14 Self-Care Tips for Sexual Assault Survivors Suffering from PTSD

Home Sex and Health 14 Self-Care Tips for Sexual Assault Survivors Suffering from PTSD

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, here are some important self-care tips for when things become too much.

For those suffering from acute or long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, there are often times when these become so overwhelming that it can be difficult to even accomplish the basic functions of daily living. Often we end up in such vicious cycles post-trauma that we are unable to do simple things for ourselves like bathing or cooking, so we end up feeding and prolonging our bouts of PTSD and/or depression.

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, here are some important self-care tips for when things become too much.

1) Get some rest

Notice I don’t say get sleep, because sleeping can be tricky during these times, and we can get upset by the fact that we can’t sleep. Instead of worrying about sleeping, make sure you spend a few hours everyday in a dark room with your eyes closed practicing some deep, soothing breaths. Even if you aren’t asleep, doing this gives your eyes and body a small break. I also find that melatonin or valerian supplements can help me get at least a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Weighted blankets are also a great investment.  

2) Drink water

We cannot survive without water, it is essential to stay hydrated. I know that the simple action of making the effort to get a glass of water can be enough to not do so, so I recommend keeping bottles around your home, in different rooms. Set a timer to go off at least every hour to remind you to have a glass.

3) Add extra fiber to your diet

Depression and stress mess with our digestive system big time. Comfort foods can also be difficult to digest. Daily fiber supplements like psyllium husk and probiotics can help keep things moving. Also, green smoothies made with protein powder and nut milks can give you a great boost of fiber, phytonutrients, enzymes, and protein so at least your insides can run smoothly. Being constipated only makes emotional issues worse. Let that shit go. Literally.

4) Plan your meals

Whether this is using a delivery service (if you can afford to) or doing a big round of shopping to prep your meals for a week, having food in the house that requires minimal preparation can be a godsend. It only requires that one day of cooking or prep, and it takes out that element of worrying what you will have to eat. Depending on your stress-relievers, the act of prepping and cooking can be quite relaxing. 

5) Cleanse yourself

Like being constipated, being dirty can add to our feelings of hopelessness and despair. A long hot shower or bath can help us wash away not just the grime of the day, but it can also wash away layers of emotional upset. Still, and especially if it’s really cold, the idea of getting soaked feels like a nightmare. Basic bathing, with gentle and non-toxic wipes or a hot washcloth can be the next best thing.

If you notice that this is one of the harder things for you to manage when your PTSD/depression is flaring up, consider installing a bidet on your toilet so at least your nether regions stay clean. These bidets can fit underneath your toilet seat or can be a handheld attachment you stick to the wall next to the commode. They aren’t expensive or difficult to install, and can make a world of difference.


6) Get creative

For me these things are writing, collaging, painting, fingerpainting, and crochet. I am a student of Frida Kahlo and I do my best to try make something, anything beautiful out of all the pain I’m in. Whatever creative outlet you have when you’re feeling good, use it when you’re having a down time too.

7) Practice daily gratitude

Write down one thing every day that you are grateful for. You can share this on social media, or in a photo, or even in a text or email with a trusted friend for accountability. Daily gratitude can be one of the harder things to accomplish when you’re overwhelmed with negative emotions, but this is also one of the best ways to help yourself out of depression and post-traumatic stress. Daily gratitude can be as straightforward as, “I went to work today and only had one panic attack,” or “I am grateful to live in the same world as Keanu Reeves.” There is always something each day to give thanks for. And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one, either.

8) Reach out to someone

Co-founder of the Colorado Doula Project Gina Martinez Valentín says, “Having a community is self-care,” and she spends an important part of her work as an abortion doula encouraging her clients to reach out to even just one compassionate person in their own network for support. Even though during bouts of extreme PTSD and depression we feel so alone, we are actually not. And people want to help. Find the one who does. And let them.

9) Say no and set boundaries

If you’re going through a wretched time it is your right to say no and determine your level of engagement with the world around you. If someone is pressuring you to a next step you’re not ready for, even if they are trying to help, you don’t have to listen just to make them feel better. Reclaiming control over your life is important, and starting with setting boundaries is a good place to start. 

10) Get some fresh air

This can be another hard one to accomplish, but if you can manage, it really helps to get outside, breathe some fresh air, look at the sky, and (weather-permitting) smell some flowers. If you are physically able to walk, getting some gentle exercise is also a fringe benefit, since our muscles tend to get tightened up during bouts of PTSD and depression. Doing some small stretches for your arms and back can help too.

11) Consume media that helps you heal

For me, that’s specific kinds of horror movies, as well as SVU, Harry Potter, and British crime dramas. For others it’s the Great British Bake-off or Queer Eye. If reading feels too tedious, I go to the library and check out whatever graphic novels they have.

12) Treat yourself

I recently spent $80 I couldn’t really afford on some new cosmetics when I was having a terrible depressive bout, and even when I don’t leave the house I will adorn my lips and eyes. The colors are bright and sparkling, and they make me feel alive. I noticed that it’s easier to motivate myself to get outside if I’ve glittered my face up.

13) Tattoos as self-care

I had some terrible scars on my thigh that were making it hard to look at myself in the mirror or dress the way I’d like to. I turned those scars into a huge, gorgeous, colorful hybrid jellyfish with peacock feathers. I also had a great deal of hair loss due to thyroid disease, and had to come to terms with the fact that the hair is never coming back. So, I shaved my head down to the skin and have begun a mermaid mandala on the bald spots of my crown. Now when I look in the mirror, even on dreadful days, I see a funky-ass heavily-tattooed chick who people probably wouldn’t even guess suffers from extreme PTSD and depression on an almost-daily basis. Looking badass helps me feel badass. Feeling badass helps me heal and function. 

14) Be gentle with yourself

While it’s always a good idea to test where you’re at in PTSD and depression by trying to do a little more each day, you also need to go easy on yourself when you just can’t manage it in that moment. Don’t spend time beating yourself up and spiraling further down into the darkness. Give yourself credit for doing your best and try again tomorrow.