Healing Through Art

art is healing

Art doesn’t need to be for show. In fact, oftentimes artists are creating for themselves. Others appreciating their artwork is a bonus. Plus, research reveals that utilizing art therapy for healing can prove to be a helpful tool for trauma survivors.

Several months ago, I had the idea to attack a personal trauma of mine by drawing the way I felt about a particular situation. While drawing, coloring, and labeling my art, I found myself coming to a calm conclusion about various aspects of the situation. The next day, I was faced with a high-intensity situation related to the one I’d drawn about. It was comforting to simply grab the piece of art I’d completed to reflect on the emotions I’d processed.

The Science of Art

As it turns out, artistic expression can scientifically calm the storm in the mind in order to better reflect and process a painful situation by encouraging the brain to access a “flow state,” better known as “getting in the zone,” according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Art therapy can be a fantastic tool for survivors of domestic violence, regardless of whether or not someone considers themselves creative or artistic. 

The American Art Therapy Association says, “Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.” 

Earlier this year, Very Well Mind pointed out that while artistic expression, in general, can be beneficial, art therapy specifically asks clients to focus inward on their experiences. They stated, “in creating art, people are able to focus on their own perceptions, imagination, and feelings. Clients are encouraged to create art that expresses their inner world more than making something that is an expression of the outer world.”

Art and Trauma

The Hotline stated that recent research reveals that traumatic memories are stored on the right side of the brain. These memories are “non-verbal” (storing sights, sounds, and smells) whereas memories stored on the left side of the brain are “verbal.” 

According to The Hotline, “this means that commonly recommended self-care activities like journaling, talking to a friend, or even traditional talk therapy might not be the most effective strategies for working through [traumatic] memories and the emotional and physical reactions attached to them.” The article goes on to further explain how artistic expression can tap into the right side of the brain where traumatic memories are stored, which encourages a person to enter the previously mentioned “flow state” where intrusive thoughts stay at bay.

Interestingly, one way to access dopamine — a chemical in our brain related to reward and pleasure centers in the brain — is through a repetitive action. “Engaging in creative pursuits regularly can help train your brain to produce more of these feel-good chemicals that can improve your mood over time,” said The Hotline. Artistic expressions tend to provide a positive result (some examples include creating a brightly colored, pretty pot you can display in your home, effectively singing a note you have been practicing for a few weeks, or holding a yoga pose for a longer length of time than before). For me, I created a tangible piece of art that gave me the satisfaction of drawing something that turned out better than I expected, as well as something I could reflect back on whenever I needed to.

Art and Survivors

The connections that domestic violence survivors can create with each other is another vital aspect of art therapy. Art, in general, is somehow both an easy yet personal way to connect with others. Expressing past trauma, hardship or painful emotions is sometimes less uncomfortable to do when done through artistic expression. The feeling that music can express emotions better than just stating the way you feel is pretty universal, and applicable here.

Chanel Miller, who was known as the Emily Doe victim during the Brock Turner case, published a memoir in 2019 titled Know My Name. In her memoir, she spoke of attending an art program the summer after her assault, performing in a comedic stand-up production, as well as attending an art workshop for survivors — all various forms of artistic expression. She shared with The New York Times, “Drawing was a way for me to see that I was still there.”

In an article published by VAWnet, the writer said of a domestic violence survivor writing workshop they used to conduct, “As we worked together to find meaning in poetry and shared our vulnerabilities when reading our own writings aloud, we built community.” 

Finding community through art not only can provide survivors of domestic violence with that sense of safety, but it does so through a form of self-care. 

The path of healing can be accessed by getting out your colored pencils, paints, or ballroom Youtube video and seeing how far it takes you.

Photo Credit: Donny Jiang, via Unsplash

What Does it Mean to be In a Strong Relationship?

How can you tell if you have a strong relationship with the new person you are dating? After all, your abusive situation left you feeling unsure, doubtful, fearful, and hesitant. You became accustomed to second-guessing yourself at every turn. So how can you trust that you are in a strong relationship now? What does being in a strong relationship even mean?

Abusive relationships are fraught with intimidation, fear, verbal attacks, threats, and even physical violence. Strong relationships are very much the complete opposite of that.

What it looks like 

Strong relationships have a foundation of mutual trust and respect, honesty and communication, compromise, and safety.

