Step 10: We examined and tackled other areas of self-care and self love including meditation, creating fun, our physical needs, our friendships, relationships and spirituality.
Survivors of abuse often spend so much time in survival mode that we don’t get the chance to look at the areas that bring us joy, happiness and health. Now that the abuse is over, we deserve to live our life to the full and need to look at the areas that we may have neglected. Parts of this step may feel rewarding and parts may feel like hard work, but by addressing our needs we will be brought one step closer to recovery.
Meditation: Many victims of abuse, especially victims of sexual abuse, are out of touch with our bodies. A lot of us live in our heads too much, we over analyse and mentally exhaust ourselves before realising we need a break. Our minds, like all other organs, need rest. Mindfulness or prayer can often help us to rest our minds and slow down or thoughts. Meditation can often be a good aid to help us out of fight or flight mode when we are feeling on red alert for no particular reason. It can help with panic attacks and connecting with our bodies. Mindfulness isn’t for everyone but we should at least give it a try. We may prefer yoga, prayer, tai chi or another alternative that gives us similar benefit.
Creating fun: It is our responsibility to create for ourselves a life worth living. When we come out of a dark place we can often forget the things that we used to do that we enjoyed. We may not feel up to trying anything fun and may find ourselves saying we will do these things when we feel better. However it is in doing more of these things that we begin to feel better not the other way round. In this step we need to identify what makes us smile, what makes the heart sing. We need to make these activities priority in our lives to create the life that we deserve. At first we may find we don’t even enjoy it like we once did, and for a time we may need to" fake it till we make it", but eventually we will get our smile back and find joy in our daily lives. It can I help to write a list of activities we might enjoy and take a weekly task to do at least one of the activities. For some it may be walking, catching up with friends or watching a favorite movie. For others it may be joining a local social club, going on trips to the beach, going to a comedy, taking a bath, lighting some candles, practicing art or having a massage.
Meeting our physical needs: This is where we need to ask ourselves if we take care and control of our bodies. Do we nurture ourselves with nutritional foods, do we exercise our bodies, do we drink enough water. This may this may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things but our mental and physical well-being are intertwined and linked. We cannot be healthy in our minds if we neglect our bodies and vice versa. This step does not require us to be on strict diets and exercise regimes but we are encouraged to look at the benefits of having the energy and motivation that exercise and good nutrition can give us. We deserve and strive to be the healthiest versions of ourselves. We also look at our self-care as we can sometimes neglect our appearance when we are struggling, this affects our confidence and start a vicious cycle. We deserve to spend time taking care of our physical needs and this may require our habits to change.
Our relationships and friendships. We need to examine the relationships we have and ask if they are healthy supportive and loving relationships. All relationships have ups and downs but victims of abuse can sometimes be vulnerable to accepting controlling unhealthy relationships due to self esteem issues. Any toxic relationships or friendships may need to be worked on or possibly left. We need to work harder at giving energy to the relationships that build us up and support us. John Rowe once said "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with choose wisely". In this regard, we consider how the people we surround ourselves with influence who we are. If we are around people who do not value us, who belittle us, invalidate us, or drain us of our energy then we need to challenge the amount of time we spend with these people and possibly question if they should be in our lives at all. Likewise we should not surround ourselves with people that don’t challenge us or are afraid to tell us when we are wrong. In recovery it often means putting up healthy boundaries with some friends and family and making space for new healthier friendships to grow.
Spirituality: Spirituality should not be confused with religion or the church. Some people find a lot of comfort in a higher power in whatever form that takes for them. Some believe that by surrendering to the higher power we can find peace and serenity in our lives. Others believe it is a power within ourselves that can help us heal. If we find comfort in believing that a power greater than ourselves exists then this can often help us in our recovery, however, it is not a necessity. As long as we believe in recovery from our abuse, where it no longer defines us, then that is the faith that matters.
"Self-care is so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from your overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel" Eleanor Brown