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Our Helpline: 0808 801 0818 



This section looks at the different dimensions of wellbeing, identified as: physical, mental, and social. Within this section you’ll learn about different ways you can try and optimise each area to help you develop a better sense of wellbeing. 

1 – Wellbeing – Survivor Stories

Wellbeing is a sense of overall feeling good and enables us to function well: psychologically, physically, emotionally, and socially. It does not mean that you never experience feelings or situations that you find difficult or extremely distressing, but it can help you navigate through the tough times. Survivors share their experiences of different ways in which they enhance their wellbeing.

You may find that your experiences of wellbeing as a survivor are different from the ones we describe in this section, and that is completely normal.


You may find that you relate to all of the points below, some of them, or none at all. This guide may be a useful starting place for you to learn more wellbeing. Resources are not exhaustive, and you may find the exercises and tips useful, or they might not be the right options for you at this moment in time. We are all unique in our experiences and where we are in our recovery journey, so take this section at your own pace, and explore the suggestions that feel right for you at this moment in time.

2 – Wellbeing – An Overview

Wellbeing is a complex state which can be affected by many factors, such as illness, social and economic status, life changes, and traumatic and distressing events etc. Conversely wellbeing can impact on how you perceive, respond and cope with circumstances and events, as well as your ability to function. These influences interact with one another in a complex and transactional way.

It may feel tempting to try lots of wellbeing changes at once. Try to focus on one achievable thing to start with. Small successes can make you feel better and give you some concrete skills to build upon. It may feel tempting to try lots of wellbeing changes at once. Try to focus on one achievable thing to start with. Small successes can make you feel better and give you some concrete skills to build upon.

The benefits

Research has shown that wellbeing has several advantages to your life:


  • Builds resilience to adversity
  • Increases life expectancy
  • Influences people
  • Increases immunity to infections
  • Lowers risk of mental health problems
  • Reduces mental decline associated with aging
  • Improves heart health and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack
  • Increases involvement in social activities
  • Improves relationships
  • Improves productivity
  • Leads to better overall health.

As someone who has experienced sexual abuse, achieving an overall sense of wellbeing can appear to be an impossible goal. However, looking after yourself as best as you are able to can play a role in how you experience and manage the challenges associated with the aftermath of rape, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation. 

3 – Physical Wellbeing

Physical wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness, which we may have little or no control over. It includes choices that we make that can have an effect on our physical health and wellbeing. Lifestyle choices can improve health, help to avoid preventable diseases and conditions, and enable you to live in a balanced state of body, mind, and spirit.

Looking after your physical wellbeing includes being physically active and taking care of your hygiene needs; eating healthier types of food and in the right proportion; and getting enough rest, be it through sleep, relaxation, or taking time out. Try to be kind and gentle with yourself. You will be good, bad and seemingly impossible days, but try to remember how you felt on the less difficult ones.

Click here to read Psychology Today’s article on how to make friends with your body after trauma.


The trauma and related effects of sexual violence and or abuse can have an impact on your appetite and eating habits. Some survivors do not want, or are not able, to eat enough. Other survivors may overeat for comfort, especially foods which are high in sugars, fats and salt.

Trauma responses create extra demands on the body. The nervous system increases the need for nutrients as these are being used up at a higher rate to sustain the flight or fight response. Skipping meals disrupts blood sugar levels which in turn increases the levels of stress hormone cortisol into your body. This can affect sleep, digestion, anxiety symptoms and other bodily functions, potentially worsening existing symptoms.

It is recommended to try and adopt the following dietary principles to help you through work through trauma:



Making lifestyle changes can be challenging, especially if you are experiencing the aftermath of sexual abuse. The aim of this section is to increase awareness of the role of diet in our lives and how it can affect healing from trauma. Remember to go at your own time and pace. Managing to eat something when you have been struggling to eat at all or adopting one change at a time is an excellent start. Try not to be too hard on yourself.

For some survivors of sexual abuse, it is possible that a relationship with food has developed into an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge eating disorder. We recommend seeking professional advice and support to help you navigate through recovery and appropriate coping strategies.  For more information on eating disorders, visit 
Beat’s website.