How can you tell if the person you are dating is saying and doing healthy things to lure you in? How do you know this person won’t be like the last? It’s about consistency. Your new relationship will be consistent, meaning it will give you these following things in the same manner, in the same way, over and over: 

  • Time – Your new partner won’t rush you into anything. They will give you the time you need to feel comfortable and safe.
  • Space – Your new partner won’t want to keep tabs on you or want to be around you all the time. They will give you the space you need to have alone time and will also want you to spend time with family and friends.
  • Privacy – When I was in my situation, I was rarely, if ever, given privacy. He felt that my time was his time. Your new partner will respect the fact that you need your privacy and realize that you need your own time.
  • Patience – Your new partner, won’t lose their cool over you asking for room to grow comfortable in this new relationship. They will provide ample time and space. According to Psychology Today, “partners in a healthy, loving relationship extend each other a basic common denominator of patience that allows for peace, flexibility, and support when one person is having a bad day or is not at their best.”
  • Voice – Your new partner, will encourage you to voice your thoughts, opinions, and feelings. This was a big one for me, at first. I was terrified of sharing my thoughts because I felt that everything would be ridiculed and dismissed like I didn’t matter. Your new partner won’t ridicule you or dismiss your words. Strong relationships provide plenty of moments for you to share who you are and what you’re about without fear of retaliation or deliberate dismissal.
  • Appreciation – In a strong relationship, both partners will be equally appreciative of the things they do for each other. Simply saying “thank you” to your partner will go a long way when they do something kind and loving for you.

Ultimately, you feel safe

Above all, in addition to all those things listed above, you will feel safe, both physically and emotionally. You can rest knowing that you will feel comfortable enough to open up emotionally with your partner and not have what you say be used against you later. Physical safety may be the number one factor for so many survivors for one reason: If you can’t feel safe in a relationship, how can you possibly entertain the other factors?

A Look At My Relationship

The first relationship I was in after my situation didn’t last long, but it was a stepping stone in my healing journey in the most important way imaginable. It taught me two very important things – that I was worthy of love, and that I could love another again.

Then when I began dating my now-husband, I found all those above qualities and more. I found that we can disagree and it didn’t need to turn violent. Healthy relationships are about finding common ground, mutual understanding, and work out issues to the satisfaction of both of us. Healthy relationships are about give-and-take, whereas abusive relationships are all about power and control. You won’t see that power and control dynamic in a healthy and strong relationship.

Even the small things can make a relationship strong. And sometimes these small things, like saying “please” and “thank you,” taking out the garbage, or offering to buy dinner one night, can wind up being big things to a domestic violence survivor. The list of those “small things” is endless.

Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder, via Unsplash

Learning to be Independent

independent

An abusive partner’s main objective is to create a totally dependent victim. They want us to lose all of our spunk, our spirit, and our freedom. They want total control over us. We are no longer independent. To do this, they use their myriad of tactics to isolate, dominate, and manipulate us in a way that molds us into their submissive robots.

When abusive partners do this, they strip us of our autonomy. I was a fun-loving, independent, successful, and smart person before he walked into my life. Over time, I became something I did not recognize. I became a robotic shell of a human being. I became completely dependent on him.

How do we, as survivors of domestic violence, regain our independence post-abuse? How do we find ourselves again? How do we adjust to life after them?

Learning to be independent after our abusive relationships is something we may have great difficulty in doing. We are so accustomed to living by their rules and their way of life that we don’t know anything else. We don’t know how to step, speak, and live. We need to relearn everything all over again.

Reclaim

One of the biggest hurdles for me to overcome was reclaiming parts of my life that were lost. Our abusers are hell-bent on taking away every last bit of what makes us individuals. I was so timid and afraid to take a step post-abuse that it took me a long time to reclaim lost parts of myself.

Things to consider when reclaiming yourself:

  • There’s no timetable for this. Go as slowly as you need to.
  • Take small steps. Baby steps can equal large accomplishments.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give in reclaiming yourself is to accept the satisfaction and freedom it gives you when you accomplish something. I remember that after my situation when I began to do things that he didn’t want me to do, I reclaimed part of myself again and began to feel freedom with every new step that I took.

Reconnect

Abusers often isolate us from our support system. Subsequently, it’s also a tactic they hate to lose when we begin to break away from them. They despise it when we reconnect with our support system. Their goal is to drive wedges between us and those closest to us so that the only one we rely on is the abuser.

Reconnecting with family, friends and other support is vital to our healing and recovery. When I was first out of my situation, I found it easy to reconnect with my main support system – my parents and a few close friends. My mother knew what I had gone through because she, too, is a domestic violence survivor and knew what it took to come back to those who love her.

