Managing Trauma Impact

Question

How do you work through the triggers from trauma in your daily life?

Answer

Triggers are emotional reactions produced by the part of our brain called the amygdala. The amygdala activates the fight or flight response our bodies have when we feel that our lives are in danger. Our neural systems cannot tell the difference between emotional threats and physical ones, so our bodies respond similarly in both situations. When triggered, our bodies attempt to protect us by releasing stress-related hormones and peptides. A trigger is a response that seems disproportionate to the event that transpired. Triggers are personal and unique to the individual experiencing them. Our triggers connect to stored memories or feelings. Some triggers can be more obviously linked to traumas from the past such as facing rejection, feeling neglected, someone showing up late, raising their voice, grabbing your arm etc. Other times, however, it can be a taste, smell, or other sensory input that triggers a memory. Triggers can seem minor to those on the outside. It is important to understand, however, that while we may not be able to fully relate to a trigger someone has, the terror and anxiety they feel is very real. Our reactions to triggers can happen extremely quick. If we know our triggers and understand where they come from, we can prepare ourselves and look out for situations that may cause our bodies to go into fight or flight. The event isn't what causes the intense reaction; the emotions attached to the trigger inspire a reaction. Start by noticing what your body does when it begins to feel triggered. If you can recognize signs of distress in yourself, you may be able to mitigate that response. You can also begin to identify your triggers by making a list of external events that bring an intense, emotional response that feels out of proportion when looking objectively at the event. Identify the trigger, take space from the trigger, and develop strategies to shift your perspective and find peace (taking a walk, drinking tea, taking deep breaths, etc). Entering back into a state of clarity and balance will enhance your abilities to respond to an event how you choose. Remember: learning to manage triggers takes time, practice, and patience. Be gentle with yourself.

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