A traumatic event such as being bullied at school or being abused by a spouse can have a lasting negative effect on your physical and mental health. You may also experience emotional pain at the thought of getting into a car after being involved in an accident or working at heights days after falling off of a roof. In many cases, emotional trauma can last for months, years or decades after an event happens. It’s not uncommon to feel as if you’ve gotten over whatever happened only to feel sudden waves of grief, anger or irritability for seemingly no reason.
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What Is Trauma?
Trauma is the result of any type of negative or distressing event a person might go through and can be physical or emotional in nature. Physical trauma refers to any bodily injury that might take place in the aftermath of a car crash, fall or other violent act. In some cases, physical injuries such as a concussion or chronic back pain may result in depression or other emotional issues. It’s also possible that depression, anxiety or similar conditions will manifest themselves physically.
Symptoms of Trauma
Those who are dealing with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have a lack of appetite or a lack of desire to interact with others. It’s also not uncommon for those processing emotional trauma to eat more than they usually do to be overly enthusiastic around others in an effort to keep others from asking too many questions. Those who have experienced a traumatic event or who have been exposed to a trigger may have trouble sleeping or feel as if they can’t stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a time.
Individuals with PTSD may also have trouble concentrating or have either long-term or short-term memory issues. If you experience any of these symptoms, it may be best to see your physician or reach out to anyone else who may be able to help you. In fact, it may be a good idea to see a doctor if you’re unable to stick to your daily routine, as almost anything could be a reaction to a negative event or circumstance in your life.
What Can Trigger These Symptoms?
You may be triggered by something you see, a specific aroma or even hearing the voice of someone who sounds like a deceased friend or family member. In some cases, a loud noise may take you back to the moment when your car was struck by a large truck or the moment when someone broke into your home or apartment.
Depending on what caused your trauma, you may be triggered by certain dates on the calendar or times of the day. For instance, the date that your divorce was finalized may be a tough one to get through. Alternatively, the anniversary of your wedding day may be difficult to deal with, knowing that your spouse is no longer in your life.
A traumatic event might be triggered because you are feeling alone, isolated or otherwise not in control of what is happening in your life. For instance, you may believe that no one wants to be associated with you after a divorce or that people blame you for an event that caused bodily injury or death to others.
Healthy Strategies to Cope With Trauma
External triggers are generally easier to cope with than internal triggers. This is because you can actively avoid someone who abused you in the past or actively avoid going to a place where you were attacked or saw someone else get hurt.
However, you can’t avoid every trigger that you might face, which is why it’s important to have a healthy outlet for your emotions. For example, if you’re feeling sad, it may be a good idea to write about your feelings either in a private journal or through a public blog or website. You may also want to consider painting, drawing or other types of artistic expression to manage your emotions after being triggered.
Exercise can be an effective way to counter internal triggers such as loneliness or stress. Going for a jog, brisk walk or a bike ride gives you something to focus on that is healthy and productive. If you are triggered at work, taking a walk around the office can help you calm down or at least manage your feelings while around your colleagues.
Engaging in mindfulness can be another effective way to help manage your emotions. Instead of giving in to negative feelings, it forces you to acknowledge that whatever may have hurt you in the past isn’t currently with you. It’s worth noting that being mindful doesn’t mean that you disregard your feelings or try to learn from them. Instead, it simply serves as a way to help you find the balance that you need to get through a negative situation safely.
It may also be necessary to combine those tools with regular therapy sessions, medication or both. You may also want to reach out to friends, family members or others who you trust to help you when dealing with a trauma trigger.
Have a Safety Plan
Despite being aware of your triggers, it may not be enough to avoid the crying, difficulty breathing or other symptoms that they may bring. Therefore, it’s important to be proactive about what you’ll do when disaster strikes. Ideally, your safety plan will include calling 911, your therapist or others who may be able to provide help if needed.
Even if you aren’t having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you may not be in any condition to walk or drive to a safe place. Your support network may be able to bring you home, take you to the hospital or otherwise provide assistance until your symptoms ease. You may also want to consider getting an emotional support animal that can keep you calm after being triggered.
For many, a traumatic event is something that they may never fully recover from. However, the folks at Recreate Life Counseling can work with you in an effort to learn what your triggers are and create healthy and safe ways to deal with them. You can learn more about our services by giving us a call or by starting a live chat on our website.