By Jenn Rockefeller
Taking care of ourselves isn’t something we immediately think about. We are so busy with work, school, running a home and taking care of others that we simply forget to stop and take care of ourselves. This simple forgetfulness can be exacerbated when we are involved in an abusive situation. Think about it – we are so busy tending to the abuser’s needs and wants that we neglect ourselves. Even if we want to spend time alone or doing something for ourselves, we are made to feel like we are being selfish.
Think about that last sentence for a moment.
The abusers in our lives condition us to believe that slowing down and practicing any kind of self-care is being selfish. So when we are out of our situations, the idea of practicing self-care is so foreign to us. We have no idea how!
Tips to practice daily self care
Building up any kind of daily routine takes practice – and lots of it. Getting started is the hardest part. Then finding the momentum to carry you through each day is something difficult to do too. How do you move through each day and practice self-care, especially when you’re having a really bad day? Below are some tips for both mental and physical self-care:
- One step at a time – A Chinese proverb says that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That is precisely what we must do when we are on a healing journey and need to practice self-care. Take one small step at a time and trust your journey. Take one hour or one minute at a time if you need to.
- Something new – Even if you’ve never done something before, try it. Try one new thing. Maybe that thing will be learning a new craft or hobby.
- Sleep – Yes, sleep. Make sure to get enough sleep each night. Go to bed earlier if need be. Many times, we aren’t getting enough sleep and that can contribute to the sluggishness we feel during the day.
- Exercise – While many don’t have financial resources to join a gym, there are simple things you can do to keep exercise as part of your daily routine. Take the stairs. Walk around the block. Park a bit further away from the front entrance of a store.
- Say no – You are under no obligation to say yes to everything. You are allowed to say no. You don’t need to attend every party you’re invited to or go see a movie when it comes to theaters. Stay in and relax.
- Eat right – We can still enjoy our favorite foods. But be sure to incorporate healthier options in your daily diet.
- Unplug – Today’s society is filled with computers, email, phones, and so much additional technology. Unplug from all those pieces of technology for 30 minutes every night and just be with yourself. Read a book during this time or just practice deep breathing.
- Positive affirmations – For survivors of domestic violence, this is a biggie. It’s difficult for us to really affirm ourselves in a positive manner because we are so used to being told we are stupid, ugly and worthless. Turn those negatives into positives! My go-to affirmations are “I am smart. I am strong. I am worthy. I am capable.” I also add in others as needed.
- Simplicity – Sometimes, even the simplest of things slip our minds, especially if we are having a particularly bad day. We may forget to brush our teeth or even take a shower. These things are essential to getting back on our feet and feeling whole again. Do your best to incorporate daily activities like those.
- Journaling – It has been said that keeping a daily journal can help sort out your mind. And if you are having a really bad day, try writing it out. Sometimes, getting it out can help you compartmentalize your thoughts and help you see things with more clarity.
There are plenty of ideas out there on what you can do for self-care. For example, this article published on Wholefully lists dozens of great ways to practice daily self-care. See what works for you.
Why self-care is vital
Self care is essential to a survivor’s healing journey because it will help them begin to feel whole again. It will help survivors feel like they matter. We were conditioned to believe the worst about ourselves. So when we are out of our situations and can actually begin to focus on taking care of ourselves, we can begin to realize that we too are important and that our wants and needs matter too.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.