The term "self-care" means: looking after yourself: treating yourself as person who deserves care.
Self-care can be very challenging for adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse. In the act of neglecting, hitting, insulting or abusing a child, an adult sends a message to that child that they are without value or worth. Many traumatised and abused children grow to adulthood believing that they do not deserve to experience love, care or warmth. Self-care requires survivors to develop a new way of perceiving themselves as a human beings who have the right to feel comfortable, safe and worthwhile.
Self-care involves very simple, day-to-day acts. A good goal is to try to do one or two caring things for yourself every day. Acts of self-care are particularly effective at short-circuiting spirals of distress, anger or shame. If you feel yourself moving into an overwhelming emotional state, undertaking a self-care strategy can help ground you, bring you out of that state, and help you regain control over difficult emotions.
Have a think about the things that you enjoy. The list of self-care suggestions might help you choose.
- What activities ground you in your body and encourage you to enjoy the present moment? Take a long, hot bubble bath; listen to classical music, or light candles; go for a jog or watch old movies.
- Make sure that your bed and bedroom are comfortable so that, when you feel like retreating, you have a place that affirms your worth, makes you feel safe, and gives you pleasure.
- Undertake activities that have no other function other than the joy that they give. Read a special book -- not one for school, work, parenting or therapy -- one just for you. Play with pets and animals. Listen to your favorite music.
- Do something physical or acquire a new physical skill. Learn to dance, or join a club of bushwalkers or joggers. Exercise is a great way to burn off excess emotion, and it teaches us to be more comfortable in our bodies.
- Undertake "mindfulness" meditation classes that teach you to live in, and find ways to enjoy, the present.
Many survivors live in a state in which they are coping with the burden of the past, but anxious of the future as well. The present often seems overwhelming. By finding ways to care for yourself, you can find ways to live in the present, and enjoy the moment. This in turn promotes emotional and psychological health.