  • Job training for 13 single moms

Help your audience visualize the change they will make when they give. Share the success story of a young man or middle-aged woman or a teen mom. How did staying at your shelter make a difference in his or her life? Surround your fundraiser with stories that people can relate to or visualize. When we help people see the tangible difference they personally can make through their contribution, the momentum to give can build. 

Plan well.

A good plan is a well-laid plan. Involve everyone in regular planning meetings to energy stays high, everyone is clear on the goals, and camaraderie is built. Communicate well and be specific in what you will need at every step in the process: before, during, and after your fundraiser. But no matter how well you plan, remember to be flexible. Not everything may go exactly as you want, but that doesn’t mean that setting up a fundraiser was all in vain. Keep your enthusiasm high, stay flexible, and lean on each other as you move forward. Be creative! The ways to fundraise are only as limited as your imagination.

Ask.

Most businesses and individuals will support your efforts. They may not give financially or physically, but they may be wiling to help by posting flyers and sharing the cause with their customers. They may donate their services. They may give their time. But remember, no one will be likely to give if you don’t ask. Start by asking your friends and acquaintances so you can build your confidence and rehearse your story with people more likely to give. And don’t be afraid to leave the door open to creative giving options. “Is there another way you could contribute to this cause?” is a great question to ask every potential donor. 

Make it fun.

People make the best memories when they’re having fun. If you make your fundraiser a celebration event, you’ll raise more money, but more importantly, you’ll build loyalty with the people who attend. Which means you may have just built a fundraiser that can continue for years to come!

How Training Helps a Shelter

Shelters Provide Basic Short-Term Needs

Shelters provide an amazing service to those in need. Every single one works a little bit differently, but the heart to help is their unifying mission. Shelters generally provide the following:

  • A Safe Space. Safety is a shelter’s priority, both for you and any children who come with you.
  • Confidentiality. Your situation and information is yours, and will be kept private unless you grant permission for that information to be shared.
  • Food, Clothing, & Toiletries. Shelters generally provide these necessities for you and your family.
  • Transportation. Most shelters will provide transportation to get you to the shelter. Many times, bus passes are provided to help you get to any appointments or a job.
  • A Place to Sleep. Shelters will provide a bed for you and your loved ones. This may be in a common room or a shared bedroom, but it will be warm, clean, and dry. 
What Shelters Provide

Often these things are provided on a short-term basis. Safe housing programs are typically available for 3-7 days. Homeless shelters can be for up to 6 weeks. Transition programs can last much longer.

Shelters Can Provide Long-Term Assistance

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs acknowledges that our basic needs must come first: food, water, clothing, and shelter. Once these very base needs are met, our safety needs come next: personal security, emotional security, health and well-being, and financial security. The final three layers of the pyramid of needs are belonging, self-esteem, all of which culminates in self-fulfillment. Shelters provide basic needs, and often provide some physical safety.

But what if a shelter could go beyond the basic provisions, and provide tools that could help sustain people for the rest of their lives? What if this could be done without overtaxing the already exhausted shelter workers? What if there were a training that actually helps these workers avoid compassion fatigue and instead helps them build resilience?

Our free Live a Brighter Life curriculum can do just this. In six classes, students will learn to do the following:

  • Set boundaries and define personal space
  • Say no by saying yes differently
  • Uncover self-respect by letting go
  • Uncover a self-compassion that leads to resilience
  • Stand in divine power
  • Reclaim self physically and emotionally by being present

These 6 principals will not only help shelter workers bring their best selves to work each day, it will help them establish firm boundaries that are loving and compassionate to both themselves and to those around them. And these foundational truths will help them learn to rest, refresh, and value themselves in a way that allows them to become their best selves. Live a Brighter Life reshapes perspective. When all workers in a shelter are focused on these principals, decisions will be easier to make, organization will become easier, and because of the overall lift in emotional and physical health, your internal culture will shift.

