posted on April 18, 2019 13:26
For many the Easter holiday season is a time to relax, take a break from our hectic life and connect in with family, friends and our faith-based communities. For others of us it can be a challenging time. For this reason, Blue Knot has put together this short article about strategies that others have found useful which might help you this Easter holiday break.
"Self-care" means looking after yourself. It means treating yourself as person who deserves care.
Caring for yourself is often challenging for people who experienced child abuse or childhood trauma. That’s because you were harmed by another person. Sometimes it was done on purpose. Other times it happened because that person had their own issues which stopped them caring for you.
When an adult neglects, hits, insults, abuses or ignores a child, the child comes to understanding that they aren’t worth much. Often this happens time and again. This often means that the child grows up believing that they don’t deserve to be loved or cared for – that they are unlovable or worthless. So does the adult, who that child, becomes.
Learning to care for yourself if you are survivor, means seeing yourself in a new way. It means seeing yourself as a person who deserves to feel comfortable, safe and worthwhile.
You don’t have to do anything complicated to care for yourself. It can be very simple things, every day, if you can. It’s good to try to do one or two caring things for yourself each day.
It can be a good idea to have some things for you to do in the moment (e.g. when you are faced with challenges), each day as an ongoing practise and things that will improve your wellbeing in the long term. This can become a toolkit that helps you become stronger and more able to manage life’s challenges.
For example you might have a range of different in the moment strategies that help you feel settled when faced with difficult situations. On top of this you might do some things each day that help to nurture you (e.g. spending time with your pet, making time for friends whose company you enjoy, listening to some of your favourite music. Then the long term goal might be to develop a skill that is interesting to you (maybe woodwork, an art class, learning to surf etc.) or focussing on your health (e.g. learning to cook meals that nurture you, doing an activity that keeps you fit) or working on a project that builds on your future.
Strategies which help you care for yourself can stop you being overwhelmed by strong emotions. They can help ground you and help you regain control over difficult emotions, such as anger, shame or distress. They can help stop you reacting and spiralling out of control.
Finding ways to care for yourself can help you live in the present, enjoy the moment and be healthier.
Do what you enjoy
Try to make a list of things that help you feel good. See if you can do one thing from this list once a week at first. If you can increase this gradually to include one a day, if possible, it can help you manage your stress and anxiety. Not everything has to cost. You can include simple things such as having a bath or a long shower, listening to music or going for a walk. It’s up to you…
Support through connection
Learning to feel safe ‘enough’ with another person, or within a group, can be an important part of a survivor’s journey. For many survivors it can be hard to identify a person with whom you do feel safe. It can be hard to begin to trust them. It is important to try and identify your safe person or people.
The following are possible people or groups who can provide you with support:
- Friends, neighbours or work colleagues
- Peer groups: like a local drop-in centre, support group or sports club
- Counsellor or therapist, case worker, support worker, GP or other professional
- Therapeutic groups
- Groups with activities you enjoy e.g. sport, hobbies, music, singing, dancing
- Different processes survivors have found helpful - Yoga, meditation, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), Emotion-Focussed Therapy (EFT) neurofeedback etc.
Please note that the Blue Knot Helpline 1300 657 380 is open EVERY DAY through Easter. Our counsellors will be available to provide support, information, and short term counselling. As always, if your call is not answered straight away please feel free to leave a message and one of the team will return the call as soon as they can often on the same day and always within 48 hours.
When you’re not used to nurturing yourself, it can help to make a point of making time for the basics. Make them a priority. Make them a routine. You’re important. Show your body that you’re important too. Even the basics can be easy to ignore when we are triggered or struggling day to day with the impacts of our childhood experiences.
Are you hungry? Remember to eat. Try to choose healthy food which nurtures you and gives you the nutrition you need to rebuild. Food gives us energy. This means that when we’re not eating well, we don’t have the fuel we need to face life’s challenges. Try and establish a routine to eating. If you do that you’ll be less tempted to eat emotionally. We all enjoy some treats, after all.
Are you thirsty? Check in with yourself. It’s quite easy for survivors to ignore these basic needs? Water is one of nature’s gifts. Many of us forget to drink enough water every day, to keep us healthy. Our bodies need it. Try and establish a routine – it can help to keep a water bottle with you. While other drinks are tempting, too many sugary drinks and alcohol are not helpful. It’s also a good idea to not drink too much coffee and tea, unless it’s herbal tea (the type without caffeine), much of which brings other benefits.
Are you getting enough sleep? Is it restorative? Many survivors have trouble sleeping. Falling asleep. Staying asleep. All of us need a certain amount of sleep. It helps keep us mentally and physically healthy. A routine is helpful. Trying to go to bed at the same time every night. Trying to relax before bed. Having your electronic devices – phone, laptop, ipad out of the bedroom.
Remember to move. This doesn’t mean a gym membership or personal trainer. Something small – maybe 10 mins every day. And if you don’t manage that whatever you do helps to keep your body moving. Try simple stretching. A short walk in the fresh air. Even dancing to the beat of your favourite music if that’s what you want to do. It all helps
Go outside into the fresh air. Into nature. See the sun. Feel the warmth on your face. Enjoy some time in nature, in the calm of a field or bush, where you feel safe and nurtured.
Take a shower or a bath. The gentle cleansing of water flowing across your body can be both comforting and restorative. Washing ourselves means we are taking care of our body. Not only it is basic hygiene but it can be fun and soothing too
And remember to breathe…. You can read more about breathing on the website about grounding http://https//www.blueknot.org.au/Survivors/Self-care/grounding
Think about things you enjoy. The following list might help.
- Think about what helps ground you in your body so you enjoy the present moment e.g. a long hot bubble bath, classical music, lighting candles, jogging or watching old movies.
- Make sure that your bedroom and bed are comfortable. When you want some time out, you will have a place that honours your worth, makes you feel safe, and comfortable.
- Do things just for the joy they bring. Read a book, just for you. Play with pets. Listen to your favourite music. Explore your garden.
- Do something physical or learn a new skill. Learn to dance, or join a bushwalking or jogging club. Exercise burns off excess emotion, and helps us be more comfortable in our bodies.
- Undertake "mindfulness"classes to help you live in and enjoy the present