Video – Nutrition for improved energy, brain and sleep – CABA – YouTube


Click this link to watch CABA’s video which includes nutrition tips for improved brain energy and sleep.


Please note: These links will take you away from The Survivors Trust Resources website. The links are being provided for informational purposes only. The Survivors Trust bears no responsibility for any advertising content shown on external websites and videos.

Click here for a guide on how to clear your YouTube browsing history.


Physical wellbeing can be enhanced through regular exercise. This can be from more gentle exercises, such as stretching and yoga, as well as more vigorous physical exertion, for example brisk walking, running, cycling or sporting activities. Research is showing that meditation and aerobic exercise a couple of times a week consistently can help with recovery through trauma. Click here to visit Rutgers University website for more information on this.

Benefits of regular exercise:

  • Reduces risk of developing chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke etc.
  • Boosts self-esteem and mood
  • Aids sleep
  • Increases energy levels
  • Reduces risk of stress and clinical depression
  • Reduces risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Increases muscle strength, coordination, and balance
  • Improves cardiovascular function, strengthening the heart and improves delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body
  • Boosts lymph flow, to aid a healthy immune system
  • Calms nervous system through better circulation and reduced muscle tension
  • Regulates hormonal balance, enhancing organ function and physical fitness, and lifting mood
  • Contributes to better digestive system functioning and aids the elimination of waste.

Click here to visit the NHS’ Live Well page for more information about the benefits of exercise.

Depending on your fitness level and where you are in your journey you may want to try some gentle exercises to begin with. Start off a couple of times a week for 10 minutes building up at a pace that is comfortable for you.


  • Walking – you can walk anywhere, even around the house. You can walk slowly or briskly, whichever way you choose you are moving and helping your body to function better
  • Cleaning – surprisingly, cleaning can give our bodies a decent workout. Squatting down and standing up again, moving a vacuum cleaner or mop around covers most muscle groups. Not only do you get a workout, but you also get a cleaner environment
  • Gardening – if you have access to a garden or even a window box, it is a great way to get more active. Some gardening activities can be quite strenuous, and this activity gives you the added benefit of getting some fresh air and a sense of achievement when you see your flowers bloom or fruit and veg ripen
  • Yoga – this is a great way to combine breathing techniques, meditation and exercise
  • Dancing – moving around to a favourite song is another way to become more active
  • Sitting exercises – if you have limited mobility you may want to try some more suitable exercises. Click here to read the NHS’ Live Well guide on sitting exercises
  • Low impact exercises – you may prefer to develop a workout consisting of lunges, burpees, planks etc. There are plenty of resources available on the internet to inspire you.

Video – Beginner Gentle 10-Minute Morning Workout – YouTube


Click this link to watch Jolie Della Valle’s 10 minute morning workout, designed with beginners in mind.

Please note: This link will take you away from The Survivors Trust Resources website. The link is being provided for informational purposes only. The Survivors Trust bears no responsibility for any advertising content shown on external websites and videos.

Click here for a guide on how to clear your internet browsing history.

You may prefer more intense forms of exercise, and that is fine. Try and remember to warm up and cool down your muscles with stretches before and after your workout. Here are some suggestions of more vigorous activities to try:


  • Swimming – a low-impact activity that works out nearly all muscle groups in the body and helps you to tone, strengthen and improve your overall health
  • Running – can help build endurance, stimulate bone growth and strength, and burn calories. You can run as far and as fast as you determine, building on your performance over time
  • Cycling – as well as the fitness benefits, cycling can also be a great environmentally-friendly transport method
  • Sports – there are various types of sporting activities to suit various abilities and requirements. Some sports can help build up social interactions too, as well as improving your fitness
  • Dancing – something that can be done at home and be physically challenging and full of variety.

Sexual abuse and sexual violence are traumatic physical violations, and experiencing them can affect the way that survivors experience and perceive their body. Senses may be heightened, and you may naturally want to avoid focusing on your body and/or may even feel disconnected from it. You may even find that trying to relax may be triggering and evoke trauma responses . It may be too difficult to attempt some or any of the suggestions in this section, and that is okay. Increasing your knowledge and understanding of the relationship between your body and trauma can be helpful in itself.

