Category Archives: Tools / Resources / Training

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. 

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 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.


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!

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. 

Recognition feels amazing, but isn’t worth worrying about

On May 3rd 2019 Indrani was recognized as a champion of gender equity and justice for both her global work to lift women and girls out of poverty, and her domestic work to improve the level of care for domestic violence survivors by teaching front-line advocates resilience against compassion fatigue and burnout.

Indrani was so excited to receive her award from Vagina Monologues writer Eve Ensler.

After the event Indrani recorded this video for you to talk about how it feels to be recognized, whether that recognition is something small or something big, and to encourage you to take a tiny step forward with whatever goal or dream you are envisioning.

Now it is your turn to answer Indrani’s questions:

What is it you want to do?
Why do you want to do it?
What are a few first steps you can take right now?

Leave a comment below with your answers to these questions so Indrani and the ILF Team can share your journey.

Sakhi for South Asian Women (Sakhi), New York City’s first South Asian American women’s organization and an award-winning nonprofit that combats domestic and sexual violence in NYC’s South Asian community, celebrated 30 years of service and advocacy at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at its gala ‘Honoring the Power Within’, on May 3, 2019.

Recognizing Triggers and Learning How to Manage Them

Removing yourself from a violent relationship doesn’t mean you’re suddenly better.

The road to recovery is long, and along the way survivors often experience what experts call “triggers.” These triggers can cause anxiety, depression, sadness, and panic.

Learn to cope with your emotional triggers

What are Triggers?

A trigger is anything that consciously or subconsciously reminds you of your past abuse. It’s almost like a sudden flashback, or a recording playing in a survivor’s head. These traumatic triggers put a survivor right back in the middle of terror. Triggers are terrifying, and survivors are unable to control their emotional and physical responses in the midst of such fear.

Triggers can be internal or external. Internal triggers occur in our minds and promote the urge to relive a particular moment. External triggers are environmental factors that accost us suddenly and often without warning.


What Causes Triggers?

Triggers can be caused by a multitude of sounds, smells, sensations, and environments. As each abuse situation is different, so is a survivor’s particular traumatic triggers. Below are a few more common triggers:

  • Seeing a fabric pattern, familiar shirt, or passing a familiar location
  • Hearing the sound of breaking glass, revving of a car engine, a balloon pop, or particular quality of voice
  • Smelling a particular cologne or food
  • Experiencing a particular holiday event or celebration
  • Feeling a hug, a friendly pat on the back, or a gentle hand on the arm

As you can see, triggers can come as the result of good things, not just scary things. In all these instances, a survivor may be physically safe, but mentally and emotionally returns to a moment of danger. It may take some time for survivors to identify their triggers. And it may take even longer for them to confide in those around them. The sooner these two things happen, the sooner a survivor and all supporters can learn to cope with these triggers in a healthy manner.


Coping with Triggers

Domestic violence survivors are strong individuals. Many go on to advocate for those still trapped in abusive situations. Even in the midst of helping others, these survivors are in the healing process themselves. Many find themselves working in domestic violence shelters. Whatever path they choose, chances are they’re still dealing with triggers.

Sometimes we can avoid triggers. We can choose to refrain from driving by a particular location. We can remove items from our homes that remind us abusive situations. Here are a few tips to help cope with the traumatic triggers we can’t control:

Learn to Recognize Your Triggers

When you can learn to identify your triggers, you’ll be able to start working towards a means to cope with them. In the process, don’t disparage yourself for them. They’re aren’t foolish, dumb, or inconsequential. If seeing your abuser at your children’s school events causes you to freeze inside, have friends save a seat for you. Tell them what’s going on so they can help you through it.

Catch Triggers Early

The more you know what your triggers are, the better chance you have of catching yourself early in your response to them. When you’re able to catch your response early, before your emotions snowball into a big scary manner, you can manage it more easily.

Don’t Run Away

The natural instinct when we’re experiencing a traumatic memory is to run. To get away from what’s causing the pain. When we do this in the middle of a traumatic trigger, we don’t learn to make it through. We don’t learn to overcome. When we choose to stand with ourselves in the middle of the panic, we can begin to assure ourselves that we can make it through. That we aren’t in danger like we were before. That we are built to be survivors.

Talk It Out

Find a trusted friend to talk through your triggers. When you talk about your thoughts and feelings, you can actually gain more mastery over them. Additionally, you can develop a mantra or two to help you with your particular triggers. That way, when you’re at the beginning of a traumatic trigger episode, you can talk yourself back down onto solid footing.

Find a Positive Sensory Experience

Finally, consider a comforting smell or texture that you can keep in your purse or pocket. One that makes you feel like you’re wrapped in safety. It may be an essential oil (smell), a smooth stone (touch), or a favorite song (sound). Any of these can serve as a grounding for you when you feel your panic start to rise.

However you choose to cope, be gentle with yourself. Seek support from trusted people around you.