Every minute, 24 Americans are victims to rape, stalking or physical violence, according to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline. Abuse in a relationship is not uncommon, even with the younger generation. Approximately one in three teenagers experiences abuse from a dating partner. For many, it stems from the need for control and power. For others, it may be due to an imbalanced or one-sided relationship. Whether it is emotional, physical or financial abuse, the road to recovery can be a long and difficult one. The short and long term damages an abusive partner can cause ripple effects throughout your life, and even after you have taken the practical steps of leaving such a situation, there is no guarantee you will be ready to move on. However, it is possible to recover and thrive in life after abuse, starting with giving yourself time and taking back control.
Be Kind To Yourself And Your Body
By focusing on self-care, you are helping your body and mind heal from the wounds created by the abuse you experienced. Keep in mind that it is as important to practice physical self-care as it is to practice emotional self-care. This means making a conscious effort to feed your body a well balanced and nutritious diet instead of sugar-laden, fatty comfort food. While these foods are not bad when eaten in moderation, excessive consumption can impact your physical health and lead to further damage to your self-confidence or morale. Don’t forget to include feel-good foods in your diet, such as salmon, berries, mushrooms and dark chocolate.
Find A Physical Outlet For Your Pain, Grief And Rage
Exercise can support the healing of trauma. It can prove to be a great way to release pent up tension, grief and rage about your past relationship. In some cases, physical activities such as self-defense classes or kickboxing can also increase the confidence of abuse survivors or help them feel empowered and in control. Start by signing up for local exercise classes at your local community center or creating built-in time for exercise each day, such as a morning run.
Build The Right Support Team, Including Family, Friends And Professionals
Many of those that have been in an abusive relationship find themselves isolated from friends and family members. While it may have been difficult to communicate with your loved ones during the tenure of your relationship, it is now time to rebuild those links as you move past the abuse. Reaching out to friends/family members and revealing your past can be scary and leave you feeling emotionally exposed, but the benefit of doing so is that you begin to build a strong support network around you.
Your support network does not need to be only personal either. Feel free to reach out to local abuse or grief counseling groups, which can provide a useful place to voice your feelings without fear of judgment. Alternatively, online directories such as GoodTherapy or 211 can help you locate local support groups, therapists, or legal teams representing survivors of sexual abuse, including those specializing in rape or molestation.
Make Your Mental Health A Priority
The link between abuse experience and poor mental health is well documented. Physical, emotional or sexual abuse is often linked to depression and low self-esteem, says healthtalk.org. Furthermore, past research by Molnar, Buka & Kessler found that 30-40 percent of individuals who have experienced sexual abuse experience depression. Two-thirds of domestic abuse victims also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) To begin to heal and prevent additional negative consequences of your traumatic past, it is important that you actively take care of your mental health in the immediate aftermath of leaving your abusive relationship.
A good way to nurture your mental health and self-esteem is to get involved in a hobby/activity that you enjoy or are good at. This helps to build your confidence and can become a source of relaxation. Other ideas for boosting your mental health can be simple ones like taking a warm bath to destress and relax or starting a daily gratitude journal. This helps you focus on the positives as you move forward.
Above all, allow yourself the time and space to recover. Everyone moves on at their own pace. Take the time to celebrate the small wins, and accept that the process may not be an overnight one, but it certainly is worthwhile.