In general, prioritising your mental, physical and emotional health is vital especially under these difficult times we are facing. However, as a survivor who needs extra love, it may be difficult to figure out maybe just how to. In this article not only will I share what worked for me but also I asked Devina your arc uni advocate at Brunel, who is also a mental health expert, about what you can do to care for yourself during these difficult times.
1) An emergency self-care plan
Often survivors of SA may experience anxiety attacks or PTSD episodes, these are often caused by triggers and are sometimes unavoidable in a moment. It is important to have a plan or steps that you can take when the attacks occur to re-center and ground yourself. These steps could be meditation, deep breathing exercise, going for a walk, or even talking to a friend. Whatever steps you need to make you feel grounded and safe that is your emergency self-care plan.
2) Journal keeping of emotions
For most people healing comes from artistic expression or literature etc Finding an outlet for your emotions can be key on your journey to healing. Being able to understand your emotions and express them is important. It can be as simple as opening the notes section on your phone and letting out whatever you may be feeling on the screen or you could create a journal that you can bring with you everywhere to write or even draw your emotions whenever needed. A trigger for some survivors can come from seeing a person who looks likes your abuser or even being in a similar setting or place. When those moments occur try and find a safe space to sit down and release your emotions through writing or drawing.
3) Walk away from situations or conversations that may make you feel triggered
Personally, for me this was the hardest self-care lesson to learn. As much as I wanted to educate and empower people to understand what sexual assault is and how we can eradicate it, sometimes some people are not always good at learning and it can sometimes cause you more harm than good to engage in these situations. The topic may also be very sensitive to talk about while you’re healing. Sometimes walking away is the best option to protect your inner peace.
4) Physical self-care
Physical self-care is important, as taking care of your body can help reduce the feeling of anxiety and depression. This means making sure you’re getting enough sleep, perhaps doing daily exercise or having a daily routine. However all of that may feel difficult to reach or do, but what I would suggest doing is start off with one thing for e.g. deciding to get more sleep, or going on afternoon jogs, etc Remember every small change you do is progress!!!
5) Know and communicate your boundaries!
Another part of self-care is knowing and protecting your own space and boundaries with every relationship you have. It doesn’t matter whether they’re your best friend or mother or partner. Expressing what you need and making sure you are vocal about your own space is important. If a friend does something that may spark a trigger let them know be vocal about it. It Is Important to make your needs heard, your family and friends will understand.
6) Find community and support
There is plenty of support for survivors even on campus, Survivors not victims is a safe space for survivors on campus to come to when you’re ready. The support group is run every Thursday at 4 pm fortnightly on zoom, in these sessions, everything is kept CONFIDENTIAL! We offer you vital information and support you through every step of the healing process. You can count on us to be there and even offer support to those who would like to take things to the next step.
If you also have loved ones who have been assaulted and you want to support them you can also join our meetings and I would also suggest reaching out to them in person or over the phone. It would be best to tell them that you stand with them and you're there to listen. Often survivors just need someone to listen to them. Our SA support group also offers survivors weekly phone calls to check in on our members' wellbeing in addition to us supporting survivors by going with them to speak to safeguarding, police, etc Brunel’s uni advocates, Devina, is not only here to offer support but also information and help students gain access to resources and information you need.
Lastly, It is vital that you remember that you come first. Reading this article is also your first step in figuring out what works best for you and this is a huge step in your healing process. I also would like to remind you that you are not alone and we all need help sometimes. The survivors' support group is here to do just that; to access the link to this Thursday zoom support group session please email email@example.com