If you have been assaulted or harassed, you may be overwhelmed by feelings. Typical reactions after an event are anger, sadness, confusion, disappointment, bewilderment, and fear. It is not uncommon to have trouble sleeping, to feel uncertain about next steps, to want more alone time than usual, to feel afraid when alone, to want to get back to feeling “normal,” or to need a break from thinking about what has happened. There is no one way to feel or react after an incident and everyone responds in different ways. As you cope with the variety of feelings, there are some things that might be helpful as you start on the road to recovery.
Finding support from caring, non-judgmental individuals is an important first step.
Certain friends and family members may provide a needed sense of love, strength, and comfort. Aside from friends and family, you may know a trusted individual who could be helpful (such as a residence hall dean or director, academic advisor, religious leader, professor, or coach). And of course there are confidential support resources available to students, staff and faculty.
Whether an incident happened recently or years ago, self-care can help you cope with the short- and long-term effects of a trauma like sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, harassment, and other forms of sexual misconduct.
Taking care of your emotional health after a difficult or traumatic event may not seem easy but there are things that might bring comfort and much needed peace.
Leisure activities that brought some joy or positive energy in the past could be a welcome distraction. Consider what kinds of things you enjoyed before the incident. Did you like to hike? Did knitting feel relaxing? Did certain kinds of music boost your spirit? Did you like to dance? Incorporate the things you enjoy into part of your recovery.
If reading, taking a walk with a friend, or watching a Netflix movie might bring some momentary peace of mind, try to incorporate the activity into your busy schedule. You deserve to make some time for yourself.
Alternatively, there are stress reduction techniques and calming options that might be helpful as you heal. Research shows that spending quality time in nature can improve your mood or overall well-being.
After a difficult or traumatic experience, it is not uncommon to feel confused, emotionally drained, and sad. As a result, one’s physical health may temporarily suffer. Good physical health may help make it easier to deal with the emotional side of recovery.
Rest and sleep: If you are experiencing sleep interruption or nightmares at night, consider ways to get much needed rest at other times. Would a nap be possible during the day? Can you put your feet up and close your eyes for a time to give your body some replenishment? What routines might help you unwind at the end of the day? Is there a magazine or non-academic book you can read, or can you listen to soothing music to bring relaxation? Can you take a warm bath to relax?
Nutrition is also an important part of physical health. The body requires calories to provide the energy to cope with the emotional upheaval you may be feeling. While you may not feel hungry, and even if food is not appealing, consider healthy snacks that might ease the recovery process. Alternatively, you may find comfort in eating certain foods that have little nutritious value. Try balancing your nutrition intake as you cope with all you have to do. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. Water is an important part of our body’s functions and needs.
Exercise can also bring some surprising relief to the tension and emotions you may be feeling. While students often get at least a little exercise walking around campus, is there something else that you enjoy that can help your body feel strong? Do you like to throw a Frisbee around with friends or take a short walk or run around Beebe Lake? Would swimming and being in water feel good, or maybe getting out on the ice to skate? Do you or a friend have a dog who might enjoy a walk with you? Sometimes animal friends can offer unconditional, nonjudgmental support when we need it most.
As you cope with all of the emotions and considerations at hand, a little self-care can go a long way toward easing the burden and bringing clarity to thoughts and actions as you move forward.