Things to consider when reconnecting with others:

  • How quickly you reconnect is up to you.
  • Don’t let others pressure you into connecting too quickly.
  • Create boundaries if you need to.

You are putting yourself back together, like fitting puzzle pieces together. Each time you reconnect with those around you, it will fit a piece back into that puzzle. The more you do that, the more of yourself you will get back, and the more independent you will become.

Regain

To regain is to get possession of something once again. The thing I needed to regain the most was my voice. My voice was taken away from me. Much of who we are is made up of our voice, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. When we are in our situations, abusers strip us of the ability to speak our minds. They tell us we are stupid, that we don’t know what we’re talking about and that we should listen to them because they know better. We begin to defer to their supposed better judgment. Little by little, our voice is taken away.

Regaining our voices will help us learn to be more independent in our healing journeys. But it will take time. It took me a considerable amount of time to find my voice again. I was so afraid to speak my mind that I agreed to everything to keep the peace. Finding your voice again will be a big, but necessary, step to becoming independent again.

Things to consider when regaining your voice:

  • Share with those you feel most comfortable.
  • Share at your own pace.
  • Speak up about your needs as often as you feel.

The more you speak up, the easier it will become. I know it will be a scary thing to do. I was petrified of others’ reactions to my thoughts and feelings. I thought I’d be told no, that my thoughts were stupid, and that I didn’t matter. But with the right support system behind you, you will find your voice again because they will give you the space and time you need to do so.

Re-express

To freely express ourselves again after an abusive relationship is a petrifying thought. It is human nature to be expressive in thought, word, and action. Abusers slowly destroy that expressive part of us. It’s only natural to be fearful of learning to be expressive once again. What did you love to do before your abuser? Did you love to paint, draw, sing, or write?

We are coerced into shutting ourselves off creatively when we are with our abusers. We stop doing the things that bring us joy. We stop our lives because of them. We turn into people we don’t recognize. Part of learning to be independent again is learning to re-express ourselves.

When you begin to reclaim and reconnect again with loved ones and begin to find yourself again, your independence will shine once more.

How Someone Becomes Addicted to the Cycle

By Jessica M. Corvo

“OMG! That was so exciting! I wish this moment would last forever!! I’m so blessed! Living my best life!! *wink*”

Raise your hand if you have heard this before. Raise your hand if you have said this before. I am guilty of saying this more than a few times. Typically, I say this after a new experience. I’m a sucker for awesome experiences that make my heart skip a beat: dancing in waterfalls on tropical islands, diving with giant sea turtles and even watching the world turn in the middle of an orchestra of cicadas. I’ve also said this when I thought I was in love. 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

Pause. Have you ever thought about why moments are exciting? Moments are exciting because they tap into our emotions. The most memorable moments touch our hearts. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Emotions

Emotions are part of our experiential system. Psychology Today defines emotions into three broad domains: 

  1. Sensory-Perceptual Experiences: Things you can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
  2. Drives: The idea that you want to experience positive things and avoid things that are bad.
  3. Emotions: “Response sets” encourage us to take action based on our perceptions and drives.

Consciousness

Emotions are part of our consciousness. Victims are encouraged to recognize patterns in their behavior, emotions, and thoughts to reduce the risk of being emotionally hijacked by an abuser. For our purposes, the victim in a domestic violent relationship was emotionally hijacked by an abuser. “Knowledge is Power” and  “Awareness Before Change” are useful mantras to constantly encourage exploration of one’s consciousness. 

As an example, narcissistic abuse is a very common form of domestic violence. This is a brilliant articulation of the process to hijack one’s emotions and/or consciousness. 

The Cycle

In 1979, Lenore E. Walker interviewed 1,500 women with the intention to discover patterns of behavior in abusive relationships. Her findings were coined “Cycle of Abuse”. Attracting both critics and admirers, this four-stage cycle continues to be the starting point for discussions within the domestic violence space. Scott Allen Johnson thought Walker’s “Cycle of Abuse” was oversimplified and expanded the cycle into 14-stages whereas Donald Dutton acknowledges Walker’s “Cycle of Abuse” as accurately describes all cyclically abusive relationships. 

Getting Hooked

From an abuser’s perspective, abuse is a systematic process to control their target. From a victim’s perspective, abuse is a confusing time filled with overwhelming emotions. The way in which abusers get victims addicted is by weaponizing love. Human nature is to focus on simple emotions, such as love, and suppress difficult emotions like pain. Getting hooked means doing things and behaving in a way so the abuser rewards the victim with love. 

