How do I become resilient?
Focus on what is possible
‘Coping and resilience’ mean: how good you are at dealing with setbacks and staying strong in difficult circumstances. People often respond to difficulties in the way they learnt, in patterns. But sometimes these old patterns are not suitable for new problems. Fortunately, you can change your reaction pattern and learn new patterns.
Events and situations cannot be changed, but you can change how you respond to them and how you think or feel about them. It takes time and it does not happen by itself. It usually takes a lot of work to achieve this. You can strengthen your resilience by learning what you can do, even in difficult times, to feel better and take good care of yourself and your child.
Look at what you can influence and what you can change. You can also find people and institutions who can help you with this. To help you with coping and resilience, other people are also important: family, friends, acquaintances and caregivers. They can support you, and they can help you come up with new ideas.
Take care of yourself
First of all, it is important to continue to take good care of yourself. Make sure you eat and sleep regularly every day and you get plenty of exercise. Make time for moments of rest and relaxation. Choose activities that are good for your body and that make you feel good. Go for it if you want to do things you like, discover new activities that make you feel safe and comfortable. No matter what you have experienced and what the ideas in society are about it: you have the right to experience happy moments. You can talk to someone you trust, go for a walk or go to church, listen to music, exercise or play a fun game with your child. Take your time. Distract yourself from painful thoughts and daily
problems. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of your child. Just think of breast milk: Breastmilk will be of better quality if the mother eats and drinks well.
When you are under a lot of stress and are sensitive and easily get angry or when you want to withdraw because of your painful thoughts, it can help to distract yourself. Try to recognise the first thoughts that make you feel bad or recognise the first signs of tension in your body. These are the best moments to think about something else and to be able to distance yourself from intense emotions. For example: call a friend, count back from 25 to 0, squeeze into a soft object (stress ball), make yourself a nice cup of tea, cook something delicious or watch a soothing short video. Or do a few stretching exercises.
Mindfulness, consciously paying attention to the moment without judging it, can also help you. There are quite a few exercises and videos available on the internet to help you with mindfulness.
Together you are stronger
Many mothers with children born of sexual violence often stand alone because people judge them. And there are mothers who are ashamed of what happened to them, resulting in them isolating themselves. But contact with people and receiving support are so important right now! Staying in touch with family, friends and acquaintances is one of the strongest sources of resilience. You need people you trust, with whom you can share your good and difficult experiences, someone who listens to you, understands you and supports you. If your family live in another country and you do not yet have enough friends here in the Netherlands, contact people in your area who you can trust and contact institutions that can support you.
Trusting someone is difficult sometimes and you don't always know how to find out if someone can be trusted. Trust also takes time. A conversation about a very common topic is often a start. After a while, you will know whether there is a ‘connection’ and whether you can and want to discuss more with this person.
Give meaning to your experiences
How you look at the problems and give meaning to an event or its consequences, how you experience problems, can help you or hamper you in how you deal with stressful events. Some mothers have found strength and hope for a good outcome in their faith. Others believe in a goal, to find their place in society again, to make it a good life for themselves and their child despite everything without guilt and shame. For many women, motherhood has an important meaning in their lives. They experience it as a source of their strength. Hope for recovery, hope for overcoming difficulties and faith in a good future help them deal with traumatic experiences.