When the body has been harmed it can store pain and we can automatically develop negative associations between our bodies, our vulnerabilities, and the way we experience pain. Some survivors can feel a sense of repulsion and blame towards their own bodies because of their experience of sexual abuse, which can sometimes lead to self-harming behaviours. Relaxation strategies can help to acknowledge pain, discomfort and tension while helping to bring you and your body towards a more harmonious relationship.


Consider whether any of these will be triggering for you before trying them, and trust your instincts:
  • Breathe mindfully – put your hand on your belly, just above your navel, and breathe deeply into your belly so that your hand gets pushed up and down. It can sometimes help to imagine you have a balloon in your tummy, inflating it as you breather in and deflating it as you breathe out
  • Body awareness – sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Starting with your feet, pay attention to the physical sensations you feel, just be aware of them. Slowly allow your awareness to drift towards your lower legs, simply paying attention to any physical sensations in that part of your body. Then slowly let your awareness drift further up your body, doing the same gentle noticing for all the parts of your body
  • Audio relaxation exercises – you may find it helpful to listen to soothing music or voices guiding you into a state of relaxation
  • Resting – simply stopping and taking time out of chores or tasks to sit or lie down in a comfortable position can help to give your body time to unwind and make necessary daily repairs. You may even want to listen to or watch something easy and soothing which does not require any mental effort
  • Sleep – ideally, getting a good amount of quality sleep on a daily basis allows our bodies to function much better. However, if you have experienced sexual abuse being asleep can feel unsafe, and that is understandable. Even getting moments of sleep can be helpful. Read more about this in our section on Sleep
  • Change – sometimes changing your environment or what you are doing can bring about a sense of relaxation. Routines can become a source of increased stress, alternatively they can provide much needed structure and predictability. Trust your own judgement in what options are best for you to try, and explore them at your pace.

4 – Mental Wellbeing

Mental wellbeing encompasses our psychological, emotional, and spiritual sense of contentment and coherence. It can also be the most challenging aspect of wellbeing as it is hidden and contained within us. Some survivors may find it difficult to express and articulate their thoughts and feelings, which can cause further feelings of being ‘alone’, frustrations and fears of not being understood.

Psychological wellbeing

Psychological wellbeing is the concept of self-assessing satisfaction of both our fundamental psychological needs, such as the self-satisfaction of being a conscientious worker, and those driven by external rewards or punishment, like money, fame, recognition etc.

Components of psychological wellbeing have been identified as the following:


  • Self-acceptance
  • Autonomy: the freedom to make your own decisions
  • Environmental mastery: the ability to manage everyday situations
  • Purpose in life
  • Personal growth
  • Positive relationships with others.

Some practitioners use questionnaires to help them assess a client’s psychological wellbeing. The scores are used to help them develop and assess what methods and approaches may be best to help improve psychological wellbeing. See the below table for an example of wellbeing scores and their meaning. Please note that these types of assessments are best carried out by professionals. 


High scorer

Low scorer:



Possesses a positive attitude toward the self; acknowledges and accepts multiple aspects of self, including good and bad qualities; feels positive about past life.

Feels dissatisfied with self; is disappointed with what has occurred with past life; is troubled about certain personal qualities; wishes to be different than what they are.



Is self-determining and independent; able to resist social pressures to think and act in certain ways; regulates behaviour from within; evaluates self by personal standards.

Is concerned about the expectations and evaluations of others; relies on judgments of others to make important decisions; conforms to social pressures to think and act in certain ways.

Environmental mastery


Has a sense of mastery and competence in managing the environment; controls complex array of external activities; makes effective use of surrounding opportunities; able to choose or create contexts suitable to personal needs and values.

Has difficulty managing everyday affairs; feels unable to change or improve surrounding context; is unaware of surrounding opportunities; lacks sense of control over external world.

