It’s normal to feel triggered after sexual assault or trauma, especially as you lead up to a trauma anniversary. Even if you thought you were “over it,” certain times of year can be harder than others. As a team of survivors, we know ourselves that healing isn’t linear – we also know that self-care is a powerful tool for healing.
We asked our team to share their favorite practices for working through hard times. Scroll down to explore ten ways to practice self-care on a trauma anniversary – or anytime you’re navigating heavy feels!
First, what exactly is a trauma anniversary?
A trauma anniversary refers to experiences of trauma on the anniversary of a traumatic event, such as sexual assault. It doesn’t only apply to sexual assault, nor does it only apply to a specific period, such as a day. Trauma anniversaries may span several weeks, months, or even an entire season, and they might feel differently with time.
There’s no right or wrong way to feel during a trauma anniversary, but heightened emotions are normal. Try to provide yourself a little bit of extra love as you work up to this time. To learn more about trauma anniversaries, read our blog post on the topic.
10 ways to practice self-care on a trauma anniversary
Self-care is a powerful tool for healing all year round, but it may be especially useful when navigating heavy feelings. Here are some of our favorite self-care practices for trying times:
- Set the scene: Surround yourself with things that make you feel good, whether that be scented candles, mini candy bars, photographs of friends, or your loved ones in person (with masks on, of course). Go above and beyond to fill your day – or month, or season – with extra joy.
- Release: Throw an impromptu dance party, scream into your pillow, go on a (faster than usual) run around the neighborhood. If you need to release, release. Accept it in all forms as you approach your trauma anniversary: sweat, tears, laughter, sadness. Do what you need to support yourself and honor your feelings during this process.
- Cook (all day): Make a day out of your meal. Pick a recipe in the morning by listening to what your body is craving in the moment, and then head to a local market to hand-select the ingredients. Prepare a nourishing (or just delicious!) meal, and enjoy it solo or with a close friend. Sometimes making something from scratch can make us feel better.
- Stay off screens: It’s easy to think you’re trapped by the social media effect of feeling less than or behind. Remind yourself that there's no timeline for healing and that you're right where you need to be. Staying off your phone and out of other people’s selfies may help you focus on the present.
- Breathe on: Breathe in for five. Breathe out for five. Breathe in for six. Now, out for six. Invite your body and mind to slow down by deepening and softening the pace of each breath.
- Turn on some trash: You heard it here first (or maybe you heard it from Cosmo first): trashy television is good for your soul. Indulge in as much as you want. No matter what you choose to do, try to do it without judgment.
- Soak it up: Do you have a bathtub? Pour epsom salt and lavender essential oil into it for a soothing dose of calming vibes. Don’t have one? Pour them into a bucket for a lavish foot soak. A little pampering can go a long way.
- Write it out: There’s a reason every good friend ever tells you to journal when you’re working through pain. Self-expression is a healthy release, and it may help you process emotions caught deep inside. Grab a pen and paper, and let your feelings out the old-fashioned way. If art is more your style, replace a pen with a paintbrush, and capture your feels in color. However you express, allow yourself a little extra space.
- Pencil it in: Make a plan you can look forward to, and add it to your calendar. This might be a camping trip, spa day, or a hike you’ve been meaning to try. While an enjoyable activity won’t replace the feelings you may have, it may help remind you that you're in control now.
- Seek support: If you're experiencing a crisis, text Leda to 741741 for immediate mental health support from a trained Crisis Counselor. If you're not experiencing a crisis, this may be a great time to seek support from someone you trust or a mental health professional. Remember that you're not alone, and you don’t have to navigate your trauma by yourself.