#MeToo. These two words have created a tidal wave this past year. Resignations due to inappropriate sexual behavior are announced in the headlines every single day. This movement has left us all wondering who will be the next to step forward. And who will be the next to step down. For many people this movement has been validating and empowering. For many it has been overwhelming and frightening.
The prevalence of sexual abuse in our society is staggering. According to two national studies, one in four girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused before the age of 18 and one in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted in college. The #MeToo Movement has helped stir a national conversation on the topic and has brought some healing to many survivors.
For a long time society has not addressed the issue of sexual harassment and assault. It was something left unspoken or seen as a private matter that was often left unacknowledged. Many survivors of harassment and assault have felt the need to remain silent and were left to deal with their feels of shame and guilt privately. Started ten years ago by Tarana Burke to address sexual assault in underserved communities of color, the #MeToo Movement has provided a platform for survivors to share their stories and know that they are not alone. It is a movement of empowerment to bring about social change. On the other hand, the hashtag can also serve as a “trigger” for many people.
Back in October, according to CBS, the #MeToo Movement had grown to 85 countries and 1.7 million tweets. With the constant media attention and countless stories flooding social media, it can be difficult to digest or escape. For individuals with a history of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), these social media and news headlines can be triggering and paralyzing. For others, it is the struggle of not knowing how to “label” what they experienced, feeling like their experience wasn’t “bad enough” to privately justify the pain and suffering they have experienced, much less share or post about it. Others still, including men, LGBTQ people, and gender non-conforming individuals who have been sexually victimized, may not have felt comfortable sharing their story even though they see themselves in the experiences of others. And for even others, knowing that a friend or loved one is suffering can cause personal suffering, too.
Whatever you’re feeling it’s certainly legitimate, and if you need support in processing what has come up, there is help. Whether you posted #MeToo or continue to hold your experience with yourself, your experience is valid – whatever the experience.
Here are some suggestions for self-care:
Listen to your instincts. It is absolutely OK to step away if you find yourself flooded and overwhelmed. Limit the time watching the news, reading the paper and time spent on the internet. Delete social media apps from your phone to reduce the temptation to key in. If you do continue to read news, seek out positive stories that are uplifting. Do whatever works to help you check out for a bit.
- Get Back to Basics
Often when we are feeling stress, we lose track of basic routines and activities that can really help. Eating healthy food each day, staying hydrated, getting enough rest, and moving our bodies can do so much to improve our state of mind and help us tolerate short-term distress. Don’t underestimate the power of following routines and doing these basic self-care activities each day.
Take time to ground yourself in the present. Breathe, notice your surroundings, and affirm that right now, right here you are safe.
Practice the 5,4,3,2,1 exercise:
- What are 5 things you can see.
- What are 4 things you can feel.
- What are 3 things you can hear
- What are 2 things you can smell
- What is 1 thing you like about yourself
- Do Something You Enjoy
Try to take the focus off of stress, memories, or difficult emotions by engaging in an activity you enjoy. Make a list of activities that boost your feel-good serotonin levels. Some examples might be: hiking, sewing, singing, reading, playing with kittens, gardening, excercising, or even the benefits of helping others.
- Talk Nicely to Yourself
Positive self-talk is undervalued as a tool for coping with stress and improving our well-being. It really matters what we say to ourselves, especially when we are dealing with stressful situations. Try a trick I love that enables us to hear the fear or pain or self-criticism that may be in our heads, while adding a positive statement: say “AND…” For example, “I am so anxious. I don’t understand why, AND, I can do one thing to make myself feel a little better. I’ll text a friend.”
- Ask For Support
Reaching out and receiving support can be the beginning of feeling less alone, and less overwhelmed, no matter what you are feeling. You don’t have to disclose a lot of information, either – even just saying, “All this #MeToo stuff is really upsetting” to a friend, a family member or a counselor can be healing.
If you would like to find out if I would be a good fit for you to talk to, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange a free phone consultation.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can get free, 24/7 confidential support in Port Townsend WA from a trained staff member Dove House Advocacy Services 360-385-5292, also at the National Sexual Assault Hotline by calling 800-656-HOPE (4673). More resources are also available online via the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. You can also text the word HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741—it’s open 24/7, it’s confidential, and it’s free.