When I was deep in my abusive relationship, my abuser made feel guilty if I did anything for myself. I couldn’t go out with friends. I couldn’t get a manicure. I couldn’t even buy myself a new t-shirt or pair of jeans without getting the proverbial third degree.
You see, when we were in the midst of our abusive relationships, the last thing we did was think of ourselves. We put everyone else first–our relationships, our family, our friends. We forgot to take care of ourselves. If we tried to do something–anything–for ourselves, we were chastised. We were told that we were selfish.
But self-care is the single most important thing we must do for ourselves when we are out of our abusive situations.
What is self-care?
As the first paragraph suggests, self-care is what we do for ourselves. It’s when our lives become overwhelming that we take a step back and replenish ourselves with what feeds our minds, bodies, and souls. It’s what we do to “recharge our batteries.” It’s realizing when we are doing too much and make the choice to slow down so we don’t burn ourselves out.
Why is it important?
The importance of practicing self-care as domestic violence survivors is essential to our healing journeys. We spent too much time consumed by the abusive relationship that we put ourselves on the back burner. But now, we must take considerable effort into putting self-care into our daily routines. It’s time to make ourselves a priority. It’s time to feed our minds, bodies, and souls.
Why it can be difficult
Practicing self-care can be exceptionally difficult because we were so accustomed to casting ourselves aside for the sake of another’s demands. We were afraid to do the smallest of things for ourselves out of fear. Fear that we’d be admonished for it. Fear that we’d be made to feel guilty if we thought about ourselves even for a moment. We were conditioned to believe that there’d be consequences if we dared to do something for ourselves. So it stands to reason that in our healing journeys, we feel hesitant to commit to any kind of self-care.
What you can do
There are many small, easy ways that we can take care of ourselves after the abusive situation. Below is just a small list of what you can do to begin your self-care journey. Remember, start out slow. There’s no reason to overload yourself with every self-care method right out of the gate.
- Take a bubble bath
- Listen to calming music
- Walk around the block
- Get a manicure/pedicure
- Veg out on the couch and watch movies
- Keep a journal
- Learn meditation/deep breathing exercises
- Turn up the volume on your favorite songs and dance in your room
- Take a nap when you feel tired
- Go for a jog in your local park
- Read a book
- Tend to your garden
- Spend time with good friends
- Learn a new craft/hobby
- Make a “What I am grateful for” list
- Learn to write an interesting form of poetry (haiku, limerick, etc)
Each of the above examples will help recharge your batteries and help you reconnect with yourself and those closest to you. You will even begin to reap the multitude of benefits from self-care– increased productivity, boost in your mood, improved immune system, and increased emotional health.
When we learn to “stop and smell the roses” and take care of ourselves, we will give ourselves a stronger healing path to travel down. When we begin to meet our own needs, we will become stronger, mentally, emotionally and even physically. We will become more efficient and energetic. Keep in mind that taking care of ourselves does not have to cost a great deal of money, nor does it need to take up a great deal of time. Do what you feel you need to in order to achieve the best you in your healing journey.