You may not agree with all these strategies, or find them all relevant. That’s okay. Not everything will work for every person. We hope some of these will work for you. Consider this to be like a toolbox. If one tool doesn’t work, another one might.

  1. Know that you’re not alone.

    Sexual harassment is incredibly common. It happens to so many people. If you think about five people you know, it’s a near certainty that at least one of them (and probably more) has been sexually harassed. But people don’t talk openly about harassment and that means, when it happens to us, it’s very common for us to end up feeling isolated and alone. If you’re feeling that way, you may find it helpful to read about other people’s experiences. If you find it triggering to read about actual harassment, try to find material that focuses on how people feel afterward, how they handled it, and how they moved forward.

  2. Know that it’s not your fault.

    You didn’t do anything to cause the harassment, and it was not your fault. For many people, this is really hard to believe. But it’s incredibly important. What happened to you was not your fault. You did not cause it. You didn’t do anything wrong. The person who did something wrong is the person who harassed you. If you are finding you are blaming yourself, please read our article on why we blame ourselves and what can help.

  3. Consider the mental health effects of your decisions.

    You are probably facing some decisions. Will you report what happened? Will you just stay at work and try to cope? Will you quit your job? The decisions you’re making will have effects on your mental health. It can be tempting to just sweep that aside and figure you’ll cope okay. But your health and happiness matter. When you’re deciding what to do, we urge you to prioritize your own mental health and wellness.

  4. Learn more about trauma and its effects.

    Sexual harassment is often traumatic and can lead to different reactions. It is common for people to feel differently afterward, or to say they don’t feel like themselves anymore. By learning more about trauma you can better understand why you may be experiencing certain reactions and how you may be able to better cope.

  5. Find a breathing strategy that works for you.

    The purpose of breathing exercises is to help calm yourself when needed. Box breathing is an exercise where you imagine a square in front of you and move your eyes slowly along the sides of the box to the count of four seconds for each side. With the first side inhale as your eyes move up alongside the box. Then hold your breath while moving along the top of your box. Next, as you move down the side of the box, exhale slowly to a count of four. Finally, as you move along the bottom of your box, hold your breath for a final count of four. If this feels too complicated, you can just take in a deep breath and then slowly exhale. Repeat this until you start to feel more calm.

  6. Pay attention to your body and where you are feeling different emotions.

    By paying more attention to your physical sensations, you may better understand how you are feeling. You may notice muscle tightness, changes in your breathing or heart rate, heaviness or lightness, nausea, headaches, or other sensations that help you to better notice certain emotions. By understanding more how your body feels during different emotions, you can be more aware of how you are feeling both physically and emotionally.

  7. Try not to judge your feelings.

    There is no “right” or “wrong” emotional response. Instead, try to remember that your emotional reactions make sense and can tell you more about your experience. Notice if you are using “should” a lot. This can show up in different ways, including “I should be feeling better by now,” “I shouldn’t be feeling this way,” or “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I should feel ____.” Often the word “should” is a helpful indicator that you are judging yourself for feeling the wrong way. Instead, accept your emotions as helpful indicators of how you are experiencing different situations.

  8. Recognize the difference between genuine guilt and false guilt.

    Genuine guilt occurs when you’ve done something wrong, either intentionally or unintentionally. It’s a guide to help you understand your values and ethics. False guilt feels like you’ve done something wrong, even though you haven’t. While genuine guilt can push us to action, false guilt keeps us stuck, because there isn’t anything for us to atone for. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “Have I done something wrong, or do I just feel like I’ve done something wrong?” Often people feel a false sense of guilt after experiencing sexual harassment. Remember that what happened to you was not your fault.

  9. Understand your emotions.

    After we’re harassed, our emotions can be really confusing. If you’re finding it difficult to identify how you are feeling, there can be many ways to start. Find a time in your day when you ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” Use a feelings wheel to identify different emotions. Or start with the five primary emotions (joy, anger, sadness, disgust, and fear). Ask yourself, “Which of these five (or combination of them) am I feeling right now?” Some people find it helpful to journal their emotions, while others find it better to say them out loud to a friend, pet, or even a plant.

