If you have experienced rape, sexual abuse or any type of sexual violence, self-care can help. We have suggestions for different self-care activities below. Why not try one out and see what works for you?
Remember, self-care should make you feel safe, comfortable, healthy and nurtured – not overwhelmed or stressed out.
Don’t try to do everything at once – why not choose one or two activities that appeal to you?
Look after your body
Stay hydrated. Try and drink 8 glasses of water or sugar-free drink every day.
Healthy eating. By eating healthily, we give our bodies the fuel they need to fight off illness and function well throughout the day. You could try to eat an extra portion of fruit or veg a day, cut down on unhealthy snacks, or make sure you eat breakfast in the morning.
Exercise. Regular exercise can improve your health, help you sleep better, and reduce feelings of sadness and anxiety. It can also make you feel stronger and more in touch with your body. It’s important to choose something that you enjoy – try walking, skipping, dancing to your favourite music, or gardening if going to the gym doesn’t appeal to you!
Yoga. Survivors and researchers have found that yoga can be very helpful for people who have experienced trauma. If you can’t make it to a class, there are lots of different free online sessions available.
Shower or bath. Taking a shower or bath can be really relaxing, plus is an important part of personal hygiene and staying well. If it seems like a huge task, think about what you enjoy about it – for example, the warmth or how you feel afterwards.
Pamper your body. Choose whatever works for you – whether it’s applying a nice moisturiser, using a face pack, getting a new haircut, painting your nails, putting on a favourite scent… Whatever makes you feel nurtured and relaxed.
Look after your environment
Get some fresh air. If you can, try to get some time outside every day. You can also open a window to get fresh air into your room.
Get clean and tidy. We know that housework might not be everyone’s first choice of self-care activity! But having a pleasant and hygienic environment can help you feel much better. If it seems like too much effort, focus on one small job – wash some dirty dishes or tidy up the area around the sofa.
Smell something nice. This could be a candle, a room spray, essential oils, baking, or fresh laundry - anything that smells good to you.
Get cosy. Get snuggled on the sofa or wrapped in your favourite blanket.
Looking after your mental wellbeing
Do an activity you enjoy. It’s really important that you make time to do things that you find absorbing, relaxing or fun. It doesn’t matter what it is – it could be watching a boxset, doing a jigsaw, knitting, cooking, playing a game, scrapbooking, colouring, gardening, DIY…
Breathe. Deep breathing can be an effective way of reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.
A simple breathing exercise is:
- Place one or both hands on your belly.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose.
- Your hand and belly should rise as air fills your lungs.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth.
- You hand and belly should fall as you breathe out.
- Do this for a couple of minutes. Watch how your hand rises and falls as you breathe.
Many people find that this makes them feel calmer – however if it makes you feel more panicked, stop for now.
Grounding activities. Grounding activities are intended to help you feel calmer, more in control, and more connected to the present. They can be particularly helpful if you have flashbacks, panic attacks or feelings of dissociation. We have more information on grounding.
It’s OK to not be OK. Sometimes we try to hide or avoid negative or distressing emotions, when actually we need to recognise or express them. If you’re feeling down, anxious, sad or angry – let yourself know that it’s OK to feel like that. Sometimes we all need a big cry or a duvet day.
Write it down. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you to feel better. It can help you express your feelings, explore patterns, and reflect. You could keep a journal, either in a notebook or using an app.
Say kind and positive things to yourself. Instead of saying negative or critical things to yourself, try saying reassuring statements. These could be positive affirmations (“I am a survivor”, “I am strong”, “I am a good person”) or soothing statements (“this will pass”, “I am doing my best”, “I am safe here”).
Try to notice the good things. Our brains are hardwired to notice bad or negative things. This means that we focus on these more than the positive. You can try to balance this out by making an effort to notice the good things around you. Even noticing small things, like a nice cup of tea or a good song on the radio, can make a difference. Some people do this regularly in a gratitude journal.
Connect with other people
Send a message. Send a message to a member of your family or a friend. It doesn’t have to be about how you are feeling – it could be a silly joke, a meme or a question for them.
Make plans with family or friends. You could make plans to have a long phone call, go for a walk, go bowling, go for a coffee, play a game online… it doesn’t matter what the activity is, the aim is to connect and have fun.
Talk about how you feel. If you someone that you trust, it can help to talk about how you feel. You only have to share what feels comfortable – for example, you could focus on how you feel now rather than past experiences, if that feels better for you. You can also talk to us.
Connect online. If you have a particular interest (whether it’s a band, a hobby, a game, or an activity), you might be able to meet other people online who share that interest – whether on social media or a forum.