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What is self care?
Self care is the act of prioritizing one's physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. It can be difficult to practice self care when impacted by trauma, and self care can look very different from person to person. Below, we discuss self care strategies for Survivors and those impacted by sexual violence.
Self care is important element to care when we are impacted by trauma. We encourage you to talk to staff at the SVSPO about what self care and healing might look like for you. Here are some ways you can practice self care while you navigate what healing looks like for you:
1. Have an emergency self care strategy for when you find yourself impacted by trauma.
This can look like practicing a breathing and tapping exercise to calm an anxiety attack, mindfullness techniques like meditation or colouring, or listening to a song that reminds you of feeling protected and loved. Whatever emergency self care technique you use, it can be helpful to have a handful of friends and loved ones that know what your plan is so they can provide assistance and support if needed.
2. Take care of your body
It is often easy to stop taking care of our physical needs when living with the very real impacts of trauma. Personal hygiene, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can seem impossible. It can be hard to do, but looking after your body is an important part of your healing journey. Taking a shower, putting on clean clothes, and choosing to eat something nutritious or even just something calorie dense are all important steps you can take as part of your self care.
It may seem impossible at first to attend to your physical needs, but there is no shame in starting slow. Do what you can, take your time, and do not compare yourself to others that seem to be naviagting life with ease. Sometimes just getting out of bed to take a shower, putting on some clean, cozy clothes, and hopping right back under the covers with a bag of chips is enough.
3. Surround yourself with a supportive community or network.
The old addage is true; we really are stronger together. Reaching out for support to those you trust, or connecting with a support group dedicated to Survivors of sexual violence has proven to aid in the healing process. Support groups provide empathy, compassion, and a space to hear and learn from others facing similar challenges. You can find information on the Nurturing Resilience support group for students of all genders who have experienced any form of sexual violence at SFU.
4. Know and respect your boundaries.
It's ok to not want to be touched without consent (or even at all), it's ok to leave spaces that don't feel safe, and it is ok to tell your partner(s) what your limits are during any sexual activity. Navigating sexual, social, and professional boundaries can be difficult after trauma, but knowing and enforcing them is crucial to your healing journey. Your body is yours, as is your time and energy.
Respecting your boundaries also applies to how you communicate to those around you about your trauma. You do not have to disclose that you are a Survivor to anyone, nor are you required to make excuses for your boundaries. Respecting your boundaries can look like:
- Simply saying: "I don't want to do that.'"
- Leaving class and meetings if the content is triggering or emtionally impactful. (If you need assistance navigating classes, assignments, and even work tasks, you can contact the SVSPO who can help organize accomodations for you.)
- Stating what you are, and are not willing to do during sex: "I don't want to be naked during sex.", "I'd like to take the lead here if that's ok with you?", "Please do not touch my thighs while we're kissing."
- Not being touched by anyone, for any reason, at anytime without your permission: "I'd rather not hug.", "I don't shake hands, but it's great to meet you."
5. Be kind to yourself.
As frizzkidart so wonderfully shares in one of their art pieces: "Healing is not linear." The process takes time, is unpredictable, and looks different for everybody. It's imortant to be kind to yourself and have grace for the space you're in. Other folks' perceived progress is not an indicator of your success or failure. There is no gold standard or for what it means to be a Survivor. Everyone sits with trauma differently, and it is possible that the term 'Survivor' is not one you feel comfortable using; we know some folks dealing with sexual trauma prefer the term 'victim' or 'complainant'. Whatever process, identity, acts of resistance, or healing tools you use - it is imperative that you do so on your terms, with abundant grace for where you are at. There are no rules with self care except the ones you set for yourself.