Self-care is a simple concept, yet for many of us, it can be incredibly difficult in practice. It is especially challenging for victims and survivors of abuse, who are often made to feel like they are not worthy of love or care. But the truth is that everyone deserves to be cared for, and we all have the power to be our own caregivers. That’s what self-care is all about; taking care of yourself in ways that feel best to you, focus on your own health and well-being, and bring you comfort.
If you have experienced abuse in your life, self-care may seem like a foreign concept, exhausting, or pointless to consider. You might be questioning how it could be of any use to you, which is totally understandable. It helps to remember that self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent; it’s simply one tool you can turn to when coping with or healing from an abusive relationship. At first, doing self-care might not feel “normal” to you, and that’s okay. Start by making small, gradual changes and focus on being gentle with yourself.
Making sure basic needs are met is the foundation of self-care. Do you get adequate sleep? Do you eat regular meals? Is physical activity part of your daily life? For some people, meeting these basic needs might not be possible all at once, so it might be helpful to focus on one at a time. Others may choose to make a list to remind themselves to meet at least one basic need or do one self-care activity daily. There is no wrong way to care for yourself; think about what feels right for you and your situation.
If you’ve got the hang of meeting basic needs, try brainstorming other activities that you might enjoy doing, or that you once enjoyed but haven’t done in a while. We often recommend keeping a personal journal of thoughts as a form of self-care, but only if you’re in a safe place or your abusive partner won’t have access to it. However, if journaling doesn’t appeal to you there are plenty of other options. Here are just a few examples: reading a book, taking a walk, drinking a cup of tea, knitting, drawing, painting, cycling, swimming, watching a funny movie, taking a bath, talking to a friend, baking, taking three deep breaths, praying, meditating, volunteering, taking photos, playing a video game, playing or cuddling with a pet, attending a support group or counseling session, stretching, listening to your favorite song, dancing, singing, daydreaming – all of these things count as self-care, and some of them don’t take more than a few minutes. What matters is finding what works for you.