Purpose in life


Has goals in life and a sense of directedness; feels there is meaning to present and past life; holds beliefs that give life purpose; has aims and objectives for living.

Lacks a sense of meaning in life; has few goals or aims, lacks sense of direction; does not see purpose of past life; has no outlook or beliefs that give life meaning.

Personal growth


Has a feeling of continued development; sees self as growing and expanding; is open to new experiences; has sense of realizing his or her potential; sees improvement in self and behaviour over time; is changing in ways that reflect more self-knowledge and effectiveness.

Has a sense of personal stagnation; lacks sense of improvement or expansion over time; feels bored and uninterested with life; feels unable to develop new attitudes or behaviours.

Positive relations with others


Has warm, satisfying, trusting relationships with others; is concerned about the welfare of others; capable of strong empathy, affection, and intimacy; understands give and take of human relationships.

Has few close, trusting relationships with others; finds it difficult to be warm, open, and concerned about others; is isolated and frustrated in interpersonal relationships; not willing to make compromises to sustain important ties with others.

Source: Ryff, C., & Keyes, C. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719–727.





Here are some suggestions and tips that you might like to try to help improve your psychological wellbeing:

  • Identify your goals – knowing what you want from life can seem difficult, especially if you are experiencing the effects of trauma. Wanting to feel better is a goal – try listing what you like and do not like about your situation; what you want or do not want. This can help you identify steps you may need to take to achieve goals. These can be divided into process goals (what you need to do to achieve your target goal) and target goals (the end result). Click here to read Eastern Washington University’s guide on goal-setting
  • List your strengths – everyone is unique and has individual qualities. Focus on what you think you are good at. You can ask a trusted friend for their feedback. Consider your personality traits – for example, are you a good listener or does conversation come easy to you? Recall moments in your life where you overcame difficulties
  • Acknowledge your achievements – no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. For survivors, some days getting out of bed is an achievement that should be acknowledged. Try not to compare yourself with others but think of your own goals instead. Perhaps getting dressed was a step further then the previous day for you, and that is progress
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) CBT can be practised yourself and aims to reduce negative thought patterns, break down overwhelming problems into more manageable, smaller ones, and help change distressing, unhelpful ways of thinking into more constructive and rational ones. Click here to visit the NHS guide on CBT
  • Mindfulness practising focusing on the present rather than past or future can be another useful way to reduce intrusive thoughts and rumination and help your psychological wellbeing. Click here to visit the NHS guide on mindfulness
  • Practice setting boundaries – this can be empowering and protects your body from stress. Boundaries also help give you a sense of autonomy. Click here to read PsychCentral’s guide on boundaries
  • Practice self-care – this is necessary to replenish our ability to truly give to others, without which we become exhausted and even burnt out. You do not intend to hurt others when practising self-care. Many people struggle with self-care because they may be used to putting others’ needs before their own or may have been told they are selfish when they attempt self-caring acts. Self-care activities might include personal and professional development. Self-care is not selfish – selfishness is when you act in a purely self-serving way, often at cost to others
  • Consider purpose – having meaning to life can help set goals and a sense of purpose. Many survivors go on to help other survivors through their journey, raise awareness and educate others about sexual abuse. Your experiences do not define you, but they can serve as a purpose. Lived experience gives the opportunity to provide a rich insight into the effects of sexual violence and inform support services and relief for others who may be able to relate to your experiences. Consider sharing your journey with us.

Remember: trauma responses are a normal reaction to an abnormal traumatic event. Intrusive and ruminating thoughts and emotional distress are the mind’s way of trying to make sense of what happened.

Emotional wellbeing

Emotional wellbeing can be understood as feeling good or okay. A sense of being happy, and experiencing positive emotions like love and joy, and an overall feeling of being satisfied with life. Emotional wellbeing is often consumed with distress, devastation, and overwhelming negative emotions for survivors of sexual abuse. It can often feel like an ‘emotional roller coaster’ with extreme mood swings, and it may seem impossible to try and regulate emotions. But with practice, your emotional wellbeing can get better. Below are a few tips that may help to provide a little relief and a start towards regaining an element of emotional wellbeing. Little steps can prove significant in your recovery journey.

