By MaryBeth Koenes
Why is virtual self-care important? Because being stuck inside your own head can make you feel like a little unstable.
Okay, maybe that’s only one of the many reasons why we would seek to nurture our souls virtually during the pandemic. COVID-19 has shifted every normal routine we have, not only disrupting our sense of structure and safety but also flipping our go-to self-care rituals upside down. For survivors of domestic violence, this can be particularly challenging as isolation–or even just the fear of it–can trigger past trauma and tempt us to return to our abusers.
Most of us rely on regular interactions with our support system (friends, family, community) to help us “get out of our head” when we’re consumed with anxious thoughts or fears. But none of us were prepared to be sheltered at home for weeks, now months…held hostage by our own minds! Yikes. These are scary times for everyone with the economy, general public health, and individual sanity at stake.
It is in these times of discord that we, as survivors, have a unique invitation to choose a different path for ourselves and further our healing. If we are still defining “safety” simply as what is familiar to us, then we have an opportunity to redefine what is truly safe for us moving forward. Where we once returned to what is familiar during times of uncertainty or fear, we can now make space to process those heavy emotions and consciously choose how we’d like to respond. So, instead of emotions taking over our brains and decision-making skills, we learn to regulate, process, and make rational choices that serve our best interest and highest self.
That sounds so simple, right? Of course it’s easier said than done; the greatest work of your life usually is! So how do you start choosing new coping strategies when your life and the world as you know it is topsy-turvy? Self-care. In self-care is where we “make space” which simply means setting an intention and deciding that, “Next time I feel lonely, scared, or lost, instead of entertaining reconnecting with an ex or numbing with distractions or substances, I’m going to show up in the feeling and practice self-care.”
As trauma survivors, we are getting kicked into fight/flight/freeze/fawn on the regular. Global pandemic and all that has come with COVID-19 only increases the frequency of those responses. This is why it is vital for us to ground ourselves in daily self-care rituals. When we connect with ourselves (not just in the mind), we slow down, get back into our bodies, find our breath again, and recenter with our purpose. It’s here that we are reminded we are not superheroes, but merely badass humans who can do hard things without feeling obligated to solve (or worry about) all the problems in the world. Your greatest power will always be in your ability to show up authentically and choose what is best for you (and your children if you have them). This is not selfishness, it’s how we begin to show true, unconditional love–first to ourselves, then out of the overflow, to others.
Let’s talk about what self-care actually is because this is a trendy term these days and comes with a wide variety of interpretations. I define self-care as an act of simultaneous relaxation and replenishment. In my online course, Discovering Your Authentic Self, I detail the differences between…let’s say, a relaxing Netflix binge and a replenishing yoga routine. Both will calm your body, but only the latter will soothe your mind and soul. Self-care isn’t just about getting “me time,” it’s about investing in the health of your mind, body, and spirit. We are rarely taught how to genuinely nurture ourselves, so it’s important to note that establishing and following through with self-loving rituals takes time and practice. In my coaching practice, I encourage all my clients to begin with one new ritual per week for one month, then reevaluate from there. While each of us will prefer some practices over others, my go-to rituals are usually a combination of two or three of these: yoga/stretching, journaling, Epsom salt with essential oils bath, sipping tea on the porch, guided meditation, breathwork exercises, meditative walk.
It’s in robust, healthy self-care that we can observe our most overwhelming emotions–like loneliness, anxiety, grief, anger, emptiness, the feeling of brokenness–and begin to move through them, working our way to the other side. These big emotions are notorious for trapping people in suffering, survivors especially. The best tool to use to get yourself out of being “stuck in the feeling” is taking time to replenish yourself. We all want to be on the other side of these emotions–where understanding, answers, and freedom wait–because an unburdened mind and heart is what we were all meant to have.
So while meeting your crew for yoga class, meditation practice, book club, or brunch is not as simple as it once was, you can still choose YOU. There are virtual empowerment options flooding online forums with Coronavirus on the rampage. Take advantage of them! Pop in and check out a few different platforms.
Here at BTSADV we are continually providing online care for survivors. Join us for our upcoming Virtual Self-Care Day!
Kelsey Grant, a self-love author and educator, has a beautiful space to connect with others and pick up some new rituals on her social media accounts. Also, Ashley Turner, yoga–meditation instructor and licensed psychotherapist, is hosting a FREE Resilience Summit this week! These are just a few of the thousands of virtual self-care options available to you (all for FREE)!
No matter how you choose to show up for YOURSELF, remember you are not alone. Globally we are waging this war of isolation together. There is grace for you as you learn to recognize what is best for you today. Peace, stability, and safety (physically, mentally, and emotionally) are meant for YOU simply because you’re alive. You don’t have to earn, fight, or prove your way into these basic human gifts. But you may need to do a little online searching to find your next right tool!
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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You can also donate to BTSADV here.