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, emotions, specifically, love, is one of the top ten reasons why victims of domestic violence do not leave abusive relationships. Victims will oftentimes criticize themselves with “If only I was a better partner, then they [my abuser] would love me.” When victims are in an emotional state, it is very easy to confuse control with love. This confusion results in unconsciously justifying the abuser’s behavior. Justifications start small and as time passes, abusive behavior has been normalized and victims find themselves justifying horrendous behavior without realizing it.  

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Break The Addiction

Breaking the addiction is not easy. It’s a process. It took time to get addicted to the cycle. It will take time to recover. Simple advice we can offer is continued awareness. Please know breaking an addiction or recovery is a lifelong process. Each time you catch yourself thinking about your abuser, shift your mind to do something special for yourself. Put your hand on your heart to remind yourself of your strength. Remind yourself of your worth. Remind yourself that you are capable of incredible things and this too shall pass.

To support your personal growth journey, we invite you to join our Self-Care Challenge

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.

Skills Learned As a Survivor

By MaryBeth Koenes

It’s safe to assume every person’s journey of healing after abuse is unique. Hope becomes the bridge between what holds a victim down and what ultimately sets them free. In the hope for a different kind of future, survivors are able to learn some of life’s most precious lessons. This schooling comes with scars–sometimes visible, sometimes invisible–proof of the grit we have sewn into our souls. With every labeled “flaw,” there lies the opportunity to find a different path the next time around. Victims of domestic violence are not damaged goods. We’re not imperfections in a perfect race. We are human, just like everyone else. And each of us holds the sacred privilege to heal and learn from our run-ins with abusive people. Over time, we will each choose the depth of our healing, and with each layer, comes new growth, wisdom, and skills.

For me, it wasn’t enough to realize anyone could be a victim of abuse. I knew that wouldn’t help me avoid getting into a similar situation again. Once I was safely out of my marriage, I went on a quest to find out what it was in me that led me to choose and stay with my abuser. I studied every choice I made that led me to my darkest hour–married to an abuser for 10 years while raising two kids in our home, a hostile habitat. I had to know so I wouldn’t end up there again. I had to know so I could protect my kids from following my example and teach them how to watch for signs of domestic violence. I had to know so I could help other victims.

While there is no “stereotypical” victim of domestic violence, we do tend to have a few similarities in common: 

    • Our Fears. Fear of losing ourselves, our kids, our partner. Fear of being rejected, abandoned, or left behind. Fear of disappointment–disappointing others or being disappointed by others. And, of course, fear of failure–not having the dream marriage, family, life. “I’ll lose everything. I can’t survive alone. What if I never find love again? Everyone will think I’m stupid or weak, they’ll think it’s my fault. People love him/her, they won’t believe me. I don’t know how to take care of myself or my family. I can’t live without him/her.”
    • Our Insecurities. Everyone has insecurities, but ours usually call into question our inherent worth as humans. “This is all I’m worth. I don’t deserve more. I’ll never find anyone better. I’m too much. I’m too sensitive. I’m ugly.”
    • Our Bad Beliefs. They can come from our childhoods, our heartbreaks, our abusers, and our self-talk. “I’m too emotional. I expect too much. It’s not really that bad… sometimes it’s good. I’m not good, worthy, or enough. No one will believe me. I’m stupid, small, and meaningless. I’m not strong enough. I can’t do this alone. I’m nothing without him/her. He/she will take the kids from me. I am ruined. No one will ever want me now. I am broken.”
    • Our Self-Doubt. This is a by-product of our bad beliefs. This is where we lose our power and feel weak, incapable, and broken. “I can’t make it on my own. I don’t know how to provide for myself, take care of kids, pay bills, get a car/apartment/job…I don’t have enough education. No one will hire me. I’ll be invisible. I can’t find good partners, I’m only attracted to abusers. I will never be different. I think there’s something wrong with me.”
    • Our Self-Abandonment. Self-abandoning looks like ignoring intuition, making someone else’s needs/wants more important than our own, or not speaking our truth. “If only I would have tried harder or handled it differently. I shouldn’t have asked for so much or pushed him/her so hard. What was I thinking? I provoked him/her. It’s my fault. They didn’t mean it. I just need to forgive and forget. This feels bad, but I won’t say anything. I’ll be fine.”