Institutional advocacy
  • Expressing gratitude – this has been shown to increase a sense of feeling good, enhancing emotional wellbeing. Try writing down three things every day that you are grateful for in a gratitude journal. Click here to visit Healthline’s guide on starting a gratitude journal
  • Acts of kindness – performing acts of kindness makes you feel satisfied as feel-good hormones are released (serotonin and dopamine). Click here to read VeryWellMind’s article on the science behind this. Acts of kindness also make us feel more connected with others and reduce stress levels. Showing kindness can be as simple giving positive feedback to someone or saying ‘thank you’. Showing kindness to yourself also counts

  • Forgive yourself – guilt can serve a useful purpose at times. However, repeatedly blaming yourself for perceived ‘wrongs’ or ‘mistakes’ is not helpful. Try to learn to accept that

    some things cannot be changed. Sometimes we make the best choices we can with the information and abilities that we have at that time. Try and learn from these experiences and consider what your intentions and circumstances were at that time to give yourself some context and perspective

  • Embrace your emotions – recognising and expressing emotions can be a necessary part of processing trauma.  If you are feeling sad, angry or anxious, remind yourself that it is okay to feel this way. Feelings are not right or wrong. Crying releases stress hormones and can provide some relief, albeit temporary. Give yourself time to embrace your emotions, even if you are afraid that letting them out may be too much to handle. Emotions come in waves and are temporary. Allowing time to express all your emotions helps with the healing process. You may prefer to do this alone or with a trusted friend or supporter who is a good listener and can validate your feelings.

Article – HelpGuide – Emotional Intelligence Toolkit


Article – National Institutes of Health – Emotional Wellness Toolkit


Please note: These links will take you away from The Survivors Trust Resources website. The links are being provided for informational purposes only. The Survivors Trust bears no responsibility for any advertising content shown on external websites and videos.

Remember: when we suppress uncomfortable feelings, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow.

Spiritual wellbeing

Spiritual Wellbeing is described as feeling connected to a higher power, having a sense of purpose and meaning greater than oneself, or feeling a sense of peace, wholeness, and connectedness. In essence, it involves seeking meaning behind existence and life. This can be through religious beliefs and practices, or a more personal, internal spirituality. For some people, this can provide a sense of belonging, purpose, and framework to guide morals and behaviours.


Spiritual wellbeing can contribute to the healing process. It can help you to cope with the pain and difficulties that come with the aftermath of sexual abuse. It can be a source of hope and comfort through the hardest of times. Spirituality is different for everyone. Here are some suggestions to consider if you want to enhance your spiritual wellbeing:


  • Connect – joining a social club, community or reaching out to other survivors or support groups can be a way to help you feel more connected. However, it might be too soon for you, or too triggering and you may not feel ready yet, and that is fine
  • Nature – being outdoors and around nature can be a source of comfort. Pets and animals are increasingly recognised for their therapeutic qualities. There may be an opportunity to volunteer at a local animal shelter or help a neighbour out with their pet if you do not have a pet of your own
  • Helping others – offering a service to others can be gratifying for some. You could explore this by doing volunteer work, being kind, or offering help to someone in need
  • Religion – you may find comfort and relief through the ritual and practice of a particular religion. This could be praying or meditating or developing your own rituals. Taking part in community activities and humanitarian efforts can also help with improving spiritual wellbeing
  • Personal reflection – take time to ponder and reflect on life and yourself. What are your own beliefs and values? Do you live your life according to your values and authenticity?

Click here to read Cratejoy’s article on the spiritual wellness, including its benefits and suggested activities.

5 – Social Wellbeing

People are inherently social creatures. With the right social connections, we can feel safe, connected and hold a sense of belonging. Socialising can provide a means of developing and sustaining meaningful relationships with others, sharing and developing thoughts and ideas, as well as material means and resources. It can facilitate a sense of being valued and serving a useful purpose.

Being socially healthy allows us to interact with a range of people. We are able to demonstrate respect, empathy and tolerance for other people and their differences and adhere to the rights and responsibilities of ourselves and others. We can recognise and manage the effects that actions can have on others.

