Practicing Self-care is vital to your healing process. Whether you or someone you care about experienced or witnessed sexual violence, self-care is integral to recovery. Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has created a list of self-care exercises and ideas for you to try.
1. Physical Activity
Motivating yourself to engage in physical activity can be difficult, but doing so releases endorphins and can make you feel better. It also improves your immunity and can serve as a distraction to any anxiety or distressing emotions you’re feeling. You don’t have to run a 5K to reap the benefits. Try taking a walk or stretching—these can help as well.
2. Reducing Stress
Trying to manage your everyday stress on top of your healing process can be overwhelming. Try some of these tricks to reduce stress in your life:
- Take five to thirty minutes in the morning to be quiet and meditate, and/or lie down and be with yourself…gaze out the window, listen to the sounds of nature, or take a slow quiet walk.
- Use your breaks between work or class to truly relax rather than simply “pausing.” For instance, instead of having coffee, a cigarette, or reading, try taking a short walk – or sitting at your desk and renewing yourself.
- Use the everyday cues in your environment as reminders to “center” yourself, e.g., the telephone ringing, dog barking, etc.
- Tap into your creativity—crocheting, knitting, drawing and painting are all good ways to outwardly express your emotions
Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment as a way to deviate from “auto-pilot” mode. Mindfulness is also noticing what’s happening without judging it or labeling it as good or bad. Some choose to practice mindfulness through meditation, however this is not the only way. Engaging in your senses is a way to re-center and ground yourself to your surroundings. Expressing your emotions and recognizing your trauma can also serve as self-care. Journaling, talking to a friend, and saying what happened out loud can help you come to terms with what happened.
Taking time out of your day to relax is important, especially when your mind is racing. There are a few techniques you can use to relax, like progressive muscle relaxation, controlled breathing, and visual imagery. For example, the gif to the right is a good tool to help control your breathing. Try inhaling while it expands and exhaling while it collapses.
5. Avoiding Compassion Fatigue
If you know someone who has witnessed or experienced rape or sexual abuse, it can be tempting to dedicate all your time and energy to them while they heal. However, it is important to remember that your well-being is also important. Recognize when to step back and focus on yourself.
These self-care and relaxation techniques can be beneficial to your health, but they can also sometimes be triggering. Modify these exercises to make you feel the most comfortable!
Adapted from the University of Buffalo School of Social Work