How To Practice Self-Care After You’ve Made a Horrible Mistake

About two weeks ago, I made an awful mistake.

It was a horrible, awful, no-good mistake that cost me a lot of money (we’re talking the to the tune of over 8,000 dollars, people), my reputation, an important work relationship, and my confidence.

I told you it was bad. And perhaps the hardest part of making such a large mistake was the fact that there was literally nothing I could do to make it better. I couldn’t apologize my way out of the mistake; I couldn’t fix the mistake; I couldn’t beg and plead for a second chance. I had no choice but to accept the mistake and try to move on.

Except it felt like moving on was absolutely impossible. I found myself stuck in a dark circle of self-destruction. I couldn’t sleep, every muscle in my body ached with tension, I was irritable and exhausted, and I couldn’t focus at all on the work that I did have left. My head swirled with negative self-talk: You’re a fraud, you’re a failure, you’ll never recover from this, you’ve messed up beyond repair.

I’m guessing that I am not alone in making a mistake, even one of such epic proportions. It’s been over two weeks and I am finally reaching a place where thinking about my mistake doesn’t cause my stomach to churn and my heart to race. I took several important steps to practice self-care in healing from my mistake that really did help. I’ve learned how the biggest obstacle in making any kind of a mistake is yourself–no one will be harsher on you than you.

Here are some of the steps I took to practice self-care in the wake of a massive mistake:

I asked for help.

As I stood stuck in the cycle of darkness, I finally decided to reach out for help. I turned to some trusted experts in my field, explained the situation, and confessed that I had no idea how to move on from the mistake. To my shock, many people not only shared that they had also made mistakes, but shared how bad the mistakes had been and how they had ultimately made them stronger. It was incredibly eye-opening to see that I was not alone and that even the most trusted professionals had struggled with mistakes too. Opening up allowed me to realize that I was not alone and that working means making mistakes–and learning how to overcome them.

running in gym

I exercised like crazy

Exercise has always been a self-care practice for me and a way for me to deal with stress. I carry a lot of internal stress and exercise is a way to give that stress an outlet. This situation was no different; I was able to hit the gym and literally sweat my problems away.

I gave myself time to wallow

I don’t really take a lot of downtime in my life. I tend to keep my head down and keep going. But in this situation, I decided I needed time to lick my wounds. Yes, it’s important to move on and yes, it’s important to take time to reflect on my mistakes and how to get better. But I also needed time to just be. I took a day or two to let myself wallow, I stayed in comfortable clothes, I wrapped myself up in a blanket, I indulged in reading a new book to take my mind off everything, and I tucked myself into bed early.

Young woman in bed while reading a book

I treated myself

On the day that I was feeling my lowest, something amazing happened: my monthly Cozy Reader box arrived. I couldn’t believe it–it felt just like the gift my soul needed and I almost cried with happiness that I had that little boost in my day to look forward to. The August box contained a delicious bag of buttery, caramel coffee and the most delicious brownies that had both espresso and dulce de leche in them. It’s not very often that I left myself have a mid-day treat that contains chocolate but in this case, it was definitely warranted. That small indulgence in the middle of my day made all the difference.

Workspace in home: fingers on laptop keyboard, red apple, legs in socks on a wooden floor and colored carpet

Focus on the things you are good at

In the height of my funk over my mistake, I was completely overwhelmed with everything I had done wrong, so I tried changing my thinking around. Our mind is a powerful tool and it influences everything about our lives. Instead of reliving the mistake over and over and dwelling on all the ways I had messed up, I instead tried to re-focus my thinking on everything I had done right. I won’t say that it completely healed me, it but it did help.

As with a lot of things in life, time was one of my biggest allies and over time, the pain and sting of my giant, awful mistake has lessened. And while I still am sad that it happened, I am no longer feeling lost in a swirl of self-destruction. Thanks to a little extra self-care, some positive reframing of my thoughts, and of course, chocolate and a good book, I was able to get back on track to feeling positive. A mistake is just that–a mistake, and it shouldn’t ruin everything else we have in our lives.

How do you bounce back after a big mistake? Does your strategy involve chocolate and books too?  

Guest Post By: 
Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN
twitter: @chauniebrusie

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