When I recommend the need for self-care to trauma survivors, they say it can feel like a chore.
Some of them even roll their eyes and tell me, “You mean you want me to take care of myself? Ugh. Who has time for that?!”
It’s tempting for any person to undervalue self-care. But for trauma survivors, resistance to self-care has much deeper roots. Healing takes a focused, gentle approach.
Self-Care as a Practice of Welcoming Your Needs
Many trauma survivors learned to do without self-care because they had to. To live with the pain of so many unmet needs, they learned to numb the healthy urge to care for themselves. That’s why I want everyone to know, self-care isn’t about doing what you “should” and feeling bad if you don’t.
Self-care is about warmly welcoming yourself and all your needs. It is a process of relaxing to hear the voice within, without judging. It’s about giving yourself the kind, caring attention you need every day.
Fear not; on the healing journey, self-care is the good part! It can be light and easy—and you can find ways to provide self-care that truly feel good to you. It’s healthy to take care of yourself, and I’m going to tell you why and how.
My article What Is Good Self-Care, and Why You Deserve It gives you a bigger picture of self-care for trauma, and what is involved. Self-care can be more of a mental mindset that can take some time to adjust to. But today, I just want a share a few easy tips that you can implement into your life now.
It’s okay to take baby steps. I’m not expecting you to master self-care in immediately. If you can adopt one thing into your life that makes you feel good, let’s call that a win. Deal?
A Personal Example: My Fuzzy Slippers
Self-care is an important part of being a therapist, a partner, a parent and a human being, all who deserve all the best life has to offer! And yes, I believe YOU, too, deserve the best life has to offer!
I do practice what I preach! I have my own routines of self-care that I covet! Feel free to borrow any of these and make them your own.
For example, every night when I come home from work, the first thing I do is take off my heels and put on my cozy, fuzzy slippers. I feel the softness and comfort on my feet, and it helps me relax after a busy day. What would you do first to unwind, and take care of you?
Why Attention to Self-Care Is Necessary
Self-care for trauma recovery is truly necessary. If you’ve been living without better self-care, then you may be amazed at the big positive impact it can have on your quality of life. And if you’re a trauma survivor (whether you realize it or not)—it’s very likely you need support to explore how you take care of yourself. Check out: 9 Signs You Need Better Self-Care and May Be a Trauma Survivor.
Self-care is necessary because:
- Self-care supports a healthy relationship with yourself. It boosts confidence and self-esteem.
- Self-care is necessary to remind yourself and others that you are important too.
- Self-care helps you live – not just exist!
- Self-care creates better physical health, regulates the nervous system, reduces stress and helps you down-regulate from a state of hyperarousal.
- Self-care can help heal the toxic stress from childhood trauma that has been shown to lead to adverse health outcomes.
- Self-care will support healthier relationships between yourself and others.
How to Start With Self-Care: First Steps You Can Take Today
Asking for help, being compassionate with yourself, learning to say no—these might be more challenging self-care implementations—but they are important and necessary on the journey to truly caring for yourself. (I like how Katherine Hurst puts self-care types in categories: sensory, emotional, spiritual, physical and social.)
There is no wrong place to start. Even small steps are good steps. Here are three specific ways to explore better self-care right now, that take very little extra time:
- Use and feel soft, cozy things. Slippers, sweatpants, a fluffy robe, a fuzzy throw you put over yourself on the couch…have something cozy and self-soothing. When you use it, notice the feeling even for a few seconds. As far as I’m concerned, soft and cozy is the way to go!
- Take comfort in a lotion or soothing fragrance. Whether it’s an essential oil, scented lotion or candle you light when you get home, find a fragrance that you can enjoy and find comfort in. In my office, on my coffee table, I have different smelling lotions. Purchase a sample size of your favorite lotion, keep it in your bag or briefcase, and use it anytime you’re feeling triggered or hyper-aroused. Take a moment to breathe in and enjoy the smell. This can also help you manage flashbacks.
- Allow yourself some actual minutes. If you think to yourself, “It’s a nice day for a walk”—take 15 minutes and go for that walk. Read a book, make a date with friends, sit in a coffee shop, have a nightly cup of tea before bed, draw, listen to music you love—make time to stop in that museum you’ve been curious about. Do something kind for your body—get your nails done, go for a run, meditate, get a massage, etc. For starters, spend 17 minutes and watch this TED Talk, in which Guy Winch, PhD shares: Why we all need to practice emotional first aid.
You Deserve It. You Really Do.
Doing things for yourself is NOT the same as being selfish. It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask so you’re able to help others! You can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not okay.
Are you overdue for some self-care? You may be if you’re:
- Just getting by
- Just surviving
- Just minimally okay
- Struggling each day
These are signs it’s crucial that you take care of yourself first.
So, how will you care for yourself today? What can you come up with to be good to yourself?
Because I know you deserve it.
More Ways You Can Provide Self-Care Include:
- Setting boundaries to reduce worrying
- Being able to receive compliments
- Creating healthy boundaries in relationships
- Moving forward with healthy relationships
- Working with a trauma informed therapist
- Practicing self-compassion
- Using a mind-body approach in trauma recovery