What is self care?
The term “self care” refers to actions and attitudes we use to consciously contribute to the maintenance of our overall well-being and personal health. Self care can include physical activities as well as emotional practices and changing our perceptions of situations in our lives. While this concept is big in the field of victim services, it can also be generalized to those who are not currently experiencing trauma but are looking to feel more internally healthy and balanced.
Why is self care important?
Many crimes involve the use of force or violence against victims. Crime victims of all types of crime may experience trauma – physical damage to their bodies or emotional wounds or shock caused by the violence against them. Reactions to trauma vary from person to person and can last for hours, days, weeks, months, or years.
Physical trauma: Crime victims may experience physical trauma—serious injury or shock to the body, as from a major accident. Examples of physical trauma include:
- Cuts, bruises, fractured arms or legs, or internal injuries.
- Intense stress reactions where breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate may increase, and muscles may tighten.
- Feeling exhausted but unable to sleep
- Increased or decreased appetites, or digestive problems
Emotional trauma: Victims may experience emotional trauma—emotional wounds or shocks that may have long-lasting effects. Emotional trauma may take many different forms:
- Shock or numbness: Victims may feel “frozen” and cut off from their own emotions. Some victims say they feel as if they are “watching a movie” rather than having their own experiences. Victims may not be able to make decisions or conduct their lives as they did before the crime.
- Denial, Disbelief, and Anger: Victims may experience “denial,” an unconscious defense against painful or unbearable memories and feelings about the crime. Or they may experience disbelief, telling themselves, “this just could not have happened to me!” They may feel intense anger and a desire to get even with the offender.
- Stress: Some crime victims may experience trouble sleeping, flashbacks, extreme tension or anxiety, outbursts of anger, memory problems, trouble concentrating, and other symptoms of distress for days or weeks following a trauma.
What are some examples of self care?
- Positive Affirmations – Each day (or in stressful situations) think through some kind thoughts about yourself and your life. Remind yourself that you have taken steps to care for yourself that might seem easy but are very important, like taking a shower, getting out of bed, or going for a walk. Remind yourself that you are worth praising through nice notes about your appearance, goals, and confidence on your mirror or written down throughout your day.
- Relaxation Exercises – Anything from breathing techniques to practicing meditation and creating bedtime routine can help to create a relaxing environment to heal and reflect.
- Channeling pain into creativity – Taking up activities like poetry writing, short stories, journaling, drawing or dance serve as outlets to release and process emotions that might otherwise be overwhelming.
- Physical Self-Care – Getting up and moving your body in a way that feels good to you can change your whole mood. If you’re not a person who loves the gym, you can go for a walk with a friend, do some stretches, or dance at home to some feel good music. Anything that allows you to connect to what your body physically needs in that moment.
- Know and communicate your boundaries – Let others around you know up front what is and is not okay for you. This is especially important in the context of sexual partners but can be applied to any friends, loved ones, and acquaintances.
- Ask for help – No one should be expected to go through life alone and everyone needs help from time-to-time. Asking loved ones for help with life feels overwhelming is important.
- Remind yourself it is okay to walk away from situations that are too stressful or triggering.
- Believe in yourself. A novel concept for many, for sure.
- Focus on your long-term growth instead of short-term relief.
Some examples of what this might look like:
➤Setting boundaries around the co-dependently toxic relationships in your life and sticking to them. Even when (especially when) it’s hard.
➤Being comfortable giving the unpopular but kind “no” when you know you don’t have the time, energy, or brain space. This might mean not being able to be the maid of honor in your best friend’s wedding. If you’re struggling, you need to know when to protect yourself.
➤Being able to say “no” to things that make you uncomfortable even when you think they shouldn’t.
➤Releasing the ego and the urge of pleasing everyone all the time. (Spoiler: It’s impossible.)
➤Accepting that you are not able to do all of the work on yourself alone and seek professional help instead of viewing it as failure.
➤Taking unwavering accountability for your mistakes actions and instead of spiraling in shame, committing to learning from them and doing better.
➤Letting go of grudges, resentment, and anger of those who hurt us even if they don’t don’t deserve it. (Letting go isn’t about them. It’s all about you.)
➤Forgiving yourself for getting here in the first place.
(Say it again.)
(Now say it again.)
➤Raising your heart rate 30 minutes a day instead of watching Netflix.
➤Calming your mind for 20 minutes a day through meditation instead of texting work gossip.
➤Getting to bed early for a full night’s sleep instead of scrolling through Instagram.
➤Blocking their number. (You know who.)
➤Staying home when you’re emotionally depleted instead of going out for drinks again.
➤Learning how to stop yourself when you’re spiraling. Whether you’re lashing out, being negative, gossiping, acting out in jealousy, throwing a fit, yelling, road raging, crying, drowning in anxiety. You can stop and find your calm. It’s uncomfortable as hell. But it can be learned.
➤Asking for what you need instead of lashing or acting out because others aren’t able to read your mind.
➤Not sinking every last bit of energy into a job that is slowly sucking your life away one minute at a time, every day.
➤Being crazy enough to go for that one thing–that project, that dream, that goal, whatever it is–that’s always in the back of your mind but you push aside because you think your life is too small to dream so big
➤Accepting help instead of considering it a sign of weakness or failure
➤Cutting the people who consistently hurt you out of your life even when doing so also hurts like hell
➤Understanding that no one is responsible for your growth or healing but you
➤Believing in yourself instead of listening to self-doubt
➤Being brave enough to dust yourself off and keep going when you had a bad day or weren’t perfect