10 self-care tips from a domestic violence survivor

a woman walking on red earth next to a fence

Written by an anonymous survivor of domestic violence.

The relief and joy I felt after escaping a violent relationship was short-lived, as I then had to co-parent with my former abuser. The abuse was then carried through my children, who were trapped in the middle of two non-communicating parents. Self-care has become essential in helping me to reduce the chaos and unpredictability that undermines my ability to parent, work or even function on a daily basis.

Below are some self-care tips that I have found helpful.

  1. Take deep breaths. Simply taking deep breaths really helps to keep me centred. I do this regularly. A former yoga teacher used to say that you can change your life through your breath. I'm now finding wisdom and truth in this simple exercise.

  2. Walk. Moving the body helps to shift and relieve some of my stress. I find myself in a better headspace after a brisk walk and mentally, feel better prepared to cope with some of the madness in my life.

  3. Create self-affirmations. Creating a list of self-affirmations can be very healing and serve as a powerful reminder that, despite the odds, I have survived. Some of my affirmations are that I am a survivor, compassionate, loving and resilient.

  4. Write. Writing doesn't come easy to me, as my brain seems to be in a permanent fog, but getting it out on paper seems to help reduce the weight of the burden I feel I'm carrying.

  5. Hydrate. Drinking water or herbal tea reduces my tiredness, lifts my energy and makes me feel that I can achieve more.

  6. Join a group. Being around people who have gone through similar experiences can be really useful. Look up groups in your area on Google, or call 1800RESPECT to see if they can refer you on.

  7. Make to-do lists. Survivors of domestic violence who are forced to co-parent often say they feel like they are running hard just to stand still, as it can seem like incredibly hard work to survive. Making a daily list of things to do and ticking them off, no matter how small or insignificant the task, may give you a sense of achievement and control.

  8. Acknowledge the progress you've made. Thinking about and identifying the areas of your life where you've regained control can be incredibly uplifting and empowering. For example, I’m now free to dress the way I want, eat what I choose and make friends with all sorts of people. This feels wonderful!

  9. Help others. As a survivor, I feel very lucky to be given another chance at life. It’s been humbling and rewarding to be able to share my experience and knowledge to assist others who are trying to navigate their way out of family violence. Arming survivors with knowledge and information can go an enormous way towards reducing the emotional and financial damage of post separation abuse. Together we are stronger, so go on, do your bit! Everyone benefits, including you!

  10. Set goals. Working towards my goals reduces the frustration I feel about everything that's completely out of my control. Focusing on what I want to achieve beyond the day-to-day stuff helps me imagine a better future. I find it restores my sense of wellbeing and happiness. Reaching your goals (no matter how small) can give you a sense of achievement and produce a positive mindset that can be beneficial for your children, your community and most importantly YOU!

These tips have been useful in my recovery. They’re immediately and freely available, and depend only on yourself. We all have the internal resources and varying degrees of ability to be able to put self-care into practice. I hope that you will reap the benefits of caring for yourself as a survivor of domestic violence.