It’s one thing to get out of an abusive and traumatic situation, but it’s another to live life as a “survivor”. For one, trauma and abuse have lasting effects on one’s physical, mental, and emotional health, putting one at a higher risk of developing mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. Because of this, most survivors find it difficult to live a normal life and numb the urge to address their needs. But while the journey towards healing is extremely challenging, it can also be an empowering experience. It takes an immense amount of courage and strength for survivors to realize that a life without the pain of unmet needs is possible. Here, we highlight four self-care strategies that can benefit trauma and abuse survivors. Harness the power of positive affirmations Survivors often encounter negative and destructive automatic thoughts due to the abusive words and situations that they’ve experienced. These thoughts can induce self-sabotage and prevent survivors from having full control over their actions and rebuilding their lives. To eliminate these thoughts, survivors can hold on to positive affirmations that negate what their inner critic says. In order for positive affirmations to work, one should first confront their wounds and insecurities. Doing so allows one to embrace their situation and create positive affirmations that best fits their ordeal. For example, if a survivor is conscious about their appearance due to comments made by their abuser, their positive affirmation can be, “I am beautiful in all ways.” Survivors can utter these positive affirmations whenever a toxic thought enters their minds. Soon enough, a survivor will be able to heal their wounds and associate themselves with more positive affirmation. Encourage mental healing through exercising Exercising is a quick way for survivors to feel better about themselves. When a person exercises, feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are released. These chemicals make one feel happier and confident. By being more active, survivors can heal their minds through their bodies. In addition, exercising can also be a physical outlet for the rage, hurt, and grief that survivors have. Some examples of great exercises that survivors can get into are yoga, running, kickboxing, cycling, and dancing. Seek professional help and advice Some professionals can guide survivors on their journey towards healing. Because of the long-term mental effects of trauma and abuse, survivors can seek the support of a mental health professional to make sure that they address their trauma triggers in a safe space. In addition, mental health professionals can also help a survivor feel validated and help them better understand their ordeal without triggering them. Survivors can also go to their local community centers where they can find professionals and support groups that can also help them on their journey. These groups will include fully trained community service officers. Most of these officers will have undertaken a degree in criminal justice allowing them to be an initial point of contact for trauma and abuse victims. They can also assist survivors who have decided to bring their abusers to justice. Survivors should realize that asking for help does not make them powerless. On the contrary, it shows how brave they are to acknowledge that they’re not fully well. Have a creative outlet Many survivors who have PTSD find comfort in art. Abuse and trauma can shut down the area of the brain that deals with language. So, expressing trauma and abuse through a creative outlet can help survivors who find it difficult to be articulate with their feelings. Painting and drawing are two visual creative activities that survivors may gravitate to. Aside from the above, keeping a journal can also help survivors express themselves through writing and keep tabs on how they are feeling. In Justin Black’s book, ‘Redefining Normal: How Two Foster Kids Beat The Odds and Discovered Healing, Happiness and Love’ which deals with domestic violence, trauma, sexual assault, he also highlights the importance of journaling on the road to healing. By creating art — whether it’s a painting, a poem, or a drawing, survivors can learn how to share their pain and experiences. Survivors of trauma and abuse should learn to be more compassionate towards themselves. Through the self-care strategies highlighted above, survivors can better acknowledge their pain and be on the path towards complete healing.
Written exclusively for Re-definingnormal.com
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by Aria Chelsea