Developing better social skills can be more challenging for some, whilst for others it comes naturally. A good place to start is to try and learn and understand more about yourself. Thinking about what your motivations and goals are in life can help you navigate towards your own social wellbeing. For example, if you enjoy engaging with different types of people, a customer-facing career may suit you better than one that involved less contact with others. We are all different and it is important to be honest with yourself.


Whether relationships are one-to-one, group or community related, close, intimate, casual, work-based, or centred around family or friendship, it is important that we can determine whether they are beneficial for us. Do they allow us to grow as individuals and reach our full potential or they are detrimental, oppressive and having a negative impact on us?


Listening to your intuition can sometimes be helpful and can allow you to feel whether the relationship is balanced, equal, and healthy. Here are some signs of healthy relationships:


  • You are made to feel comfortable being yourself
  • There is generally good communication
  • You feel respected and valued
  • There is trust
  • You have realistic expectations between each other
  • There are clear boundaries.

If something is bothering you, are you able to talk about it and feel heard? Being able to freely express concerns to work towards constructive solutions is healthy in a relationship. It allows all parties to learn and grow. If your views, concerns, or feelings are dismissed, minimised or devalued, or you fear repercussions, then it might be time to reassess if the relationship is right for you. For more information on relationships, click here to visit the Relationships section of our website.


Click here to read the Centre for Shared Insight’s article on evaluating relationships.

Ask yourself two simple questions:

Is this person good to me?

Is this person good for me?

NB: although the article focuses on intimate relationships the same principles can be used for any relationship.

Work and education

Another component that contributes towards social wellbeing is the work you do, or the education or career path that you have chosen. Your working environment should ideally be stimulating and supportive. The physical environment should be safe and comfortable. The team dynamics and interactions should foster mutual respect and dignity and operate within clear structures and processes that are based on principles that are fair and allow staff to fulfil their duties, contribute and progress in meaningful ways. Several main factors have been identified as to what contributes to job satisfaction. These include:


  • Feeling appreciated
  • Good work-life balance
  • Good relationships with colleagues and superiors
  • Learning and career development opportunities
  • Job security
  • Pay and benefits
  • Interesting job content
  • Organisational values.

Environments constantly change, as do the people within them. Evaluating whether a workplace, role or team is contributing positively to your social wellbeing may include several factors to consider:


  • How well does the workplace align with your own values and interests?
  • Do you enjoy the work you do overall?
  • Are there issues around individuals, or is there a more embedded institutional problem?
  • Is this a temporary role?
  • Is the work stimulating or fulfilling for you?
  • Are your tolerance levels being reached?
  • Do you see a potential solution to problems?
  • What are the advantages over disadvantages of staying?

Video – Herzberg’s Motivation Hygiene Theory – YouTube
Click this link to watch a video explaining Herzberg et al. (1959) two-factor theory, an extension of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which looks at job satisfaction.

Article – Herzberg’s two-factor theory – IFIOQUE
Article – 3 Questions to Evaluate Job Satisfaction – OfferZen

Please note: These links will take you away from The Survivors Trust Resources website. The links are being provided for informational purposes only. The Survivors Trust bears no responsibility for any advertising content shown on external websites and videos.

Click here for a guide on how to clear your YouTube browsing history.



Making time for leisure activities in your life can have a positive impact on your wellbeing. Whether you enjoy playing indoor games, listening to music, playing with your children or pets, chatting with friends, taking a relaxing bubble bath or watching a movie, engaging in a recreational activity that you enjoy can help reduce stress, tension and anxiety, make you feel happier, improve your quality of life and performance, as well as boost self-esteem and confidence. All while you are having fun.


Spending time doing things that we enjoy can be satisfying and a source of promoting better self-esteem. These could be activities that involve other people with shared interests, such as classes or organised activities, or even ne your own, such as reading, arts or crafts. You are best placed to judge what works best for you at any moment. Sometimes you may want to try some different hobbies to see which ones work best for you.


