Anyone who has experienced trauma knows about triggers, whether or not they recognize that is what they are called. Triggers are things that “trigger” certain memories to come to the forefront of your mind with force & against your will. They also trigger certain PTSD reactions such as anxiety, fear responses such as fight, flight, freeze or fawn, & even flashbacks. To put it bluntly, triggers suck!
They are a particularly yukky part of having survived trauma & the worst part is they are unavoidable. Sure, you can avoid some but avoiding all triggers is impossible. The best thing you can do for your mental health is learn to manage triggers.
First & foremost, you need to be aware of what triggers are. Recognizing them for what they are really helps, because it reminds you that as painful as they may be, the triggers can’t hurt you. You are safe now. Or, if the trigger was brought about by someone treating you as your past abuser has, now you can handle this situation in a way that protects you. You can handle this!
Second, I believe in prayer. The only reason I say prayer should be second instead of first is because lack of awareness can paralyze you. You need to be aware first, then you can focus enough to pray. Ask God to help you stay grounded, to keep you safe, to help you to get through this & anything else you can think of.
Third, use grounding techniques to help you to stay focused on the present moment. Engage your senses to distract your mind from being too swallowed up by the trigger or flashback. Touch something with a very distinct texture like silk or burlap. Smell something with a strong scent such as lavender or strong perfume or cologne you like. Taste something with a strong scent & flavor such as coffee or a strong mint. Admire something beautiful such as a flower or a painting. Turn up a song you find empowering & listen to it a few times in a row if it helps.
Fourth, think of what you can do to comfort yourself. You can wrap yourself in your favorite blanket, snuggle a stuffed animal, indulge in a cup of your favorite tea or coffee, take a warm bath or shower, or hold a precious possession given to you by someone you love dearly. Lavender is known for its anti-anxiety properties, so keep some essential oil handy for these times.
Fifth, after you have calmed down, make that trigger work for you. They are unavoidable so why not make them count for something? Get to the root of this. If you aren’t sure what that root is, ask God to show you. Once you know what the root of the problem is, you can heal & this trigger won’t hold such power over you. It may even disappear entirely. The key is getting to the root though, & that may mean going way back into childhood.
Sixth, tell yourself the truth & ask God to tell you the truth about that root of the trigger. Did you deserve that? Are you as bad as your abuser claims you are? Was what that person said true? Questions like that when faced with the truth will show you exactly how wrong & cruel your abuser was.
Seventh, take some time to rest & be gentle with yourself. Emotional work is hard. You will need a little time to recover so take it & don’t be ashamed of it.
Last but not least, celebrate the fact you survived some pretty bad things. Be proud of yourself! Be proud of your strength. Thank God for getting you through those dark, horrid times with your sanity & goodness in tact.
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