This post piggybacks off my latest podcast episode: Self-Care Practices I Use When Engaging with Master Manipulators. If you haven’t watched or listened to it yet, I invite you to do so. It’s a short 21 minutes🧘🏻♀️.
Since writing this post, I’ve created an email course that dives into each of these practices. It’s filled with short videos, meditations, workbooks, and even a full-length yoga sequence. You can learn more about this course here.
If you’re not into podcasts or prefer to digest the info in a blog post format (#relatable), the gist is that being around someone who manipulates and/or gaslights to get what they want is incredibly taxing to the spirit. It can even trigger a post-traumatic stress response. Think about it – being constantly “put into your place,” diminished, and being told that your reality – your life experience – is wrong is a surefire way to question your sense of self, increase your anxiety, and believe that you’re losing your mind. I don’t say this lightly.
In the podcast, I walk you through some simple self-care practices that I employ that have made a tangible difference in my sanity and energy levels post-engagement with such individuals. I hope that they help you like they’ve helped me.
A few self-care practices I use to calm TF down and get grounded when I’ve been in a toxic environment:
- Get out in nature, preferably barefoot (just try it, seriously!)
- Journal, burn, & cleanse
- Meditate with a mantra like Sat Nam (translation: truth is my essence)
- Do 3-part breathing
- Ride the wave
- Take child’s pose
Let’s take a look at each practice. Oh, and just a warning that I’m feeling particularly feisty tonight for some unknown reason. If you’re a regular, you’ll note that it doesn’t sound like my usual self, but it’s me. Promise.
1. Get out in nature
This is my FAVORITE self-care practice! Look, I know that we’re all wired differently and there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to this stuff, but please do yourself a favor and try this. If it resonates with you, it will be a game-changer. And if it doesn’t, at least you’ll know that you sooo don’t have an inner hippie dying to come out and play!
The key for me is to make an energetic exchange with the Earth. This means I make contact with my skin against the earth, grass, trees, plants, air. I kick off my shoes (while watching out for land minds and bees!) and walk through the plush grass. Sometimes there are puddles, and I squish through them, too. Whatever. I’m very present and in the moment. I fee the energy. I breathe the smells (pine sap is amazing!) as I rest my cheek against the gnarly old conifer. Or take in Grandpa Oak. I watch with wonder as a squirrel chases his potential mate up and down the young maple tree. I take it ALL in.
This is a very grounding practice. When your anxiety’s through the roof because you were just gaslit and manipulated, you need to come back down. Ground. Get centered. Reorient. Getting out in nature does these things for me and for millions of others. Try it.
2. Journal, burn, & cleanse
Need more than hugging trees? Try journalling until you have not a single word left to write. Then, write some more. Write about what happened, how you feel, whatever comes up. EVERYTHING. Don’t hold back.
Then, *responsibly* burn what you wrote. Or you could just rip your paper up into tiny pieces. But burning shit is way more satisfying, isn’t it?! Do what works for you.
And finally, take a shower. Clean off the mental sludge. The energetic ick. The shit that’s making your skin crawl. Shower off the negativity, the toxic charge. If you can’t shower, burn some incense in a ritualistic manner. Maybe smudge. Cleanse your space. Your energetic field.
This is a cleansing practice and paves the way for an energetically clean start.
3. Meditate with a mantra like Sat Nam (truth is my essence)
I can hear your protests. You’re too worked up to meditate. You can’t quiet your mind. YOU CAN’T STOP THINKING. And, wtf is up with this “Sat Nam” thing?!
Look, I meditate – it’s my other favorite practice – but this is NOT the post where I try to convince you to sit in lotus and clear your mind and get enlightened.
No, this is where I give you one simple tool – a mantra – and tell you that you can “meditate” any way you damn well please. You don’t even have to say Sat Nam (“I am truth, truth is my essence”) – you can repeat anything over and over and over again that doesn’t stimulate other thoughts. Here’s how it works:
- Skip forward to 6:52 in this video to get my take on why you can do this even if you’re certain meditation isn’t for you.
- 8:41 is where I get into the actual technique, in case you really can’t be bothered with this video stuff.
- And, in case you simply refuse to watch the video…hold your left hand up and repeat the following syllables/sounds as you tap the corresponding finger to your thumb:
- Sa => index finger taps thumb
- Ta => middle finger taps thumb
- Na => ring finger taps thumb
- Ma => pinky finger taps thumb
If you have privacy, I recommend saying the mantra out loud, starting at a normal voice, increasing the volume a bit, and then decreasing it until you’re at a whisper. Then, continue to repeat it silently in your head until you feel called to stop (probably after a minute or two). When you stop repeating the mantra internally, stop tapping your fingers. If you don’t have privacy, just recite it internally. Stay quiet, eyes closed (if that feels safe for you), until you decide that it’s time to slowly come back into your body.