Giving your time to causes which align with your own values or give you a sense of satisfaction can be feel very rewarding and improve self-esteem and wellbeing.  Many survivors enjoy helping others who are going through similar experiences following rape and sexual abuse and/or working with those in need and/or animal shelters etc. It is important to make sure you have looked after your own needs for recovery and support first and that you avoid taking on more than you can manage which can be more detrimental than helpful. It is important to get the right balance for you. 

Article – Indoor Activities – Icebreaker Ideas
Click this link for a few ideas for recreational ideas that you can do on your own.


Article – Healthier Families Activities – NHS
Click this link for some suggestions for fun with children and your family.


Please note: These links will take you away from The Survivors Trust Resources website. The links are being provided for informational purposes only. The Survivors Trust bears no responsibility for any advertising content shown on external websites and videos.

6 – Burnout

As a survivor you may struggle with taking care of yourself and your own needs. You may even have difficulties identifying what your needs are or expressing them. If you have grown up within unhealthy and abusive environments you may have become conditioned to put others’ needs before your own, and even feel worthless if you are not taking care of others. You may know what you need, but struggle saying ‘no’ to requests or demands, and even find yourself volunteering for everything. Being compassionate and taking care of others are good qualities, however if you are not careful and keep giving and giving without taking care of yourself or your own needs you may end up physically and mentally exhausted.



Burnout is a state of physical, psychological, and emotional exhaustion. It usually occurs following a period of experiencing long-term stress either in the workplace, through general life circumstances such as money or relationship pressures, or being a constant source of support, which is physically and/or emotionally draining for a long time.

People experiencing burnout often feel like they have nothing left to give, are running on ‘empty’ and develop a pessimistic outlook toward life and feel hopeless. Burnout does not get better if left untreated and can lead to serious illnesses like depression, heart disease, and diabetes. Some signs of burnout can include:

  • Exhaustion – feeling overwhelmed and physically and emotionally depleted. Mental health concerns like depression and anxiety may develop
  • Isolation – reduced socialisation, opting out of social gatherings or meeting up with friends and family members
  • Irritability – angry outbursts or getting irritated and frustrated by things that do not go to plan, that they would usually take in their stride
  • Frequent illnesses – recurring headaches, stomach and digestive problems, and changes in appetite or sleeping habits. Increased susceptibility to colds, flu, and other diseases
  • Low self-worth – feeling useless, incapable and ineffective
  • Unhealthy habits – increased use of unhealthy coping strategies, such as alcohol, recreational drugs etc.
  • Mind wandering – difficulty in concentrating. Imagining running away from everything or going away alone.

Burnout develops over a period of time and in phases. The earlier you recognise it the better chance of a quicker recovery. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Excessive drive/ambition
  • Pushing yourself to work harder
  • Neglecting your own needs
  • Displacement of conflict.
  • Social withdrawal
  • Denial and blaming others
  • Withdrawal
  • Behavioural changes
  • Depersonalization
  • Inner emptiness or anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mental or physical collapse – BURNOUT.

Avoiding burnout and dealing with it as soon as you recognise any of the symptoms involves incorporating habits of self-care and wellbeing health, including the physical, mental and social components covered in this section.

As a survivor, you may be more prone to experiencing burnout, especially if you often throw yourself into work, a project or helping others as a distraction from your own unresolved trauma.

Try and schedule some MOT (Me Only Time) every day to try and switch off and focus on yourself. 
Click here to read LifeHacker’s article on recognising the signs of burnout.

7 – Useful Resources for Wellbeing

Useful contacts

The Survivors Trust

Umbrella agency for over 120 member organisations which provide specialist support to men, women and children who are survivors of sexual violence.
Helpline: 08088 010818


The UK’s eating disorder charity.
Helpline (England): 0808 801 0677; help@beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Helpline (Scotland): 0808 801 0432; Scotlandhelp@beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Helpline (Wales): 0808 801 0433; Waleshelp@beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Helpline (Northern Ireland): 0808 801 0434; NIhelp@beateatingdisorders.org.uk


Mental health charity.
Helpline: 0300 123 3393