How Training Helps a Shelter

In turn, shelter workers can pass this knowledge on to all those who come through the doors. Our Train the Trainers program will help your advocates provide the tools to help those in your shelter to learn to stand in their own power, respect themselves first, and teach their children to be their best as well. 

And in turn — step by step — we’ll begin to change our communities and change our world. 

How to Be Strong While Still Being Gentle

When we think of a gentle person, we envision someone who is kind, amiable, and without rudeness

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength.” St. Francis De Sales

When we think of a gentle person, we envision someone who is kind, amiable, and without rudeness. 

A gentle person makes no abrupt movements or declarations. He or she is courteous, polite, and soothing to be around. There is no need to be hurried, to be harsh, or to act with violence. A gentle person exudes a quiet confidence. This is a confidence borne from being okay with the world and with what comes your way. It is derived from a calm, quiet mind. The ability to handle those things denotes an inner strength that is often overlooked. This gentle confidence is also evidence that there is a firm awareness of what is right and what is not.

We are gentle with our children — we nurture, educate, and come alongside them with compassion and empathy if they scrape a knee. Yet this gentleness will stand strong in the face of anyone who tries to hurt our children. We have a confidence that standing for them is the right thing to do, and something that we must do. It is born of love, but also conviction that protecting children is worth the effort.

Model Gentle Strength

St. Francis De Sales said, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength.” For years, he went about the countryside trying to bring people back to the church. These same people slammed doors in his face and threw rocks at his body. Yet his conviction led him to continually reach out. Eventually, he went to the children. It was his kindness and gentleness with the children that won over the parents and opened the doors of communication. But it was also his persistence in pursuing his beliefs. Wherever we stand on faith, we probably all agree that this quiet man who cared for children was a strong, dedicated man.

Establish Boundaries

Gentleness can be our greatest strength when we are aware of our boundaries and are willing to enforce them. There is safety in knowing where the edges of our boundaries rest. When we’re able to stay within these boundaries, we are gifted with a sense of safety and peace as a result. This boundary enforcement can be gentle while still being firm.

Where should we create boundaries? Boundaries exist in all areas of life. Consider the following general categories:

  • Physical
  • Mental 
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Professional
  • Fun

If we find we’re overwhelmed in any of these areas, there’s a good chance it’s because of a boundary issue. True strength is being able to gently remind ourselves of our own worth, our own needs, and the knowledge that when we honor these things about ourselves, we’ll be able to bring our very best selves to the world. Boundaries might mean taking 10 minutes when we get home from work to sit quietly and write in a gratitude journal. It might mean taking a walk every evening after dinner. It might mean setting time aside to put together a puzzle or practice yoga.

The first step on the path towards true strength is learning to be gentle with ourselves. Complimenting ourselves our own best attributes. Honoring our bodies. Creating a safe space for ourselves. And making room for joy. This is the path that leads to gentle strength.

Educating Others About Domestic Violence

Many around us have an image in their heads of what domestic violence looks like: black eyes, broken bones and shuttered windows. Many believe they could spot an abusive person fairly easily: the raging person who is uncomfortable to be around. But domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence, domestic abuse, or relational abuse) takes many forms. It often looks very different than what you’d think.

18% of teens experience domestic violence by someone they are dating

Who Experiences Domestic Violence?

The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic violence as “a pattern of behavior used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” It is not discriminatory — no matter the socioeconomics, age, gender, race, orientation, or religion. Consider these statistics straight from Janedoe.org:

