Wellness Wednesday: Trauma Response

Hello internet and happy Wednesday. I haven’t been very happy today, but I guess I can be proud that I worked out anyway and have been trying to stick to my resolution of working out regularly at the Y. Yay.

On to the wellness topic for this week. It can be extremely hard to take care of yourself and “bring yourself back” when your trauma response is activated. If you haven’t experienced a trauma activation before, it can feel something like this:

  • Extreme fear or anxiety
  • Sweating/rapid heart rate
  • A looming sense of dread or doom
  • Flashbacks
  • You may feel physical sensations similar to when your actual trauma occurred
  • You may dissociate
  • You may feel so uncomfortable you want to claw your face off/disappear
  • Your body responds as if it were currently in danger and it’s not

Stress can trigger a trauma response, but it doens’t have to. A person’s trauma response can be activated by something seemingly benign and harmless to you… maybe they saw someone that reminds them of their attacker, or heard a noise that is similar to what they heard when going through a trauma. It could literally be anything, and being aware of that can make us kinder when we recognize someone’s demeanor changing. You can offer the person water, reassure them that they are safe, say their name.

If you are the one having the trauma activation, try to do something physical. Run cool water over your wrists, go for a walk, focus intently on something in front of you, or even do some bilateral stimulation (put your hands on your thighs/knees and take turns tapping the right and left side). This helps to bring you back in the present moment.

 

What’s frustrating is that sometimes the same technique won’t always work to bring you back. You may feel defeated. It’s ok if you need to leave a situation to take care of yourself… just don’t start avoiding your life/daily activities for fear of trauma activation. Sometimes you won’t feel better until the next day… or days after. That’s just the power of trauma and part of healing is learning to integrate and recognize that you can deal with activations.

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