When learning to survive a traumatic experience, taking care of yourself is very important. Preventing undue stress and emotional over-load must be your priority. Here is a list of things that might be helpful for you:
- Get support from friends and family – try to identify people you trust to validate your feelings and affirm your strengths, and avoid those who you think will deter your healing process.
- Talk about the assault and express feelings – choose when, where, and with whom to talk about the assault, and set limits by only disclosing information that feels safe for you to reveal.
- Use stress reduction techniques – hard exercise like jogging, aerobics, walking; relaxation techniques like yoga, massage, music, hot baths; prayer and/or meditation.
- Maintain a balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible and avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, sugar, and nicotine.
- Discover your playful and creative “self”. Playing and creativity are important for healing from hurt. Find time for noncompetitive play – start or resume a creative activity like piano, painting, gardening, handicrafts, etc.
- Take “time outs.” Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax and rejuvenate – especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.
- Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing, healing activity. Try to find short periods of uninterrupted leisure reading time.
- Consider writing or keeping a journal as a way of expressing thoughts and feelings.
- Release some of the hurt and anger in a healthy way: Write a letter to your attacker about how you feel about what happened to you. Be as specific as you can. You can choose to send the letter or not. You also can draw pictures about the anger you feel towards your attacker as a way of releasing the emotional pain.
- Hug those you love. Hugging releases the body’s natural pain-killers.
- Remember you are safe, even if you don’t feel it. The sexual assault is over. It may take longer than you think, but you will feel better.
Journaling is an intimate and powerful tool. For many, the fear of messing up or discovering truths that are difficult to process hold us back from journaling, and that’s okay. If you’re feeling confused or unsure of where your feelings are coming, from or what you are feeling, journaling may be a good place to start.
- Just write – don’t edit.
It is impossible to effectively write and edit, and journaling should not be about writing a bestseller, but instead putting your thoughts on paper. Or, if writing isn’t accessible, try doing voice recordings or video journals!
- Journaling before bed may help alleviate stress by transferring your issues from isolation in your mind to a notebook that you can get back to.
- Journaling doesn’t have to have any rhyme or reason.
If you started with one thought and found yourself lost in another - that’s great!
- Journaling also doesn’t have to be aesthetically pleasing - do you prefer lists, bullet points, scribbles, doodles, poems, whatever flows - works.
- Sometimes writing about painful memories can be overwhelming.
It may be helpful to set yourself up powerfully by identifying support systems or creating a self-care plan with an advocate or therapist to prepare for any activations.
- How am I feeling right now?
- What does justice look like to me?
- My perfect day would look like ….,
- A love letter to my present self, my past self, my future self.
- A list of gratitude, what is making or has made me happy?
- A love letter to someone that helped you.
- Write about a place, real or imaginary that makes you feel safe, what does it look like, smell like, feel like, sound like?
- What brings you pleasure, how does it bring you pleasure and what would it be like to do or get that thing/experience?
- What does healing look like for you, how do you want to feel in 3 months, one year, five years?
Excerpt used with permission from:
Organization Name: UNLV Care Center
Title: Student's Guide to Radical Healing zine
First edition: April 2020
Second edition: May 2021