If you clicked on this blog, anxious and desperate for answers you’re not alone. I am so sorry for what this world has thrown at you and I hope I can give you the tools you need to overcome the past. What you faced was enough and it is time for the past to stop trickling into your present or dictating your future! You can live a life without the residue of the past. Trust me, as a survivor of sexual abuse and exploitation for 10 years as a child, I get it and am living proof that you can overcome.
One thing I have come to realize is that triggers make for great escape goats. Our bodies and minds believe that they are going to protect us by reminding us of the past to protect our future. It’s a bit like an oxymoron since in that attempt to sustain physical survival we are mentally being destroyed or vise versa. You may not feel like you have control of anything biological, but your mental access is more powerful than you think. Time and time again studies are proving how powerful the psyche is to our overall well-being. I want to give you 3 ways to override your triggers and put the control back in your hands.
The roar of a lion can be heard up to 5 miles away and every gazelle or prey that hears it takes off running in the opposite direction. Follow with me for just a minute, I promise you have something in common with the frantic gazelle. What the gazelle doesn’t know is that on the opposite side of that roar is their maker. The mighty lioness’ are ready to capture the fearful prey who believes it is running away from its death, but instead running straight into it. What might happen if they ran toward the roar instead of away from it? In the context of triggers, pressing in despite your fear will strip the past of it’s continued power/control over you to be placed back into your hands. That does not mean that the trigger will necessarily stop, but they are kind of like bullies, sometimes they will subside simply by standing up to them.
Renew your mind.
In Rebecca Bender’s book, ‘Roadmap To Redemption,’ she walks through what it means to renew your mind. It is a book and chapter I highly recommend if you struggle with triggers. What does it mean to renew your mind? Basically, it is choosing a new thought pattern to disconnect you from your old ways of thinking/living. It is essential to healing from whatever you have been through. The way I have done this is created a truth box. Anytime I receive a compliment or realize more of who I really am, I place that in the box. Sometimes I write those things on my shower wall with an expo marker or my mirror so no matter how my day goes, it has at least started and ended with truth. At times, I have found or made an inspirational quote graphic to make the background on my phone or set reminders on my phone with truth’s that will pop up just to remind me of who I am today. It takes authority from your past and puts it back in the present/future. Doing this also shifts your attitudes and daily expectations.
Our attitudes are huge factors in how our day will go. If your attitude is that everyone at work hates you and things never go your way, well then guess what… That will define your life experience because your perspective is already jaded. You will miss all the nice things about your day with a sour puss attitude. Also, no one likes to be around a negative person, and you need healthy people to help renew your mind as well! A huge shifter for me was being open to the loving correction of the people around me. To learn how to receive their hand swat so to speak when I spoke negatively about myself. It was hard and humbling, but it was everything I needed. This doesn’t even have to be a person you have daily contact with. Many times it was a bold word from the pulpit of my Church, a strong spoken word I saw online, or a hard piece of truth that I read in a book. Truth can come from anywhere.
I used to cope with my trauma in the form of self – hate, self – harm, an eating disorder, and the occasional binge drinking. Trust me when I say, however you are coping, I understand it. But I do not want you to stay in that place. Oddly enough, replacing bad coping with good coping is difficult because often times we find comfort in the control we have in hitting that self – destruct button vs. someone else doing it for us. Maybe what you faced is so difficult to express in words, so you express your emotions in other forms. I could write an entire blog on healthy coping but let me give you a few options. Keep in mind when it comes to finding new ways to cope, you might not love it right away. We are creatures of habit and we long to continue with what is uncomfortable, even if it is destroying us. I encourage you to give one of these things a chance for 30 days before you toss it out the window. If these don’t seem to be the best thing for you, a counselor will be able to help you come up with something just for you as well. Whatever they are, they should be healthy things that you enjoy.
Painting. For me, I would paint my emotions. You could call it abstract art I suppose, but I would just get it all out on paper.
Going for a walk or sitting outside. There are tons of studies that show fresh air and a little sunshine are incredible mood boosters.
Being intentional about the music I listened to. I made sure to not listen to music that would perpetuate my trauma or how I felt about myself but instead choose soothing or inspiring lyrics to listen to.
Puppies. I mean, come on. Who can’t not smile at a cute dog? I found a local non-kill shelter to frequent because I knew all of these dogs will not be killed and will end up in great homes.
Yoga. Doing yoga was a great grounding technique because of the focused breathing, soothing music, and it gets your heart rate up! Exercise is great for reducing the stress caused by triggers/PTSD.
When it came down to dealing with a trigger in the moment I would do some grounding techniques to remind myself of where I am now and that what happened was awful, but it is over now. I would sit on the floor with my back against a wall, maybe wrap a blanket around myself and focus on how the things that were touching me felt. Sometimes I would make a fist with ice in my hands so I could feel them going from cold to warm as the ice melted. I would also keep something tangible on me like play dough or something with a lot of texture so if a trigger happened at an inconvenient time, as they often do, in class or at work I could remain where I was. Some people also like using essential oils like lavender or peppermint as well as special grounding blends that you can find online.
I hope that you found this helpful! If you have a history of trauma and currently deal with PTSD and triggers, please be sure to consult a therapist. If you have ever done something else that really helped you, please leave it in the comments!