After having our conversation, we might need some time to process the feelings and thoughts that resulted from sharing with someone else. Whether we receive a supportive or an unsupportive response from the person we share with, it is essential that we put ourselves first and concentrate on getting better.
1. Slow down, and take a deep breath.
It's normal to feel overwhelmed, but remember that fear and confusion are temporary and that these reactions are normal. Take things slowly. Feelings are not permanent, and even negative emotions will eventually pass. Talking about the assault could make us feel better, but it's often really hard. Wanting to "get on with our lives" and even avoiding the topic, are also a natural part of recovery.
2. Allow yourself to express emotions.
Telling our story might have brought back memories and flashbacks of the assault. Feel free to express your emotions: if you feel like crying, let it happen. If you are angry, allow yourself to be angry. Some of us have been brought up to believe that it’s safest to keep our emotions bottled up inside, but letting ourselves go can bring relief. Having these feelings does not mean you're "losing your mind": you're recovering, and in healing you’ll find new strengths and insights.
3. Get your mind off recurring negative thoughts.
If your mind is running in a circle and you feel stuck, allow yourself to change your focus on more positive things. This is not a permanent solution to these thoughts, but it can give us temporary relief as well as help us identify the trigger of our negative feelings. Try making a list of things that make you feel better, like your favourite song or recipe, a joyful memory, or someone who loves you and believes in you. Use this list to uplift yourself and break off the cycle of negative thoughts.
4. Reconnect body and mind — and find ways to laugh.
Even if it seems difficult right now, try to find a way to make space for laughter and joy. Do regular things that are not related to your trauma: connect with new or old friends, or start planning the future. We might have been trying to shut down our feelings, but numbing our negative emotions can close the door for positive ones too. Bring back the connection between body and mind with meditation, breathing or movement.
5. Remind yourself: it was not your fault.
Even if you rationally know this, tell yourself as many times as you need that it was not your fault. You did not choose to be assaulted, and being assaulted does not make you a bad person. Surround yourself with people who are supportive. Consider looking for resources that explain why these myths about assault exist, and how they can influence our feelings. Understanding can bring relief.
When moving through a traumatic experience, taking care of ourselves has to be our priority. Helping ourselves to prevent undue stress, and reminding ourselves of our worth in spite of what we have faced, is very important to our healing as we go through the stages of processing our trauma. Here, we have outlined some self-care ideas that might be helpful for you in the healing process.
Try stress-reduction techniques. Exercise like jogging, aerobics or walking may help, as well as relaxation techniques like yoga, hot baths, prayer, or meditation.
Maintain a balanced and healthy sleep cycle and diet. Avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, sugar and nicotine, and aim to get 8 hours of sleep a night, if possible.
Take “time outs”. Giving ourselves permission to take breaks from social media and quiet moments to reflect and relax, especially when we’re feeling stressed out or unsafe, can be rejuvenating and help us clear our minds.
Drink water or tea. Hydration and being mindful of the process of calming ourselves by drinking water or making ourselves a cup of tea can help us be calm and present in what we’re doing day by day.
Read. Reading can be a relaxing, healing activity for us. Finding short periods of uninterrupted leisure reading time can help us through our healing.
Writing or keeping a journal. Consider keeping a notebook handy as a way of expressing thoughts and feelings as they occur. Writing can help us release our feelings of anger or pain. It may help to write a letter about how we feel about what happened to us (we don’t have to send the letter, but it may help us to write it as though we will, to allow ourselves to be specific and get our anger out).
Tap into your creative side! Creativity can be so important to help us when healing from hurt. Find time to start or resume a creative activity like playing piano, painting, gardening, etc. We can also use art to let out our anger towards our attacker and release some of the emotional pain we feel.
If you are comfortable doing it, hug those you love.
Revisit the things that make you laugh. At times we can forget about all of the good and fun things in our lives. Looking back at what has made us laugh can remind us that the way we currently feel can change and that we can feel happy and laugh. Take the time to revisit your favourite film, watch YouTube videos that make you smile (we love watching puppy videos, but if kittens are more for you, choose that!), or look back over funny/happy memories that make you laugh to remind yourself of how our trauma is not everything to us.
An important takeaway here is that putting ourselves first is a positive and important thing. It does not make us bad or selfish. The more we take care of ourselves the better we can engage in our relationships with others. By actively replenishing our spirit and well-being, we create more space in our lives for others and most importantly, for ourselves.