These last few weeks have been rough. Our news feeds and minds have been flooded with stories of natural disasters and sexual assault. For me personally, the #metoo movement came into news feeds the same week as the 5 year anniversary of my own rape (and my birthday). Because of that anniversary, Survivor Alliance launched its campaign to tackle rape culture that week as well (both serendipitous and odd). To say all that is overwhelming would be an understatement.
There’s a chance that you’re like me, already thinking and working around the issue of sexual assault all the time, but there’s also a chance you’re not. Maybe you haven’t experienced sexual assault previously and were shocked by those coming forward. Maybe you’re a survivor who doesn’t like to think about it. Or maybe you’re a survivor who didn’t identify as one until reading the stories in your newsfeed.
Whoever you are and whatever your situation, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the #MeToo movement (or whatever else may be going on in your world), self-care time is needed.
What is self-care
Self-care is exactly what it sounds like, taking care of yourself. That will be different for everyone. There’s no universal or right or wrong way to do it. It’s about figuring out what it is you need and taking steps to make it happen. It’s about doing activities that nurture your and bring you joy.
Why take time for self-care?
In trying times (basically, all the time), self-care keeps you grounded, happy, and sane. It’s so important in living an all around healthy life, but it can be easy to skip when things get hectic or draining, sometimes creating a vicious cycle.
Taking time for self-care isn’t just good for you. When you take time for self-care, it benefits others in your life too. As a friend, partner, sibling, employee, or caretaker, you are able to give more when you feel full. So in the wake of all those coming forward, and potentially looking for support after their harassment or assault, please take care of yourself. Many survivors, and women especially, forgo our needs in order to support others and tackle the never ending to-do list. While one might feel more productive or deserving in the short term, skipping self-care can lower one’s self-esteem or cause unhappiness and resentment. Establishing a balance of all these stresses with peace and joy is needed.
Example self-care activities
Again, self-care can look different for everyone. It doesn’t have to include dropping money on spa days to treat yo’self (it can though if you’ve got the dough). There are many ways to practice self-care that don’t involve leaving home or spending money.
1) Do something active.
Go for a run. A walk. Ride a bike. Play whatever sport it is you enjoy (and if it’s a team sport, you’re getting some community in that too, see #2 below). If you like dancing, go out and dance or do a solo dance party in your room.
Being active, even in short doses, can have positive effects on your physical and mental health. It gets your blood flowing and endorphins pumping. Many trauma professionals focus on physical activity, like dance, as a form of healing. That’s because it helps survivors reconnect to their bodies after trauma and express their feelings through artistic movement.
2) Be social
Call up a friend or family member that you trust. See what they’re up to. Invite them over for dinner or a wine night. Express what you’re feeling. Step it up a notch by doing one of these other self-care activities together, whether that’s lunch or a walk.
Feeling connected is so vital to creating community and human happiness. However, it’s good to keep in mind that not all connections are positive. If you find yourself constantly feeling drained around certain people, maybe they’re not who you should turn to when needing self care. Where possible, cut those toxic people out of your life (or at least minimize contact). Foster relationships that lift you up and make you feel good.
Get out of your own head for a bit and immerse yourself in a different world. Or, read to learn something new. There’s nothing else you need to do other than take in the words on the page.
If funds are tight, hit up your school or local library. You can also snag some great deals at thrift stores and garage sales. (There’s this used book store I go to every now and again, where I once got 12 books for $16! Now, I always seem to have a book for my mood.)
4) Go on a media diet
This one was recommended by the instructor of a class I took, How Trauma Affects Lives. Simply stay away from the news and social media for a bit. Maybe you go offline after 9pm every night or all day every Sunday. Whatever feels right for you.
There’s so much information coming our way every single day. People used to wait weeks for letters or news of world events (if they got them at all) Now, we are flooded with emails, texts, calls, and news feed updates every minute of every day. No issue is untouched on the internet, and we’re expected to care about them all. No wonder we’re all so overwhelmed.
Lately, there seems to be an expectation that everyone must always remain informed of everything that’s going on (especially with this #metoo movement). While staying informed is important, your health is more. Don’t take in information just for the sake of it (again, especially if it’s toxic). Consume mindfully and then give yourself a break. Maybe do one of the other things on this list instead of scrolling through Facebook reading articles for the next hour (but finish this one).
5) Spend time in nature.