  10. Be careful of comparative suffering.

    Sometimes we tell ourselves that other people have things much worse than we do. Or other people will tell us that, in an attempt to cheer us up. Please be cautious about this. Comparing ourselves to other people who “have it worse” may feel like it will help us be stronger or more brave. But it can also make us feel undeserving or ashamed about our own feelings. Another person’s pain or hardship has nothing to do with yours: one doesn’t strengthen or lessen the other. Everybody is entitled to their own feelings.

  11. Seek support.

    If you’re struggling, it can be hard to talk with others. It’s not necessarily fun. We don’t necessarily want to. But it can be incredibly helpful. The key here is to pick people who care about you and who you can trust. You can also make choices about what you share or how much detail you provide.

  12. Tell people how to help you.

    Sometimes you need an empathetic listener, while other times you may need a fun distraction or practical help. People in your life may not know what you need. Take a moment to figure out what kind of support you want and then tell people what that is. It’s okay to ask different people for different kinds of help, and it’s okay to want different things at different times.

  13. Pay attention to your needs (and remember they can change).

    Try to get into the habit of asking yourself what you need. There are lots of things you might need, like safety, rest, food, movement, support, validation, or justice. You might need to be believed, or cared for, or understood. Your emotions can be a helpful indicator, so the more you get in touch with your feelings, the more you may understand what your needs are.

  14. Balance pushing yourself and letting yourself rest.

    Sometimes you need to challenge yourself to take care of yourself, by doing things like working, exercising, eating, or cleaning. Sometimes, though, you need to be kind to yourself when you are struggling and just need rest. It can be hard to know which you need when, so pay attention to what helps you feel better. One approach can be to try to do one thing each day that helps you feel productive and one thing that you enjoy. Depending on your energy level on a given day, you may be able to push yourself to do more or less. Something as simple as brushing your teeth can count as your “productive task” that day, while something as brief as listening to a favourite song you haven’t heard in a long time can be an easy way to have an enjoyable moment.

  15. Look for opportunities for an upward spiral.

    Often, behaviours lead to other behaviours. If you are struggling to sleep well, that may lead you to feel low in energy and unable to make a healthy meal or exercise. Over time, each habit can contribute to making other things more difficult. However, the reverse is also true. Each time you take care of yourself and make a healthy choice, it becomes easier to do the next positive thing for yourself. With this perspective, you can realize that even a small change can have a big impact on your overall well-being.

  16. Seek professional help if you need it.

    If you are in crisis, and especially if you’re at risk of hurting yourself, it is important to seek professional help—for example from a therapist, nurse, or doctor. But we know it can be really hard to access this type of help. If you can’t talk with a therapist, nurse, or doctor, you can call a crisis line. Canada has a national suicide prevention helpline that you can either call or text, and, from there, they may be able to direct you to other resources. Similarly, there are regional helplines for anyone experiencing gender-based violence. You may also want to explore peer-support groups, mutual aid groups, or self-help resources. You can also call 211.

  17. Know that that there is no set timeline for when you will feel better.

    If you have a setback or a low day, remember that recovery is not a straight line. Artists like @lizandmollie can help illustrate some of this. After a setback, it may feel like you are “back at square one” but there are always things you have learned from your past experiences. For this reason, you can never fall back to the beginning, even if it feels like you may have. If you regressed a bit, know that you can make progress again.

  18. Find ways to rebuild trust with safe people.

    If you’ve been sexually harassed, you’ve been betrayed. This can leave you feeling like trust has been broken between you and many people or systems in your life. We urge you to allow yourself time to rebuild trust with those who demonstrate care for you. It can also be helpful to form new relationships with others in your life who have not hurt you.

  19. Connect with something bigger than you.

    When we’ve been traumatized, connecting with something bigger than ourselves can give us strength. You can spend time outside and connect with nature. Explore or rediscover your spiritual or religious beliefs. Listen to, or create, music. Join an advocacy group or other community group with people you can relate to or who you want to spend time with. Finding connection to something larger than yourself can be powerful and inspiring.

  20. Find your own path.

    People who’ve been sexually harassed will often receive a lot of different competing advice (including here, from us!). This can be confusing. We urge you, above all else, to trust yourself and your own instincts. If someone is suggesting something that doesn’t feel right to you, or that you believe isn’t in your best interest, please honour that intuition. You may still benefit from asking others for suggestions or advice, but please remember that every decision is ultimately up to you. This is true for choices you may make about your career, about reporting, and also about taking care of yourself. You are the best expert on yourself and your own life, and we urge you to trust yourself.