12 Self-Care Tips For Domestic Violence Survivors

Edith Mecha
Edith Mecha

Self-care is an important part of healing and recovery. But it can be difficult for people who don’t have access to medical treatment or mental health care.

Last year, about the time most families were running around the city chasing goodies for the long festive season, I met with a longtime friend as she crossed from Kencom stage to Hilton Bata. Grace didn’t look like her normal self, at all.

She would usually be cheerful, lively and bright, telling it with a smile, a chuckle, and a joke over another. Now, against all odds, she struck me hard: dull, sickly and absent. I felt confused after my initial excitement of almost a decade of ‘longtime-no-see’.
I couldn’t hide my concern, perhaps asking for the upteenth time if everything was okay.

No longer able to sustain the simple “all is well, deskee” lie to my persistent quest on her self-care, she leaned over to my left shoulder, and almost inaudibly confessed that she was going through depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), emanating from the two-year physical and emotional abuse she had endured from her ex-husband. And, reviving the friendship of yonder, in a low tone conversation, she divulged the sorrows she had persevered that almost broke the once tireless promising leader.

It’s likely that you may know someone who is going through the same. It could be a friend, a family member or even a colleague. This is because healing from trauma or abuse can sometimes be a challenging journey that requires commitment and a safe space for it to be successful. It is a gradual, ongoing process that could take months or years for one to come to a point of complete healing. However, with the right attitude, strategies and support, one can move past the trauma, rebuild their sense of control and self-worth, and come out stronger.

Self-care becomes essential in helping one to reduce the turmoil and volatility that undermines their ability to work or even function well daily.

Unfortunately, many survivors view self-care as a comfort they cannot afford or don’t deserve as many victims of abuse are often forced to put the needs of their abuser before their own. This shouldn’t be the case at all because everyone merits self-care which can be done using simple strategies within a person’s means. It could involve creating a healing journal or even watching one’s favorite TV show.  

Being kind to oneself is important. One needs to find interesting ways to take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Doing things that make you happy can serve a crucial role in healing.

With compassion, acceptance of oneself, and some self-care tips, one can gain a better version of themselves leading to great achievements.

Here are 12 self-care tips that can be helpful.

1. Positive self-affirmations

Survivors, having endured hurtful words, physical and emotional abuse for a long time, need to reprogram their subconscious mind. They could replace all the negative words the abuser told them with positive words. This can be done by recording positive affirmations like “I am worthy, I am valuable, I am beautiful, I will make it.’ Listening to your own voice saying these affirmations daily, is a great way to rewrite the narrative abusers have written for you and eliminate one’s own inner toxic critical voice.

2. Engage in physical exercises that excite you

Studies show that trauma lives in our bodies and minds till we find ways to discard it. Dr. Sussanne Babbel, in her book Heal the Body, Heal the Mind , observes that “traumatic events can leave mental and physical scars but these scars don’t have to define you. By practicing exercises and mind-body interventions, one can learn to move past trauma, restore relationships, and cultivate spiritual awareness.”

Therefore, it’s important to look for an exercise that you love like aerobics, dancing, walking, yoga or jogging to release the negative thoughts and feelings. Physical activities are a good stress reliever.

3. Reignite activities or hobbies that used to make you happy

This could be drawing, writing, painting, photography, making music, or doing arts and crafts.  This is a good way to release the trauma in alternate ways that engage both mind and body. Remember, hobbies have always been a good antidote for daily pressures.

4. Ask for help

Find a validating mental health professional or counselor. At their support you will be able to address your trauma triggers in a safe space.

5. Join a survivor support group

Being around people who have gone through similar experiences can be useful, help you regain confidence and yourself. Sharing your story with other survivors can be incredibly healing and liberating.  Look up groups on Facebook, Google and Safe Speak.

Self-care tips while healing from abuse

6. Take deep breaths

Simply taking just a few moments daily to practice some deep breathing exercises can decrease stress, relax your mind, body, help you sleep better and keep you focused.

7. Set goals and track your performance

This will keep you focused. It can also rebuild a sense of wellness and happiness. Attaining one’s goals will bring a sense of achievement and a positive mindset that is valuable to you, your loved ones and society.

8. Keep in contact with friends and family

Friends can be good medicine. A Harvard study established that having solid friendships helps promote brain health. Friends help us deal with stress, make better lifestyle choices that keep us strong, and allow us to rebound from health issues and disease more quickly.

9. Develop a realistic to do list

This could include time for work, rest, eat, sleep, relationships, and recreation. Eat three meals a day and drink enough water.

10. Create a to be list and add activities to help you become the person you want

11. Meditate for 10 minutes

12. Write a list of things you’re grateful for

Finally, throughout this process of healing, learn to cherish yourself! Take your time to get into the groove for living again. It is not an instant fix but this journey is worth it because in order to heal from something there has to be growth on both sides of the coin. It doesn’t happen overnight or without hard work- so count those blessings every day as they start taking shape one step at a time. Healing is a journey and, with a positive attitude and commitment, you will make it.

The following tips can be helpful in one’s recovery. You can choose the ones you are most comfortable with and transform them into a habit. This will involve daily commitment, as well as having an individualized self-care plan that meets all your needs when trauma threatens to overwhelm during difficult times.

A simple self-care plan may cut back on socializing while simplifying sleep hygiene practices such as limiting caffeine intake after noon and practicing good sleeping habits like going to bed at 10 pm instead of 11:59pm. However, for those who feel this doesn’t meet their personal needs they could have detailed plans. Start by identifying your daily needs and coping strategies when trauma threatens to overwhelm. Subsequently, create your plan.

A better form of yourself awaits you, coz your best is yet.

For more support check out resources here.

**If you are in an abusive relationship or someone you know is, call the following hotlines: Kenya -1195, UK – 999, 0808 2000 247South Africa – 0800 428-428 and call-back service by dialing *120*7867#, Germany – 0800 22 55 530 / 0800 011 6016and USA – 1−800−799−7233.


Edith Mecha
Edith Mecha

Edith is a writer, social science researcher and speaker who cares about communication, gender equality, and women empowerment. She loves adventure and comedy too! Edith believes that we can all be agents of positive change in our communities by making small but impactful changes every day.

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