All of these elements are intertwined with each other, and together they may seem like a recipe for disaster, but they’re actually the opposite. They’re information. See this funny thing happens when we walk out of abuse…we get the chance to flourish. This opportunity comes when we learn from the information of our past–integrating all of those horrifying life lessons that came laced with the implicit and explicit threats to our survival. Part of rebuilding and creating the life we want begins with implementing the wisdom available to us through our experience in abuse.

(Noteworthy disclaimer: Sometimes victims get stuck in repeating the past and keep finding themselves in abusive relationships. This is very common and usually happens when the survivor isn’t fully aware or ready to face their internal world and integrate their past. But it’s never too late to break the cycle and start afresh. If you or someone you love is feeling “stuck” in a repetitive cycle, there are tools out there to help! Talk therapy, EMDR for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Guided Meditations for PTSD, and hiring a Life Coach are all positive options to begin breaking old patterns.)

Let me share just a few of the skills survivors can learn through their experience: 

Fighting for Freedom. There is always hope for more freedom, especially for those who have tasted the bitter sorrow and trauma of being trapped, confined, threatened, violated, and silenced–often in their own homes. As victims begin to realize the possibility of freedom, the inner resilience we are all born with begins to awaken. This can be both frightening–as the sheer hint of independence can set abusers off–and invigorating, because feeling the tiniest spark of will power can remind victims of who they really are–valuable. When the spark of freedom becomes worth the resistance our abusers cause for us, we grow. Every time we tap into that “fight for freedom/rights/basic humanity,” we call our true self forward. The more we do it, the bigger we become. Fast forward a few years past the abuse, and what do you have? You don’t just have a survivor, you have a warrior. A human who has tasted the darkest parts of humanity in their abuse and now knows how to fight the unseen, unspoken, unknown battles of psychological, emotional, and mental wars. Once we’ve seen both sides of this kind of war, we become Generals in navigating life’s hardest curveballs. After that, freedom is no longer a choice, it’s a requirement.

Recognizing Red Flags. We know how not to be loved, so that makes being loved well more noticeable. When we’re not being treated properly and things begin looking all too familiar, we have little tolerance for repetitive apologies, excuses, and lengthy explanations. We don’t believe words anymore. We don’t trust good behavior anymore. We wait to see patterns of actions+words+behavior lining up over time. If they’re not congruent, we have no problem saying, “Oh, honey, been there, done that. I’m not looking to replay a bad record! Sayonara!” Red flags are obvious and we no longer question getting involved with that kind of crazy again.

An Intense Awareness of Self. We now have an increased intuition and ability to sense what’s really happening beneath the surface and all that is unsaid. With this heightened keenness for BS, we want to be careful not to over-analyze or create faulty storylines about situations though, as sometimes we can tend to think we have it all figured out before we let the other person show us their true colors–good or bad. This new self-awareness allows us to recognize when relationships (romantic or otherwise) are fueling us or draining us (aka healthy or toxic). We don’t owe anyone our love, time, or loyalty and we know it. But we are ready to give it freely when we are treated with respect and kindness. Our radar for being treated well is off the charts because we lived long enough at the bottom of the chart. Self-awareness is the gift that keeps on giving for life. It’s one of our secret weapons as survivors–always reminding us that we are valuable, lovable, and worth every good and kind person, gift, and story that comes our way.

Appreciating the Wins. Our ability to navigate difficult situations allows us to experience a different side of people and life–recognizing the small things. Living hopeless for any amount of time changes the way a person sees and absorbs the world. As life moves on, survivors have a knack for remembering (Okay, honestly, sometimes the PTSD that reminds us) that there is so much to be thankful for. It can be a struggle reconciling what we think we “should” be doing versus what we are actually doing at this point in our lives, but at the end of the day, the fires we have walked out of–our stories of abuse–are the bitter reminders of sweet the simplicities life can bring.

Walking out of abuse doesn’t guarantee that we will walk away all the wiser, but it does offer every survivor the invitation to heal and choose differently moving forward. And isn’t that everything–moving forward? It’s a gift to longer be captive. Our march to freedom begins with the invitation to hope then it takes us through healing as we look at our fears, insecurities, bad beliefs, self-doubt, and all the ways we self-abandon. As we trek through these difficult parts of our shadows, we are actively choosing a new life. That new life is full of wisdom! The way we fight, the way we pay attention to red flags, how we become self-aware, and every time we marvel in our wins–big or small–we are exercising our divine wisdom. Mighty are we when we choose to break the cycle!

