So how can I get this off my mind?
Here are a few things that might help when you are feeling overwhelmed...
Talking to someone might be the best thing you can do...but it can also seem like the hardest thing to do. Take the time to think about who you really trust and who you think would be able to help.
Sometimes it can be good to talk to an adult because they're more used to talking about serious issues. Maybe you can tell a trusted friend first, and then you can both go and tell a trusted adult together.
You can always call your local CASA and talk to someone who knows about sexual assault.
To call your local CASA (24 hours, 7 days) phone 1800 806 292
The importance of looking after yourself may be a new thing for you to think about and can often take practice.
The first step is to give yourself permission to look after yourself. You are the victim of a crime but also a survivor and deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and to be cared for by others but most importantly yourself.
These are some ideas that you may find useful or may be a useful starting point to begin your own list. The important thing is to do something that feels right for you.
- Deep breathing
- Listening to music
- Warm shower or bubble bath
- Physical exercise
- Writing a journal
There are 3 main types of relaxation:
- Physical - dealing with the body, muscles and joints
- Mental - dealing with the mind; through thought processes and problem solving
- Psychological - dealing with overwhelming or painful feelings
Physical stress shows itself in many ways. You may notice headaches, muscle aches and pains, stomach ailments and similar physical problems.
Mental stress can include poor concentration and often a preoccupation with stressful thoughts.
Psychological stress comes with internal conflict, mixed emotions, mood changes or struggles you experience within yourself.
Relaxation is the opposite of tension.
Relaxation techniques are things that make you feel less tense or less stressed. It is not always easy to relax and learning how to relax and 'switch off' can take some time. Learning to relax is the same as learning any new skill - it takes time, practice and perseverance. Some people find that just thinking about relaxing can make them feel more stressed. It is important to take one step at a time and listen to your body about what feels right for you.
It may take you some time to work out what strategies work best for you; that's okay - everyone is different and what one person finds relaxing may not work for you.
Some relaxation technique can be practiced at any time, however it is often better if you are somewhere safe.
Breathing directly reflects the level of tension you carry in your body. When you are under stress your breathing often becomes more shallow and rapid and occurs high in the chest. When relaxed, you breathe more fully, more deeply, and from your abdomen (stomach).
It's difficult to be tense and to breathe from your abdomen at the same time. The following exercise can be used to practice abdominal breathing.
Abdominal breathing exercise
When you are sitting down place one hand on your abdomen right beneath your rib cage. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into the bottom of your lungs - in other words, send the air as low down as you can. If you are breathing from your abdomen, your hand should actually rise. Your chest should only rise slightly while your abdomen expands. When you have taken in a full breath, pause for a moment and then exhale slowly through your nose or mouth. Be sure to exhale fully. As you exhale, allow your whole body to just let go.
Do ten slow, full abdominal breaths. Try to keep your breathing smooth and regular. It will help to slow your breathing if you slowly count to four when you inhale and then slowly count to four when you exhale. Remember to pause briefly at the end of each inhalation.
If you start to feel light headed at any stage when practicing abdominal breathing, stop for 20 seconds and then start again.
Practice abdominal breathing for at least five minutes every day, at the same time every day if you can. Breathing in this way can become part of a relaxation ritual if you are able to do it at the same time everyday. It is important to remember that abdominal breathing is a skill that takes time and practice to develop.
Journal writing can be a useful way of documenting some of your present day experiences, thoughts and feelings.
Journals can serve as a road map, a support, and a way to express yourself. They can also serve as a sort of a container and a way of "putting out" some of the thoughts and feelings that may be coming up for you so you don't have to carry them around so much anymore.
Journal writing can be very powerful and it is important that you can do this in a way that is safe for you. If you are writing down your private thoughts and feelings, it's important that they are kept confidential (no one else should see them without your permission). If at any time you feel unsafe or overwhelmed by what is coming up for you whilst you are writing, stop immediately and focus on grounding yourself. If you are finding it difficult you may want to call CASA for some support.
Journal writing can be used at a number of different levels to meet different needs.
Level 1 journal writing involves writing about the events of the day in a present and focused way on a surface level. You don't write about your feelings at this level. Instead the focus is on what has happened. The purpose of this level of writing is to put you in touch with the small, positive or neutral things that happen each day. Noticing more about your day can help to challenge negative thoughts.
Includes writing about some of your thoughts and feelings and about how your stress responses are affecting you. It can be a useful way to contain thoughts or feelings that feel too big right now for you to address. You may also want to record things that you want to work on in counselling.
The aim of journal writing at this level is to provide some relief from what may be intrusive thoughts or feelings and is a way of 'storing them' safely until you are able to look at dealing with them with support.
It is important to be aware of what is happening to you. If this level of writing makes you feel overwhelmed it may be more useful to focus on the first level of writing in order to ground yourself.
Journal writing at this level involves writing about specific thoughts and feelings in relation to trauma and it is important that you have some support when you are writing at this level.
Journal writing exercise
Spend 5 minutes a day doing journal writing at level 1. Perhaps start with a description of your day and what you observed. This can help to focus you and begin to practice journal writing. You may want to start with a sentence like, "Today I…".
When you have had some practice at journal writing at level 1, you may want to try writing at level 2.
Spend 10 - 15 minutes a day at level 2. You may want to start with a brief description of your feelings right now (e.g. "When … … happens I feel … …"). Start by making sure you are in a safe space. After 15 minutes stop and check in with yourself. How are you feeling?
You may want to do something specific after you have finished the exercise, such as listening to music or doing something active, to finish properly.
If at anytime you feel unsafe or overwhelmed by what is coming up for you, STOP immediately and focus on grounding yourself. If you are having difficulty you may want to call CASA for some support.