5 Self-Care Tips for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
Research over several decades has highlighted a long list of potential physical and mental health issues caused by childhood abuse. Dealing with childhood trauma can cast a long shadow into adulthood. That doesn’t mean that every adult who experienced childhood abuse is irreparably harmed. Studies have shown that despite the risks of developing destructive behaviors, roughly one-third of children who experienced an abusive environment grow into healthy and capable adults.
While we know it is impossible to forget a history of childhood abuse, we also know that it is possible to find constructive ways to cope with that history. The impact of abusive experiences are unique to individual survivors and can span a broad spectrum, from low self-esteem to suicide ideation.
Prioritizing one’s mental and physical health through self-care can be an impactful and healing experience for survivors, particularly because it is an opportunity to show themselves the love and compassion they may not have received as a child.
5 Self-Care Tips
- Mindful Meditation
A study conducted in 2014 examined the effect mindful mediation had on women who experienced childhood maltreatment. For instance, they were guided through a body scan (systematically bringing attention to each part of the body), mediations in which they regarded thoughts with non-judgment and acceptance, and a practice in which they paired with another participant to silently offer and receive compassion to each other.
While the study only focused on women, the benefits can easily be extrapolated for any childhood abuse survivor. The results suggested that it led to reduced emotional suppression and rumination, more emotional clarity, and better emotion regulation.
The ancient practice of yoga can be an excellent activity and healing technique. By releasing held tension, paying attention to the present, and regulating the nervous system, a somatic approach can help ease the feelings of helplessness, fear, arousal, and disconnection that can arise for trauma survivors.
Although yogis have understood the mind-body link for thousands of years, modern science is now catching up. A growing number of experts now advocate for incorporating body-based techniques into trauma recovery.
There are various trauma-sensitive virtual classes, including living-yoga.org, TCTSY – Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, and The Trauma-Conscious Yoga Institute – Trauma Informed Care.
Journaling can be a therapeutic way to express yourself. There is scientific evidence that journaling can help people identify and accept their emotions, manage their stress, and ease mental illness symptoms. Studies have associated journaling with strengthening the immune system, dropping blood pressure, and improving people’s sleep.
It doesn’t require any equipment, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. You can keep a hand-written journal or use a computer to record your thoughts and feelings. Check out this excellent tool to help you start writing therapy, improve it, or visit The Center for Journal Therapy.
Another great avenue for survivors to heal and cope is gardening. Studies have shown that therapeutic horticulture programs effectively reduce stress, depression, and negative feelings and promote relaxation, social inclusion, and self-confidence. An added benefit is that the garden can provide a place to relax.
It doesn’t require a lot of space; even a planter or window box can offer great benefits. Many communities make community garden plots available, too.
Music as a healing method dates back to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who prescribed music to treat physical and psychological conditions. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy helps by providing non-verbal outlets for emotions linked with traumatic experiences, stress and anxiety reduction, positive mood changes, along with enhanced feelings of confidence, control, and empowerment.
According to the National Library of Medicine, a team of researchers in Finland found that patients who received music therapy showed a 50% or more significant improvement in treating symptoms of depression.
Look into Coursera for all kinds of free, virtual music classes.
Each journey is unique, and your healing should feel right for you. Start with valuing your health, and remember to be patient with yourself. Try any of the tips above or explore other options. Caring for yourself can be enjoyable, and we hope you find joy in self-care on your journey.
Get Support and Continue the Conversation – Join our Survivor Community
EndCAN is committed to growing a community of survivors to end child abuse and neglect. We recently launched the Louder than Silence: Ending Child Abuse and Neglect Survivor Community through Inspire. Inspire is a free, online community of support groups where people exploring health conditions can feel safe, be authentic, anonymously discuss their experiences, and learn from other people who have “been there.” Ask questions about your experiences with child abuse and neglect, get support from other survivors, and join us in the movement to create a world safer for future generations. You can join our survivor community today at https://www.inspire.com/groups/prevent-child-abuse/.