A Survivor’s Four Step Guide to Healthy Self-Care

“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent caring for myself is an act of survival.” ~Audre Lorde

Let’s face it we live in a microwave, high stress, face paced world that demands that we go from one thing then to the next and on to the next without hardly the thought to take a breath, grab a bite to eat, much less think. We go on auto pilot and the next thing you know we feel overwhelmed, on edge, and frustrated at life. Things that once made you smile now are just things that are added to your endless to do list.

Sound familiar? You are not alone. So what can we do to find balance, stay in our purpose, and avoid burn out?

Practicing good self-care is key and crucial to surviving daily life stresses but when you are a survivor of trauma then it is ESSENTIAL & NON-NEGOTIBLE! So what does healthy self-care even look like? The term self-care gets a negative rap even the dictionary connotation is bleak. So the first and most important step is redefining the term in our mind.  A healthy definition from the English of Oxford Dictionaries defines self-care as the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health; the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

As a survivor of trafficking, abuse, addiction, and complex trauma life equals stress so then how can you ensure reduced stress, reclaim joy, fulfill dreams, and live in your God given purpose?

STEP 1 – LEARNING ANOTHER WAY TO THINK.

Just like athletes train and condition their mind and bodies in training we must rewire and retrain the neuropathways in our brain that have become calloused, damaged, and numb to the care we desperately need to live a healed, healthy, and whole life. According to Dr. Carolyn Leaf, a neuroscientist and leading expert in how our thoughts affect our health, the average person has 30,000 thoughts in one day. Now I don’t know about you but I feel like I have closer to 100,000. My brain feels like it is EVERYWHERE constantly thinking and processing. So if that is true then what is going on up there in my thoughts?  Philippians 4 says, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” I have figured out over the course of my almost 20-year healing journey my thought life controls my life and I can be in control of my thoughts.

As a trafficking survivor, I know fully well about flashbacks and C-PTSD and the paralyzing serious control and affect it can have in my life. I didn’t ever say it would be easy but I know this with all my heart that it is possible. When I allow my life to be controlled by the past I cannot be fully present to enjoy it nor can I embrace the people that are supporting and surrounding me. Essentially I am robbed yet again of joy, freedom, love, and connection.

STEP 2 – HONORING YOURSELF.

Ephesians 2:10 amplified version says, For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

The step that has been most critical for me is realizing I am worth honoring. I am not defined by the horrible, ugly, evil things that happened TO me. Do I sometimes still deal with the aftermath and the consequences? Absolutely & you betcha! BUT God has poured out in lavish abundance His unfailing immeasurable love over my mind, my body, and my soul so in His strength I am able to look at myself on those really difficult days and say, “Angie you are worth honoring today!”  Then as I go through my day I do things to honor myself- like take time in between meetings to eat a meal, drink a cup of tea, or breathe. You see when we push ourselves from one thing into the next thing and onto the next thing we do not honor our self. What we are actually telling ourselves is, “Your needs are NOT important!” “What I need does not matter.”

STEP 3 – DON’T BE AFRAID TO PLAY.

I am an adventure seeker so exploring, playing, and trying new things are fun and exhilarating to my soul. I have come to enjoy trying new things from backpacking to kayaking to aerial yoga.  We live in intense times and we need to have a sacred space to explore and play. When I was a child my favorite thing to do was be barefoot in the cool evening grass and wait as the fireflies came out in abundance so I could gather them in my glass jar. After catching as many as I could  I would release them and watch in wonder as each one would crawl to the edge and fly away lighting up the evening sky with beautiful light.  When our lives are filled with stresses and pressures and problems we need to make time to find things that make our souls laugh, run carefree, and feel light even if it’s a small fleeting moment it is so important.

STEP 4 – IT’S NOT COMPLICATED.

I think we over think the concept of self-care. Simplified self-care is being good to you, loving you, and listening to you. What can you do today that fulfills those things? Here are some loving suggestions:

Drink water.
Rest.
Take a walk.
Let the sun shine on your face.
Take a few minutes to get quiet and breath.
Eat a good meal.
Meet a friend for coffee.
Take a nap.
Play a board game with your family.
Listen to music.
Take a shower or bubble bath.
Do nothing. Give space for quiet time.
Write out encouraging quotes on post it’s and put them where you can see them often.
Smile.
Laugh.
Hug someone you love.

The sky’s the limit make up your own and get creative. You are worth caring for and taking care of!

Angie is a mentor for Elevate Academy, Speaker, Consultant, and Survivor Leader. She is  the women’s ministry coordinator and small group leader in her church. She loves being outdoors in the sunshine hiking, exploring, and going on new adventures. When not working you can find her nestled with her family in the hills of West Virginia.