Survivor Centered Tips for Connection and Self-Care During Times of Crisis

Survivor centered tips for taking care of ourselves and others during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Road sign that says 'Stay home'.

By Aliya Brown

One of the most important aspects of human life is connection. Many of us are experiencing abrupt and severe disconnection due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a health crisis that has altered many of our ways of life overnight, and likely for the future. This is especially true for those who have experienced violence, or who may be suffering from issues related to their emotional well-being or mental health. Coping strategies survivors might have used before, may currently no longer be available to them. It is crucial that in this new reality, and in the absence of those strategies, that we learn new methods to adapt, cope, and do our best to remain grounded.

While creative solutions for remaining connected during this time continue to evolve, we should also take special care to remember, prioritize, and learn from those who are survivors, and who are fighting unique battles. While much emphasis has been placed on staying connected during this time which is undoubtedly important, survivor-centered approaches to self-care, dealing with both trauma and isolation, and healing have often been left out of the public narrative during this time of crisis. Approaches such as finding refuge in a safe environment, or with community and chosen family; consistent face-to-face contact with counselors and therapists; activities that make one feel safe, supported, and secure in their ability to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Survivors of trauma, people suffering from issues related to mental health, and people who have experienced violence know the pain of isolation intimately and have developed many coping and healing strategies for staying grounded within themselves, and connected to others, under the most trying circumstances. These practices are still available even in isolation, sometimes with adaptations. Let us uplift these practices of self-care and connection, apply them to our daily routine now and always, and stay grounded in knowing that we will get through this.

  • Breathwork
  •       Body movement through an exercise like yoga
  •       Martial arts practices and techniques that can be done at home
  •       Meditation and practicing mindfulness
  •       Repeating affirmations
  •       A practice of noticing oneself and self-reflection
  •       A walk, if possible
  •       Journaling
  •       An enjoyable art form
  •       Getting enough sleep or rest
  •       Preparing and eating nourishing meals
  •       Creating a routine and rituals
  •       Fun and laughter
  •       Disconnecting from social media
  •       Communicating with a friend, family (chosen or otherwise), or trusted confidant, like a therapist or counselor as needed
  •       Creating time and space for yourself
  •       Doing what you love and things that bring you joy
  •       Asking for help when you need it most
  •       Saying no
  •       Putting oneself first
  •       Finding ways to give back

While many of these practices can be done privately, some people may choose to connect with others virtually, who help to create a safe and supportive environment. This could look like a FaceTime call to a loved one, or a group mediation over Zoom with trusted friends. This might also look like a virtual visit with a loved one who may be incarcerated, or an online exercise class focused on movement and stretching. It might also look like a video-call workout with a friend living in another country on WhatsApp or checking in via text with dear friends.

As we look for ways to stay grounded and connected to each other during the COVID-19 crisis, let us be open to learning from various experts, specifically people who have survived violence and trauma, who understand crisis well and know coping strategies intimately. Many have worked relentlessly to develop supportive communities that create safety through connection and uphold self-care practices that serve them in times of great anxiety, uncertainty and when the stakes are high. May we promise to hold ourselves tightly during this time and look forward in anticipation of meeting each other on the other side of this crisis.

Aliya Brown is the communications project manager at Common Justice. @Common_Justice