When you’re on that media diet, nature is a prime place to be. Get some friends together for a camping trip. Go on a hike or day trip somewhere. If you don’t the time or means for that, go to your backyard or find the closest park and just lay in the grass. Plant a garden even.
Once you’re there, enjoy the feeling of grass on your feet, of birds chirping, of the wind in your face. Take pleasure in these small things. It can help you stay grounded and not get so caught up in the material, logical world.
6) Get some rest.
Your brain is tired. It’s processing so much information and emotions every second of the day. Take a power nap to let your body recharge. If naps aren’t your thing, try to get 8 hours of sleep each night. It gives you enough REM sleep to be awake, alert, and productive.
In between sleep, you can also give your brain a rest through meditation. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a practice focused on making you feel present in your body (through focus on breathing or visualizations) so you can clear your mind from distractions. There are a lot of mental health benefits, and I personally do it as often as I feel the need to clear my head. You can meditate in the morning, before bed, on public transit, or at your desk.
7) Nourish yourself.
Stay hydrated. Try to drink 8 cups of water per day. Spread it out so refilling your water gives you a chance to get up and stretch from whatever you’re doing. Eat something. Preferably something healthy like fruits or vegetables, but you know what? Even chips are better than nothing.
I personally struggle to carve out time for meals. When I get caught up in something, I’ll forget to eat or feel like there just isn’t time. What helps me is to always have supplies for easy go-to’s (like grilled cheese) on hand and to take at least one night a week where I cook a large meal. That way, there’s leftovers that can be easily reheated for a few days. Cooking itself can be a self-care activity. I know some who really hate doing it, but for me and others, it can be nice to take time for it.
8) Write it out.
For when you have a lot of feelings spinning around your head, let them out. Pound it into your keyboard or put pen to paper. Having a journal is a great way to let out feelings and track your mood over a period of time. When looking back, it can give you a better understanding of yourself and recurrent patterns in your life.
If you are interested in writing more but feel overwhelmed about doing it routinely, try starting out with a small pocket-sized notebook. Just write enough to fill one page, which takes only a minute or two. I recommend doing it right before bed to reflect briefly on your feelings of the day. If you feel compelled to write more, keep a larger notebook, start a blog, or submit content to Survivor Alliance’s blog.
9) Create something.
This can be the writing mentioned above or not. Paint. Draw. Color. Sculpt. Build. Play an instrument. Learn to make your own body products, clothes, or jewelry. Find outlets that bring you joy and express yourself.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t worry about making it perfect. Just create to create and see what happens. You might be surprised at how things turn out. If you aren’t the most artistic person, coloring books are great place to start. They’re really great at taking your mind off of things, and they’re easy to work on in small doses. I have this one and I absolutely love it.
10) Express gratitude.
Saving the best for last. We often underestimate the power to gratitude but it can go so far. If your reality is a result of your mentality, being thankful for all that you do have is more likely to create the life you want than hating on the things you don’t have or don’t like.
In your journal, maybe take some time each day to list 3 things that you’re grateful for. It could be that phone call with your friend, your job, or, on a particularly bad day, just being grateful that you have an able body. Write thank you letters to those supporting you, even just because. At the very least, when you feel happy, stop for a moment and take it in. Breath in the feelings, pause, and thank the universe for giving you that moment. It’s the little things that can change your day.
What will you choose?
The examples above are a few of the many ways you can show yourself some love. Some are just basic human needs and seem like common sense, but all of them have been shown to support one’s mood, not that you have to do them all.
So, even though you’re probably doing some self-care already (woohoo for you!), it’s easy to skip or forget when times are tough. Remember to take care of yourself all the time. No matter what’s going on, you always deserve it.
Many of the examples above include tips to get started and make self-care easier, but if you’re looking to make self-care even less stressful, you can have a box of new self-care items delivered to your door each month. Survivor Alliance’s self-care kit includes items like journals, markers, tea mugs, body care, zines and more, all delivered in a beautiful coloring box that can also be incorporated into your self-care routine. Items in the box are sourced from survivor or women-run small businesses, and proceeds from boxes bought at regular price help bring kits to sexual assault survivors at a free or discounted price. Anyone can pre-order boxes for 2018 and/or order a limited edition holiday self-care box here. If you’re a survivor and can’t dish out for a bulk pre-order now, join our email list to be notified when boxes are for sale on per-month basis or when scholarship applications go live for discounted boxes.