  • Primarily Women. 90% of all domestic violence victims are female and most abusers are male.
  • LGBT. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are abused at approximately the same levels as heterosexual couples, but the abuse may be exacerbated by social isolation caused by societal oppression and discrimination.
  • Elders. 11% of individuals 60 or older reported experiencing abuse within the last year.
  • Children may be victims of domestic violence, hurt by being exposed to the violence and battering of a parent, and are sometimes used by perpetrators as threats of means to coerce their victims.
  • Teens. 18% of high school females and 7% of high school boys report being physically hurt by someone they are dating.
  • Immigrants. Domestic violence within immigrant and refugee communities can cause victims to be isolated socially and legally with complications due to documentation status and access issues due to language and culture. Abuse may be exacerbated by social isolation, language barriers, and lack of familiarity with local laws and services.
  • Men. 17% of men in relationships report violence committed against them by their partner.
  • Disabled. People with disabilities experience higher rates of domestic violence than the general public, often by the hand of caretakers or power relationships.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence can take many forms. Most media portrays it as physical or sexual, but this violence can also be financial or emotional. Abusers will use any means to control their partners in the relationship. They choose when, where, and how the abuse happens, and are often viewed by the general public as upstanding, dependable, well-adjusted people. Domestic violence can take on any of the following forms:

Physical

Physical abuse occurs when physical force is used against you in a way that injures or endangers you. It doesn’t suddenly happen overnight. There’s typically a slow escalation with verbal putdowns, veiled threats, and a gradual isolation from friends and family. Once the isolation

Questions to Ask if You Suspect Physical Abuse

  • Does your partner hit, push, slap, choke, kick, bite you or pull your hair?
  • Does your partner damage your property?
  • Does your partner burn you?
  • Does your partner refuse to let you or someone else leave?
  • Does your partner leave you in unfamiliar places?
  • Does your partner attack you with weapons?
Domestic Violence takes on many forms

Sexual

Sexual violence includes any action that hinders your ability to control your sexual activity or your ability to choose when, where, and how sexual activity happens. Anything other than consensual sex is an act of aggression and domestic violence.

Questions to Ask if You Suspect Sexual Abuse

  • Does your partner force you to have sex against your will?
  • Does your partner make you dress in a sexual way?
  • Does your partner refuse your request to use condoms or birth control?

Financial

When a partner controls the money and cash flow in the home, it could be a form of domestic violence. Removing access to finances can ensure that you can’t leave. It asserts power and control over your day-to-day life, and makes you subservient to their wishes and desires.

Questions to Ask if You Suspect Financial Abuse

  • Does your partner keep cash and credit cards from you?
  • Does your partner take your ID, money, or property without your permission?
  • Does your partner put you on an allowance and demand you justify every dollar you spend?
  • Does your partner keep you from working whatever job you want?
  • Does your partner sabotage your job by making you miss work, be late for work, or call constantly)?
  • Does your partner steal money from you or your friends and family?
  • Does your partner withhold money for basic needs?

Emotional

Emotional abuse affects how you feel about yourself. This is not just in the moment of intentional, overt abuse, but also how you feel about yourself and the world around you. Emotional abuse diminishes your feeling of self-worth and independence, making the world feel like an unsafe place.

Questions To Ask if You Suspect Emotional Abuse

  • Does your partner intimidate you?
  • Does your partner accuse you of having other relationships?
  • Does your partner threaten you, your children, family members, or pets?
  • Does your partner continually put you down or make you feel bad or stupid?
  • Does your partner keep you from contacting your friends and family?
  • Does your partner yell at you?
  • Does your partner blame you for abuse?
  • Does your partner have an unpredictable temper?
  • Does your partner withhold attention or affection?
Ways to help domestic violence victims

Ways to Help

Victims of domestic violence are often confused and scared. They second-guess themselves at every turn, apologize continually, and make excuses for their partner. They can sink into depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. If you suspect someone is being abused, speak up! Express your concern. Mention the warning signs you’ve observed. Ask if something is wrong rather than waiting for them to approach you. Listen to them, but don’t pressure them. Don’t give advice. Instead, just offer help. Support their decisions. Be the friend who initiates and be persistent.

