Self-Care After Trauma

Whether it happened recently or years ago, self-care can help you cope with the short and long term effects of trauma.

Emotional Self-Care

Emotional self-care means different things to different people. The key to emotional self-care is being in tune with yourself. Think about a time when you felt balanced and grounded. Ask yourself what you were doing, where you were, who was with you, and any other helpful, descriptive details.

Physical Self-Care

After a trauma, it’s important to keep your body healthy and strong. You may be healing from injuries or feeling emotionally drained. Good physical health can support you through this time.

Self-Care and You

Keep reminding yourself that your responses are normal responses to a stressful situation. Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. Your body and mind will tell you what you need to do—your job is to listen to them. Get plenty of rest when you’re tired, and use the energy you have if you experience hyperactivity at times. Don’t force yourself to be active if you don’t have the energy, and rest when you feel tired.

Talk to people. Reach out. You may experience a need to talk repetitively about the trauma. If you can find someone who is willing to listen, use her/him to talk to about how you are feeling. If you do not have anyone in your support network to use, consider calling a crisis line, going to a crisis center, or using other community resources—they are there to help you. Spend time with others, even if you don’t feel like talking. It can be very comforting to know you’re not alone. Try to find someone or someplace that feels safe and comforting to you, and spend time there.

Don’t make any major life decisions or big life changes if at all possible. This is not a time to put pressure on yourself to do anything out of the ordinary. Concentrate on taking care of yourself. Do things that feel good to you—take baths, read, exercise, watch television, spend time with friends and family, fix yourself a special treat, or whatever else feels nurturing and self-caring.

Allow yourself to cry, rage, and express your feelings. Try not to numb your feelings with alcohol or drugs. This will only complicate your situation.

Practicing Self-Care

Good self-care enables you to better care for others, especially if there is someone in your life who has survived sexual violence. The principles of self-care for friends and family are similar to the self-care concepts for survivors, but there are some additional aspects to consider.

Maintain your lifestyle

It can be difficult to stay emotionally strong if you are focusing on the sexual assault. Maintaining your lifestyle and continuing to do what you enjoy is important for your emotional wellness. If you enjoy painting, cooking, exercising, spending time with friends, or other activities, keep them up. It may seem challenging to make time to do these activities, but they can be helpful self-care strategies in the long-run.

Reach Out and Talk About It

It’s normal to have a difficult time processing a sexual assault. It can continue to be difficult as time goes on and the survivor begins the healing process. You can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit at online.rainn.org to chat with someone who understands what you’re going through. You can also consider talking to someone who is trained professionally to help you deal with these thoughts and feelings, such as a mental health professional.

Make Plans

Sometimes talking about what happened can help you cope with your feelings, and other times it can make you feel stuck. Make plans that give you a break from talking or thinking about the assault. It could mean starting a new hobby or revisiting one you already enjoy. You could go to dinner with a group of friends who understand this isn’t time to discuss what happened. Maybe you prefer a solo activity, like going on long walks. Let this be a time where you can take your mind off the assault.

Take Time to Relax

Relaxation looks different for everyone. You might consider meditation or deep breathing exercises. Maybe journaling helps you sort through your thoughts and find peace. Build time into your day for these moments of relaxation.