Support & Suggestions
As survivors of sexual abuse by a close family member our sense of safety in the world was threatened at a very early age. It is important to remember that anxiety about the coronavirus may consciously or unconsciously remind us of that threat to our safety and bring back feelings such as fear, helplessness or isolation that can make us particularly vulnerable at this time.
There are many ways to help keep yourself safe, a few of which are listed below. We would encourage you to try them and to add some creative ideas of your own which we would love to hear about at a later date.
Reducing the Isolation
Contact those you would normally see by using Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp video call, or the good old phone call - make it as much of as social occasion as you can with biscuits, a hot drink, soft cushions and other creature comforts around you.
Express How You Feel
It can be really useful to take a few minutes in the day to think about how you feel. Expressing feelings, even a little, can be much more helpful than pushing them down or ignoring them. As survivors, most of us recognise the cost of denial and of feelings that we were not able to express at the time which can later overwhelm us. Writing in a journal or a notebook can help us to identify what we are feeling and what might be helpful for us. Focus on the inner strength that has brought you through so much and use that to write to yourself in a way that will encourage you and help your inner child to feel safe
The way we breathe can make us more anxious or calm us down. Short outward breaths stimulate our sympathetic nervous system which produces activation in the muscles and glands ready for fight or flight. Longer outward breaths stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system which deactivates muscles and glands and restores a state of calm and relaxation to the body.
Experiment with making your out breaths longer than your in breaths. For example:
Mindfulness exercises take our attention from external events to what is happening internally and from what has happened or might happen to the now. This helps us to detach from racing thoughts and emotional activation by focusing on the minute details of present moment experience.
An example exercise could be:
- Sitting down, press your feet into the floor and notice how it feels to have the ground support you.
- Press them hard into the ground and feel it resist your pressure.
- Slowly move your focus along your heels and up into your calves and thighs.
- Take time to feel the support of the chair underneath your thighs and bottom.
- Leaning back against the chair, notice how it holds you straight, allowing you to open your shoulders and lift your head.
- Imagine being lifted by a hook from the top of your head while feeling the pull of gravity on the tail of your spine.
Don’t Listen to Everything and Everyone
Give yourself permission to avoid endless news coverage and try to listen only to people who seem trustworthy and calm, such as designated experts. Anxiety can be contagious - avoid people on social media, television or even those you know who are likely to spread rumours and catastrophize.
- breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of four
- hold your breath while you count to seven
- let your breath out through your mouth slowly as you count to eight.
Be Creative – Try New Things
This could be a good time to let your inner child play. Not being a candidate for MasterChef doesn’t mean you can’t make some cakes or biscuits, maybe using cut out shapes and decorating them! Painting, colouring, jigsaws, even finding ways to reorganise your music or magazines can help you to stay in the present moment while being productive and positive - take a look at the Spaceship You video.
Keep Your Body Moving
There are some great online keep fit sessions, but turning music on and dancing wildly or slowly is also great and liberating. Make up your own mindfulness exercises that don’t involve sitting down but experiment with, for example, how it feels to tiptoe round the room or to stomp - put words or music to your movements!
……this is a temporary situation so focus on things you might want to do when the restrictions have been lifted. If you are a member of CIS’ters, you might like to photograph some of the unique ways you create to keep yourself safe and well during this time and we look forward to seeing some of those in future newsletters.