Additionally, educate yourself on domestic violence looks like. Read about it. Gather resources like the Power and Control Wheel. Listen to podcasts. Share encouragement. Know the local shelters and other supports for victims of domestic violence. It’s far more prevalent than most believe, so the more people who know how to be a support, a resource, and safe place for those who need it, the more chance we have in stemming the tide of domestic violence.

7 Questions to Ask to Jumpstart Recovery

to jumpstart recovery recognize how trauma has affected you physically

For those healing from domestic violence, abuse or trauma, the first thing to realize is that recovery isn’t linear.

No one can outline the way recovery will progress and expect every person to follow that path step-by-step. Recovery is messy and complex and looks different for every single person. But recovery does have a few things in common, no matter the story. There are some questions that once someone is able to answer, will be able to jumpstart recovery. These are helpful to those in the process of recovery, but also helpful for those coming alongside these courageous survivors.

 

How has this trauma affected me physically?

This isn’t about broken bones and bruises, although those definitely come into play. This question is more about the changes this trauma has made on your brain and your nervous system. Our brains change throughout our lifetime, and this is a natural occurrence. But changes stemming from trauma can lead to PTSD, depression, substance abuse, personality disorders, and health issues. The sooner you’re able to identify these changes that come following trauma, the sooner you can seek treatment for them. And assure yourself that you’re not imagining things — you’re recovering from trauma and these symptoms are your physical body’s natural response.

 

Am I crazy?

Trauma can have a profound effect on so many areas of our lives. It can make you hypervigilant, panicky, and make your emotions go from 0-100 in a heartbeat. It can make you depressed and lethargic. And trauma can make you swing like a pendulum between the two. In short, it can make you feel very unlike yourself, and question your sanity. You can feel numb, and want to do something risky just so you feel something. Your memory might be unreliable. These can all be a result of the trauma you’ve experienced.

 

Will I always be a victim?

You aren’t a victim, you’re a survivor. Just this shift in perspective can help you regain much of your sense of control. Viewing yourself as a survivor will help reduce any shame that often accompanies trauma and abuse. It will remind you of your strength and resolve.

a support network will jumpstart recovery

Is there hope?

Yes, there is always hope. Optimism can still be part of your daily life, but it may take time to grow this perspective. It doesn’t mean looking at life through rose-colored glasses. Healthy optimism involves taking a brutally honest look at what has happened, where you are as a result, and then taking constructive action from that place. This type of optimism can reduce your sense of helplessness and direct you towards your next steps.

 

Do I have a strong support network?

Gathering people around you who will support you is paramount to recovery. Educate yourself on what you need. Be brutally honest with yourself in this process but keep your focus on the future, not the past. Remember that asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak — it means you’re courageous and willing to move forward.

Let your people know that you’ll need them to be proactive in their help because there may be times you’ll need them but struggle to ask for their help. Last, push yourself to respond to them when they call, text, or email. Sometimes this is easy, but there are times it will be difficult. Connection is a lifeline in the recovery process.

kids who experience trauma need support as well to jumpstart recovery

Will my kids be okay?

Kids who experience trauma or abuse need support as well. Make sure they have resources for their physical well-being. Help establish a support network for them. School may prove difficult for a time, so if there’s a school counselor available, make sure they’re introduced. Ask questions and fully listen to their responses. Parents often assume they know what’s going on in their child’s heart and mind. By giving your child space and time to share their story, you’ll gain sight into what their triggers may be and what sort of support they most need.

 

Will I even find good things again?

Gratitude plays a role in the recovery process. Challenge yourself to track the good things in your life right now. Make a list. Write down something every single day for which you’re thankful. This list will buoy you when you hit a rough patch. It can remind you of your progress and your own strength and resilience. And it will be anchor if life feels overwhelming.

when you jumpstart recovery you'll be able to find good things again

Recovery can be a long road, but one worth the effort. Give yourself time to heal and grow, and be gentle with yourself. And if you’re working with someone in recovery, be generous with your patience and encouragement.