If you’re like me, when you stop reciting the mantra things just seem to momentarily stand still. No thoughts for a few moments. Peace. And, the more you do it the longer the moments of stillness seem to get. Maybe you’re not like me and will have an entirely different experience. Totally legit! I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Mantra meditations are awesome in part because they make it hard to think. When you’re super focused on reciting a mantra, your brain – which happens to be a terrible vehicle for multitasking – just can’t deal with other invasive thoughts. If you find yourself thinking instead of reciting the mantra, no worries. Just start the mantra again. No self-judgment warranted.
So, mantra meditation is a practice that can help still the mind, bring peace, and induce a state of calm and clarity. These are all great things to bring into your energetic field after a toxic encounter, no?
4. Do 3-part breathing
Pranayama (Sanskrit for regulating the breath) is a favorite tool in the yogi’s toolbox. And, 3-part breathing – despite being pretty basic – can have a profound impact on the nervous system. It’s incredibly calming and centering and counteracts the sympathetic flight/freeze/flight response.
- Sit comfortably but with a straight spine, if possible (it’ll still work if you’re standing up or lying down, though).
- If you’d like, place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart (totally optional).
- Breathe in, filling up the belly…then filling up the chest…then drawing the last bit of breath up into the very top of your lungs near your throat.
- Slowly exhale, beginning with your belly, then your chest, then your throat. Suck your navel up and in to squeeze out that very last bit of breath.
- Rinse and repeat several times.
The purpose of this practice is to induce a state of calm.
5. Ride the wave
There’s a reason why both mental health professionals and Buddhist nuns recommend this practice (which is not always called “riding the wave”). Riding the wave is about allowing yourself to experience whatever it is that you’re experiencing without trying to change it. It’s about observing your feelings as they are and riding them out until they pass. Because they will.
Think about ocean waves. Somewhere out at a sea, something triggers the formation of a wave. It begins as an almost imperceptible blip but as it gets closer to shore it intensifies until it crashes down and gets reabsorbed by the sea. Now, imagine someone surfing that wave. The wave is going to do what the wave is going to do, and fighting it isn’t going to help the surfer. So, the surfer gracefully allows the wave to carry her until the wave is done being a wave.
A well-known mantra that you might try using to accompany this practice is “this, too, shall pass.”
Once the experience has passed, consider proactively choosing how you want to feel and then taking steps to move in that direction.
6. Take child’s pose
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ve undoubtedly done child’s pose. For many, child’s pose is soothing, calming, and encourages you to turn inward. Others need to make modifications to the pose to achieve these things.
To come into child’s pose:
- Sit back onto your heels (your knees can be together or spread wide…a great option for anyone with large breasts or bellies!).
- Allow your torso to melt forward and rest your forehead on the ground.
- Allow your arms to rest in whatever position speaks to you.
Modifications to make child’s pose more comfortable:
- If there’s a gap between your butt and heels, try putting a rolled up towel, hoodie, yoga mat, blanket, pillow, whatever(!) between your calves and hamstrings.
- This pose will feel best if you have some padding between you and the floor, e.g. carpet, yoga mat, rug, towel, blanket, etc.
- If your shoulders feel pinchy, try bending your arms, clasping your elbows with your hands, and resting your head on the “pillow” your bent forearms just created.
- A few arm variations to try:
- Bending your arms while clasping your elbows with your hands
- Arms alongside your calves
- Arms bent and resting your forehead on a yoga block or book or pillow
*Note that I’ve demonstrated child’s pose and some variations at 16:30 in my related podcast video.
Also, please note that this pose isn’t for everyone. If you feel triggered in any way doing child’s pose or if you can’t get physically comfortable, please come out of it immediately. Do not tough your way through it.
I’ve just shared some of my most readily available practices for calming down and counteracting the post-traumatic stress response I sometimes experience after engaging with very challenging people. Take what you like and leave the rest.
I hope that these practices help you to regain your center after a highly stressful encounter. Of course, you can use these practices anytime you’re not feeling grounded or are upset – no encounters with toxic energies required!
Also, I created a 7-day email course based on these practices (plus a surprise!). If you’d dig getting an email from me each day for a week where I walk you through these practices in way more depth than I do in this post, click here to check out the deets. Thanks!
If you have any practices you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. Thank you!