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Self-Care and PTSD

In health care, self-care is "any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated." For those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the basics of self-care can sometimes fall by the wayside, and taking care of ourselves can become part of a daily "chores" routine.

Good self-care is a challenge for many people, and it can be especially challenging for survivors of interpersonal violence and abuse, but it is an important part of the healing process.

Self-care is unique for everyone. Below are some ideas to get you started in developing your own self-care plan. It can be overwhelming to consider taking on many new things. It may be helpful to start with a couple of ideas, and build on that.

Physical Self-Care is an area that people often overlook.

Food: People are often so busy that they don't have time to eat regularly, or they substitute fast food for regular meals. It's not always reasonable to expect people to get 3 square meals a day (plus snacks!), but everyone should make sure they get adequate nutrition. One example of a self-care goal: Even if it's a small amount, I will eat something for each meal.

Exercise: The CDC recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week. Exercise, even if it's just a quick walk at lunchtime, can help combat feelings of sadness or depression, and prevent chronic health problems. One example of a self-care goal: I will go for a walk Tuesday and Thursday after I get out of my morning class.

Sleep: Although everyone has different needs, a reasonable guideline is that most people need between 7-10 hours of sleep per night. One example of a self-care goal: I will go to bed by 11:00PM during the week so that I can get enough sleep. Visit our Sleep Issues & PTSD page for further info.

Medical care: Getting medical attention when you need it is an important form of physical self-care. Some survivors put off getting medical care until problems that might have been relatively easy to take care of have become more complicated. One example of a self-care goal: I will set aside money in my budget (or seek financial help) so that I can get my prescriptions filled every month.

Emotional Self-Care will mean different things for different people. It might mean:

Counseling: This could mean seeing a psychologist, a clinical social worker, or therapist.

Keeping a Journal: Some survivors find that recording their thoughts and feelings in a journal or diary helps them manage their emotions after an assault or abusive situation. One example of a self-care goal: I will write in my journal at least 3 times this week.

Meditation or Relaxation Exercises: Relaxation techniques or meditation help many survivors with their emotional self-care.

For example: Sit or stand comfortably, with your feet flat on the floor, and your back straight. Place one hand over your belly button.

Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, and let your stomach expand as you inhale. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth, sighing as you breathe out. Concentrate on relaxing your stomach muscles as you breathe in.

When you are doing this exercise correctly, you will feel your stomach rise and fall about an inch as you breathe in and out.

Try to keep the rest of your body relaxed. Your shoulders should not rise and fall as you breathe. Slowly count to 4 as you inhale, and to 4 again as you exhale. At the end of the exhalation, take another deep breath. After 3-4 cycles of breathing you should begin to feel the calming effects.

One example of a self-care goal: I will practice deep breathing before I go to sleep, to calm down from the day.

Support: Emotional self-care can also involve the people around you. It's important to make sure that the people in your life are supportive. Nurture relationships with people that make you feel good about yourself. Make spending time with friends and family a priority.

If finding people who can support your experience as a survivor is a challenge, consider joining or starting a support group for survivors. Visit our Find or Start a Local Group page to find out how, or our join our private support group: Women with PTSD United ™ Support Group

Be Wary Of:

Friends or family who only call when they need something.

People who always leave you feeling tired or depressed when you see them.

Friends who never have the time to listen to you.

Anyone who dismisses or belittles your experience as a survivor.

You don't have to cut them out of your life (with family, that may not even be an option), but you can set limits, and choose the time you will spend with them carefully. Make sure that your time with these people has a clear end.

Continue Reading Self-Care & PTSD: Page 2

Worksheets and Info Regarding Self-Care

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