If you have previously survived violence or abuse, the prospect of a lockdown can be distressing. Distancing and isolation can, among other things, trigger anxiety, flashbacks and painful memories, which can have a big impact on well-being in an already stressful time.
During this time of restrictions and uncertainty, it is important to prioritise your health and wellness and to be especially kind to yourself. It is good to acknowledge that how you are feeling during this time is a valid response to the current global situation, but if you are experiencing panic or anxiety, it is also important to know that you are not alone and there is support available.
Distancing and isolation means temporarily changing the ways that we socialise and connect with others. This may mean that the way you interact with your support networks is different. If you usually see a therapist, it may be that they are still able to offer you sessions over the telephone or through video-based appointments, talk to them about their appointment plans moving forward. Although it is not a substitute for therapy, the Live Fear Free helpline is available 24/7 to anyone who has previously survived violence or abuse (as well as those who are currently experiencing it) and needs help and support, please find contact information below.
It is important to remember that although people are socially separate, your support network has not disappeared- you can keep in contact with family, friends and loved ones who make you feel good through telephone, messenger and video calling. Make sure that you have up-to-date contact information for people you care about so that you know they are accessible. It can be helpful to agree on catch up times with people in your network, this will guarantee that you are checking-in with them on as regular a basis as you need to.
The current global situation can cause complete upheaval in routines and this lack of control can be especially anxiety inducing for survivors. It is very important to keep checking in with your mental health and, if possible, taking some small active steps to positively affect your brain. The BBC recommends limiting the amount of news you consume and taking care around which news you read. They advise “limit(ing) the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which aren’t making you feel better. Perhaps decide on a specific time to check in with the news… ‘stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information such as NHS websites.”
Monitoring your online activity can also help. Take regular breaks from social media and mute hashtags or phrases which could be frightening or triggering. You can also hide posts and mute/ unfollow accounts across all social media platforms whose content is potentially triggering to you. Mental health charity Mind UK have dedicated a section of their website to coronavirus and wellbeing, including practical steps you can take for improving your home set-up during isolation. Please find the link below.
Every survivors experience is unique, but one of the common long-term effects of sexual violence is an impact on body image. During this time of increased isolation, you may be eating more or less food than you would usually, you may find yourself with limited access to foods that are ‘safe’ or a comfort and more in contact with foods that are outside of your normal diet. Charity Beat (eating disorders) has collated a list of helpful Q&A’s for coping during the coronavirus, including concerns around eating disorders and immunity and stockpiling food. They also have a helpline and webchat service available between 12pm-8pm on weekdays and 4pm-8pm on weekends. Please find the helpline numbers below.
Throughout this time, focus on the things in your home that can contribute to keeping you calm and bringing joy. Sunlight and fresh air are great mood boosters so, if possible, spend time with the windows open and try to find a comfortable space in your home that attracts sunlight for sitting in. Embrace time away from screens and instead listen to music or use a good book as an escapism. There are a variety of free tools available for mindfulness and breathing exercises that can help you to relax and centre yourself- some are linked below.
Most of all, it is important to be kind and gentle with yourself, these are difficult times and exceptional circumstances. All survivors have unbelievable strength and there are many outlets able to offer a helping hand when some extra support is needed.
Helpful support links
The Live Fear Free Helpline:
Telephone: 0808 80 10 800
Text: 078600 77 333
Live chat Service: livefearfree.gov.wales
Email: [email protected]
Coronavirus and wellbeing: www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/#collapse51ed0
If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, you can contact the Samaritans:
Telephone: 116 123
Helpline: 0808 801 0677
Studentline: 0808 801 0811
Youthline: 0808 801 0711
Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/