It may feel like your trauma symptoms come “out of the blue” but often they arise because of a trigger. To begin learning how to cope with triggers, it will be important to begin identifying what your triggers are.
When talking about trauma, a trigger can be anything that reminds you of the trauma. It can be an object, a type of person, a place, a situation, a smell, a noise, a piece of music, or even a colour.
A trigger may also be an action or particular activity you have to do, such as going back to the place that the traumatic event occurred (i.e., your workplace, near that park, or to a certain neighborhood), driving, taking the bus, doing the laundry (seeing that clothing item or uniform again), playing a certain sport, or meeting up with certain people.
It may be linked to a certain event, such as a local town/city celebration (think parades or festivals) or a national/cultural annual celebration (such as Christmas, New Years, etc).
A trigger may be a particular type of weather or time of day, such as going outside when it’s sunny, dark, cold and windy, or snowy.
You may be triggered if someone looks like someone from the past or if someone says something that reminds you of a past distressing event. You may become triggered when you overhear fighting and arguing, you see a certain expression on the face of someone you are talking too, or you watch a particular type of scene in a film.
If your traumatic event is linked to the loss of a loved one, then you may become triggered when you have to do a task that your deceased loved one used to take care of (i.e., a household chore, arranging the schedule, organising gatherings, etc), or if you come across some of their belongings.
Alternatively, a trigger can be something that happens internally, such as a body sensation (i.e., increased heart rate, numbness, getting hot or cold), body position (lying down, being curled up), a memory, or a thought (i.e., “they are mad at me,” “I did something wrong,” etc). It can also be a type of emotion, such as anger, sadness, loneliness, feeling rejected or ignored, or overwhelmed.
Keep in mind…
What will be a trigger for one person may not be a trigger for another person, and at times, it may be difficult to identify what your triggers are or that you have been triggered.
In order to help begin identifying what your triggers are, it will be useful to begin tracking when you experience distressing symptoms, such as increased heart rate, sweating, dizziness, flashbacks, a change in mood or emotion, a sense of fear, and then write down what you were doing just before these symptoms came on. In time, you will begin to notice some patterns and be able to start preparing for your triggers.
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