Self-care is vital when you leave an abusive relationship

As well as a safety plan, you should also have an uncomplicated survival/recovery plan. A safety plan means external safety, a survival/recovery plan means having a measure of internal security. When you consider the debilitating effects of abuse, and how you are almost owned by the perpetrators, you probably realise how difficult it can be to feel secure within. Remember you have a great number of unrecognised resources. Set achievable goals for your recovery, otherwise the victim’s self-critical tendency will set in, and you will be tormented by self-blame for failing to successfully complete your plan. Be gentle with yourself, accept yourself, and try not to blame yourself for the breakdown of your relationship. You must begin to nurture yourself to counteract being emotionally famished by your abuser.
Caring for yourself and treating yourself with tenderness will have a healing effect, and will help raise your self-esteem. When I was in training, some of my colleagues often told me I was self-judgemental and hard on myself. My experience has been that although I have come to love myself, both the good and the shadow side, it has been a long process, and I still can be hard on myself. Very often, we need someone to remind us of how harsh we are on ourselves.
The importance of self-care and basic health cannot be over-emphasised as part of the survival/recovery plan. The Hidden Hurt website, which is worth visiting, outlines four areas of self-care (physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual), which would be helpful following a separation. Physical self-care includes regular and healthy eating, plenty of exercise, medical care, sufficient sleep, vacations, and having time alone. Psychological self-care involves therapy, light reading, reflecting, getting involved in new activities, and paying attention to your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. Any material on awareness, such as blogs or CDs will help. It is also psychologically beneficial to personalise your new environment, making it a familiar place with your identity on it. Paint a room, put up new pictures, and so on.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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