Take care of yourself I said to my client who is dealing with some very stressful life situations. She asked me “What exactly does that mean?”

Often we begin with unhealthy coping mechanisms like over-eating, binge drinking/drugging, or engaging in other risky and harmful behaviors.  We tend to use unhealthy ways because we don’t know any better methods or we don’t have the resources to find a better way.
When you are dealing with abuse and its effects - panic attacks, depression, sleeplessness and nightmares, drug addictions, etc. - you do whatever you can to keep going and no one else has the right to judge you for that. Remember, you are valuable enough and deserving enough to replace those harmful coping strategies with healthy ones.
Self-care is mostly about replacing unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthier ones. There are different aspects of self-care.
If you find yourself burning out mentally, look for activities that will use your brain in a different way- by reading, painting, listening to music, etc. You will likely find that one self-care technique can treat several different aspects. So, when you are caring for yourself mentally, you will naturally benefit emotionally and physically.
Take care of yourself physically - Stress (even good stress) negatively affects your physical body. Physical self-care is literally just caring for your physical body.  Are you sleeping enough, eating healthy, exercising regularly? If physical self-care is something you a naturally prone to, great!
If it sounds more like a chore, you don’t have to dread the process if you get creative. Anything from visiting a chiropractor for an adjustment, going for a walk, practicing yoga, going swimming—even  dancing in the kitchen with your dog can be physical self-care! Listen to your body; it will tell you what it needs.
Take care of yourself emotionally. When you have experienced abuse or assault, your emotions are in for a roller coaster ride - and no one’s ride is exactly the same. Taking care of your emotional health involves self-awareness. I know that I am paying attention to my emotional health when I am processing the negative emotions (not suppressing them for burnout later) and then nurturing the positive emotions. Try working through the negative by writing in a journal or talking to a counselor. Nurture those positive emotions through activities that bring you happiness! Do something that makes you laugh, makes you happy, makes you thankful, and makes you feel loved.  Listen to your body, your mind, and your emotions. That might mean saying “no” the next time that person asks you to hang out because you know they stress you out.
Take care of yourself spiritually.Trauma deeply affects your soul and spiritual self-care is literally caring for your soul. Spiritual self-care can be practiced in a religious context but it does not have to be. It can be yoga (also physical self-care) or meditation (also mental self-care). It can be volunteer work. It can be taking one day a week and saying, “I’m unplugging today!” It may mean taking a look at your schedule so that you have a healthy work-life balance.
Take care of yourself socially.  Do not allow yourself to over-commit anymore (don’t make plans when you know you need to focus on your own well-being). Find a social life that works for you and positively impacts your mental, physical and emotional health, too. Surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself- just not all the time!
Take care of yourself sexually. You do not have to have sex to practice sexual self-care. In fact, abstinence may be the sexual self-care you need. It may involve learning to appreciate your body, whether that’s through exploring yourself - what feels good, what you like, how everything works - or  working on a healthy body-image.
Self-care is not selfish- even for those who have a career as a care giver. Self-care is showing yourself love. Self-care is allowing yourself the time and space to feel safe, happy, and healthy so you can heal, you can thrive, and you can continue to take care of those you love.

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