7 Simple and Effective Self-care Tools for Trauma Survivors

Dr Christine Blasey Ford self care tools for trauma

I’ve found the Kavanaugh hearings incredibly triggering (and I’m a therapist with trauma as one of my specialisms as well as having had lots of therapy myself).

So I thought I’d share some self-care tools I use myself as well as with clients and students. I hope you find them helpful. Feel free to share this link if you think someone else might benefit:

1)      Ground – right now and any time it hits, remind yourself that you have survived. Feel the soles of your feet supported by the ground below you. If you’re sitting down, feel all the parts of your body that are supported by the chair. If it helps, imagine roots going from each of these body parts growing downwards, deep into the centre of the earth, spreading out and offering you strength, nourishment and support from Mother Earth. If movement appeals, honour the body’s natural fight/flight impulse by tensing and releasing your thighs. Inhale as you tense, exhale as you release. This will burn off some of the stress hormones and also connect you with your body and breath so get you out of your head and into the present moment where you are safe.

2)     Allow yourself to feel your feelings – let yourself cry, sob, laugh, stamp your feet, break things (safely). Get it out of your body. Trust your body. There’s an enormous amount of wisdom there that will help you heal more than you’ve thought possible. It may not be possible to feel them all there and then (I’ve been moved to tears again watching some reporters who look to be survivors too reporting on what’s going on) but promise yourself that as soon as you get somewhere where you can, you will honour what your mind, body, heart and soul need.

3)     Name 5 things – look around you right now and name 5 things you can see in the room you’re safe in now. Aloud or in your head. Table, Shelf, Chair, Rug, Mug – whatever they might be. Bring yourself into the present moment by reminding yourself that you have survived and you are safe.

4)     Reach out – As well as being triggered and sobbing and wanting to throw up and run away (my goodness, his performance was chilling yesterday), I’ve found watching it (and the Tweets) healing. Certain loved ones know these parts of my history. I’ve contemplated telling others and am not pressuring myself either way.

5)     Journal – I’ve been journalling loads this past couple of days which feels like a month. I’ve been imagining confronting the perpetrators in my own life (who I haven’t seen for decades but still think about at least once a day. Especially with this US Administration). I’ve never done that before. My memories of both are so fragmented, I barely considered reporting. Imagining asking these men if they have any idea of the consequences of their actions, while creating a knot in my stomach as I even type these words, is itself, evidence of more healing for me. Journalling, though, is another way to get it out of my head and to let more of it go.

6)     Find your Happy Place – Think of a time or remember a time or imagine a time, just a moment, where you feel happy, relaxed, at ease in your own skin. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? What can you see? What can you hear? Are there any smells or tastes? What is the strongest emotion you’re aware of? Where do you feel this in your body? Connecting with this happy place doesn’t just feel good in the moment, it’s a mini vacation for your whole nervous system. It gives us a break from those stress hormones coursing around the system and the effects of spending just a few minutes focusing on this Happy Place can last for hours. When I first tried this, I couldn’t remember ever having felt at ease (although I was good at pretending). I imagined myself floating face down in the sea. After a while, I imagined myself floating face up, then nearer to the shore… over the years, I’ve collected a huge repertoire of Happy Places in real life as well as in my imagination. When I actually do float face down or up in the sea, I sometimes feel a little tearful to think about how much healing I’ve had over the years. By taking time daily to mentally visit your Happy Place, you’ll be more able to bring it to mind when feeling triggered and most in need.

7)     Surround yourself with inspiration – when I was first attempting to come to terms with my past without the benefit of alcohol (I had to stop drinking in my 20s because alcohol exacerbates the endometriosis pain), Eve Ensler’s VDay site had stories from survivors. Reading them – while terrified that someone might see what I’d been reading (I used to live in a giant shame spiral) gave me hope that I wouldn’t always feel as bad as I felt. In 2018, while terrible to see how prevalent such predatory behaviour is, we can also take inspiration from many more stories from survivors and even thrivers. Watching the grace and poise of Dr Christine Blasey Ford yesterday (and today as I had to tape some of it while at work) has been incredibly inspiring as well as painful. You are so much more than whatever you have been through. Let these stories remind you of that.

Obviously, these self-care tools for trauma don’t replace support from a skilled therapist, groups and anything else that helps you but they can be useful.

I keep reminding myself, as I have been since November 2016, that sunlight is the best disinfectant however painful living through these ‘interesting times’ may often feel.

I don’t yet know the names of the woman who confronted Jeff Flake in that lift but she has possibly changed the course of US history with her courage and ability to speak her truth.

What helps you when you feel flooded or triggered?

How can you be even kinder to yourself today and in this week ahead as the FBI investigates and we’re likely to see more and more emerge in the news?

Big love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor


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