All around the world people are being held hostage in their relationships, in their homes, in their workplaces by abusers. But hidden in every single one of us, woven into the fabric of our humanness, we carry the most magnificent instinct: the power to break free and be reborn. Every rebirth comes fully stocked with a new set of skills. They’re our superpowers. So maybe all of us survivors are really superheroes hiding in plain sight, protecting the innocent and the hurting with our own stories of hope.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.

Self-Care Calendar Challenge for Survivors

By Jessica M. Corvo

‘Self-care. What’s that? You want me to stop what I’m doing to do something for me? No one else benefits? Something for my wellness. Mental wellness. Emotional wellness. Physical wellness. Spiritual wellness. This is a joke, right? I cannot possibly find time to look after myself. I don’t even know where to start! I have too many other things to do. Others need me. I have to do x, y, AND z before I can even think about self-care…’

Raise your hand if this internal dialogue sounds familiar. 

A few years ago, I used to cringe when others talked about self-care. To me, self-care felt elaborate, expensive and like something I was unable to attain because, in my head, self-care was defined as sitting on the beach, reading a book, or taking a hot bubble bath. I was not in a position to execute any of those things. My priority was to help others. I was conditioned to prioritize relationships with others before my relationship with myself. Truthfully, I didn’t know how to have a relationship with myself. Self-care was not part of my world or something I felt the need to learn. Self-care felt indulgent and selfish.  

“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.”

– Mandy Hale

The concept of self-care can be overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Goals are easier to accomplish when kept simple. In an effort to keep things as simple as possible, let’s talk about three things: time, effort and consistency.

Time: There are 1440 minutes in a day. Fourteen minutes is roughly one percent of your day. Can you find 14 minutes of each day to do something you enjoy? Seems easy enough, right? If you are anything like me, it was very difficult to find an unused 14 minutes of my day, so I started by saying NO to things. Eventually, I created space for 14 minutes throughout my day. Let’s find areas of our life where we can say NO to something. Saying NO to others is sometimes saying YES to ourselves. It’s a way to take back our power. Can you commit to 14 minutes/day? If yes, check out our Self-Care Challenge.

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”

– Etty Hillesum

Effort: Breaking cycles can be fun. Creating new habits can also be fun. Life can be so much fun. The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship we will ever have. Embracing a self-care journey is going to feel awkward but we created a fun 30-day Self-Care Challenge to help you navigate the month. Can you make a daily commitment to something? If yes, check out our Self-Care Challenge.

“Small hinges swing big doors.”

– W Clement Stone

Consistency: Thirty days might seem like a very long time. Our challenge was created to make it fun, reflective and easy to execute. The secret ingredient to living our best life is consistency. Can you commit to something for 30 days? If yes, check out our Self-Care Challenge.

30-day Self-Care Challenge

Stage 1: Prep (complete the sentence)

Day 1: I define self-care as:

Day 2: Having a consistent self-care practice would make me feel __________ about myself.

Day 3: Reflecting on my current life, the habits/decisions/people; Doing _____________ makes me feel bad about myself. Doing _______________ makes me feel good about myself.

Day 4: Look in the mirror and declare: I AM WORTHY OF THE SAME LOVE I GIVE TO OTHERS.

Stage 2: Say NO

Day 5 – 14: Each day, for 10 days, I will say NO to one thing that makes me feel bad about myself. Need help? Here are 50 ways to say NO.

Day 15: I feel ________________ about saying NO.

Stage 3: Say YES

Day 16-25: Each day, for 10 days, I will say YES to one thing that makes me feel good about myself. Need help? My self-care secret: play my favorite song on repeat until I feel those good vibes flowing. Sometimes, my self-care say YES moment is simply me dedicating a song to myself, on repeat. Otherwise, feel free to check out this list from Tiny Buddha. 

Day 26: I feel _______________ about saying YES.

Stage 4: Reflect

Day 27: _____________ was the easiest part of the month. _____________ was the most challenging. Overall, this challenge was ____________ than I expected.

Day 28: Saying  NO / YES was easier because __________________________________. 

Day 29: I write a THANK YOU letter to myself. I address the letter to the person I was just before doing this challenge. I redefine my perspective on self-care. Let’s be honest, I’ve learned so much in the last few weeks. I thank myself for embracing the challenge.

Day 30: Look in the mirror and read the thank you letter.

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”

– Jean Shinoda Bolen

Now that you have completed the 30-day Self-Care Challenge, are you ready to do it again for another 30 days? (PLEASE SAY YESSSSS)! We are cheering for you!

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.