20 self-care practices for complex trauma survivors
Trauma therapies, such as Attachment-Focused EMDR, are often essential to lead to a full recovery from complex trauma. Despite being highly effective, trauma therapies’ positive results are intensified and felt long after treatment termination when combined with a diverse plan of self-care practices. Here are 20 self-care practices for complex trauma survivors to help you promote and maintain mental/emotional, physical and relational wellbeing:
- Get enough sleep: practice good sleep hygiene and prioritise sleep to feel re-energised and less reactive.
- Eat healthily: choose wholefoods and avoid the ones which are rich in refined carbohydrates (white pasta, bread, etc), caffeine and smoking, and lower alcohol consumption to help reduce anxiety.
- Exercise or do physical activity regularly: do yoga, Pilates, start running or brisk walking, join a gym, or have dance lessons to get that endorphin kick and prevent depression.
- Socialise: avoid isolation – which could also make you more prone to having depression – by meeting up with friends while also trying to make new ones.
- Practice good personal hygiene: shower daily, keep your nails, hair and teeth clean and wash your hands after using the toilet.
- Get things done: commit to completing tasks you have been putting off to regain a sense of competence and self-efficacy
- Have fun: remind yourself to do fun things and be with people that make you feel good
- Spend time in nature: go for hikes, even if short ones, or for long drives in the countryside to declutter your mind and reduce arousal
- Do something different: practice an activity that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable or out of your comfort zone to stimulate cognition (memory, attention and perception)
- Try out alternative medicine to treat seemingly unsolvable aches and pains: book an acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, Rolfing, craniosacral or chiropractic session
- Take a break from social media: read a book, listen to music, or try sitting still and connecting with your surroundings instead of dissociating from it while staring at a screen
- Be selective with what you watch and read: avoid watching the news or films and documentaries that trigger you. Go for content that leads to laughter, loving feelings and pleasure over fear and anger.
- Allow yourself to take a break: listen to your body and respect its need for relaxation. Do not keep putting off making a doctor’s appointment when needed.
- Reduce screen time: limit phone and computer use to certain times of the day. Do not touch your mobile phone 2 hours before bedtime if you suffer from sleep disturbances.
- Do grief work: take time to sit down somewhere private to cry and feel angry about what you are going through or were submitted to when growing up.
- Meditate and do breathing exercises: ground yourself by sitting down and focusing on your breathing.
- Do affirmations: practice positive brainwashing by listening to affirmations that target your insecurities and vulnerabilities daily.
- Listen to and believe in your feelings to honour your boundaries: choose to believe in what you feel and say no more often.
- Reduce dramatically or cut contact with individuals that have a negative effect on you: favour spending time with people who accept, listen and support you.
- Do not allow your trauma history to define you: work on changing your narrative in a way that highlights your resilience, inner strength and post-traumatic growth.
To develop a healthy and enjoyable self-care routine, make it your own. Choose practices with which you identify or feel in the mood to try out. Then, practice at least one of them daily. Show true love for yourself by creating a habit of making time for healing and personal growth – especially when you are not feeling well – to regain a sense of wholeness and connection and lead a pleasant, enjoyable life.