For sexual assault or harassment survivors, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the last two weeks have been full of triggers. Since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward on September 16 to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both high-school students, the 24-hour news cycle has been bombarding us with stories that could likely resurface traumatic memories.
How in the world are we supposed to cope with that? Here are eight steps you can take to preserve your sanity and ease the ache of wanting to burn it all to the ground.
1. Unplug, unfollow, and turn off social-media notifications.
The easiest way to make sure you’re not triggered by the news is to stop following it. Many people don’t have the luxury of unplugging, but, if you can, please for the sake of your own self-preservation, consider it. There are no martyrs in this. No one gets a gold star for making themselves sit through the mire of pain. If you do have to stay engaged, please make sure you’re taking time for yourself.
2. Self-care like a boss.
Whatever self-care looks like for you, do it. It can be walking in nature, sitting in silence, doing yoga or other exercises, meditating, going to rock concerts, or dancing around your kitchen listening to music and singing every word until you are hoarse. Doing what you need to do to bring yourself closer to okay is worth the effort and time.
3. Don’t converse with toxic friends or family.
Not everyone will take your personal history and trauma into account, even if you think they’re decent people with your best interest at heart. If your uncle likes to make rape jokes or your friend argues #NotAllMen, it’s okay to disengage from them. There can be beauty in silence.
4. Call your therapist instead.
They want to hear from you. You’d go to the doctor if you had a persistent cough. You’d call the dentist if you had a toothache. This is no different. When the news makes you hurt, it’s okay to ask for help. Your therapist knows the world is burning; they know where it hurts. Call them. You’ll both be glad you did.
5. Consider volunteering.
It feels good to give back. Gather clothes to donate to a local shelter for women. Go to a soup kitchen or food pantry and help organize meals. Head to the local library and read books to kids. Go to the local animal shelter and play with kittens and puppies. Do something that allows you to work in service of others.
People don’t have to fully understand your pain to care about you. Allow people to care for you, even if it’s calling a friend for lunch or you calling a family member to come sit in silence with you.
6. Inhale the good, exhale the bad.
Remember to breathe. Whatever memories the news has triggered will seem surmountable if you remember to breathe. Science backs this up: Deep breathing has the power to bring you back to yourself and cleanse your mind. Stretch as you breathe, allowing your whole body to feel itself in that moment in all its power. Focusing on your breathing can stop you from focusing on the news.
7. Remember you’re not alone.
People don’t have to fully understand your pain to care about you. Allow people to care for you, even if it’s calling a friend for lunch or you calling a family member to come sit in silence with you. You don’t have to do this alone. If calling someone close to you is not possible, there are rape crisis and mental-health hotlines available 24/7 for you to call or text. Sometimes all it takes is hearing someone else’s voice to remind you that with a little love and support, you’ll get closer to okay.
8. Treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend.
How would you talk to them? Do the same for you.
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