Understanding Self Care
Survivors of sexual abuse, along with their family, friends, partners, and peer supporters, can benefit from appropriate self-care as part of their daily practice. Many survivors struggle with lack of self-esteem and may find self-care challenging, yet it is an essential part of the healing journey. Acknowledging the impact of abuse on survivors and those who surround them is essential to being effective supports. Taking care of ourselves, so that we are replenished, able to help others, and/or to embrace our own healing journey, is critical.
While self-care can be highly personal, there are some basic areas that survivors, and those that support them, can focus on. These include:
- Getting enough sleep. No one copes well without enough rest, and while this can vary it’s generally suggested adults get between 7-10 hours of sleep a night.
- Eating nutritious food regularly. Sometimes when we’re anxious we forget to eat, or we make poor choices that don’t nourish our bodies, or we might eat unconsciously. Eating mindfully also helps us stay in the present moment.
- Getting some exercise daily. This is really crucial for survivors and can help with depression and anxiety. Whether it’s biking, yoga, swimming, running, or even just walking for 20-30 minutes a day, exercise can make a tremendous difference to how we feel, and on our ability to cope.
- Seek health care if you need it. Sometimes survivors put off going to the doctor until problems become more complicated. Physical self-care is important, and it enables us to be healthier and more effective in our daily lives. Alternative practitioners like chiropractors, naturopaths, massage therapists and osteopaths can also be very helpful for survivors and their supporters.
- Take care of your emotional health by seeking counselling if you need it. Join a support group, debrief with a peer support person, or talk to a trusted friend or family member. Survivors, and their supporters, have also found that recording their thoughts in a journal can help them make sense of, and manage, their emotions. Others have found that meditation, or relaxation exercises or techniques, can be really effective in diminishing anxiety and feeling grounded.
- Nurture relationships with people who make you feel good about yourself. Set boundaries with individuals who drain your energy, dismiss or minimize your experience, or don’t have time to support and honour you. If there are people in your life who consistently make you feel bad about yourself, consider stepping back from that friendship or relationship.
- Try to let some things go. Screen your calls if you don’t feel like talking on the phone, or call someone back when you have energy. Cut yourself some slack in trying to do everything, and just try to accomplish what is feasible each day.
- Find some activities that are fun and energizing for you. Whether that’s a sport, hobby, volunteering, or taking classes, getting involved in activities can enable you to meet others, help another person, or accomplish something meaningful, in addition to allowing you to focus on something other than just your recovery.
Self-care also involves discovering what is soothing or relaxing for you. Everyone is different. Taking care of yourself might mean having a long bubble bath, taking a nap, reading a book, watching a movie, going fishing, stroking your dog or cat, listening to music, painting or other forms of art, doing a crossword puzzle or Sudoku. Find what works for you, and give yourself permission to take care of your needs. By doing so you reclaim and integrate the bits of yourself that were lost or stolen, and you begin to honour your own worth and value as a human being.