Exercise and fitness helped me recover from the trauma of sexual violence. In my first piece for RH Reality Check, I consulted a number of survivors about how they came to prioritize self care, including, running, yoga, meditation, and martial arts as a form of therapy and a way to cope. Physical activity can reinvigorate your mind, body, and spirit and help you to feel in control again.
Via RH Reality Check:
One of the hardest parts of recovery after sexual assault is regaining control over your life. Rapists steal a survivor’s control by violating their bodily autonomy, and the aftermath can be a series of ups and downs for survivors, battling back against both the emotional and physical trauma, until some version of a “new normal” emerges.
As a rape survivor, after initially doing any and everything to harm my body after my assault, health and fitness emerged as one of my most powerful tools to cope, heal, and reignite after my personal trauma. For me, self care was a critical component of my recovery because a large part of surviving rape is getting back to a healthy place in relation to your mind, body, and spirit.
As many people know, one of the benefits of exercise is the release of endorphins that can regulate your energy levels and minimize stress and anxiety. These endorphins—the neurotransmitters in the brain that put us in a “good” mood—are even more necessary for survivors, who are often battling feelings of sadness and depression. While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is now most commonly associated with veterans, it also is something that impacts survivors in a major way. The National Center for PTSD recommends beginning exercise as a form of treatment for survivors of trauma, because it helps reduce physical tension and increase feelings of control. In addition to helping survivors cope, exercise is a way to release the feelings of anger and rage that can also be common after sexual assault.
I am really so grateful to all of the survivors who helped me put this piece together and I hope that we can all support each other and share our stories and strategies to cope to make each day just a little bit easier.