PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a psychological condition that develops in some people following a traumatic experience, such as violence, grief, and abuse. PTSD can also develop in people who witnessed a traumatic event, and to health care professionals who listen to traumatic events secondhand. There are various historical factors which impact an individual’s vulnerability to developing PTSD such as generational trauma, certain careers, structural oppression, and/or environmental stressors.
Overcoming PTSD triggers can be challenging, but not impossible. Reducing and/or overcoming PTSD triggers can happen with the right strategies and support. Here are some steps you can consider:
Therapy: Working with a mental health professional who specializes in trauma and PTSD, such as a therapist trained in cognitive-processing therapy (CPT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Somatic therapies can be helpful in processing the trauma and triggers. There is a focus on identifying triggers, challenging negative thoughts/beliefs, emotional regulation, and desensitizing triggers.
Professional Bodywork: Triggers are often held in the body, and need to be taught how to release. Trauma informed massage therapists, acupuncturists, and naturopathic doctors, and/or reiki practitioners can help release physical tension and promote relaxation. It is important to discuss your trauma history with the practitioner before undergoing any treatments.
Create a Safety Plan: Develop a plan for what to do when you encounter triggers. If this is a challenging exercise for you, ask a trusted person to help you with a safety plan. This will involve identifying your triggers, using grounding techniques, reaching out to a supportive person, or going to your nearest hospital depending on the trigger.
Practice Patience: Healing from PTSD takes time. It takes time to find the right therapist and/or alternative treatments, and for your body and mind to develop trust and safety to heal. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the small changes you make along the way. Keeping a journal will help you notice your changes along your path.
Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques: The biggest challenge with PTSD is the mind and body is often traveling towards the danger in the past and future. Grounding techniques is a soft approach to be present, and notice the right now. Noticing the right now is a reorienting approach to safety. Breathing exercises, meditation, physical movement, and focusing on your senses (e.g., identifying things you can see, hear, touch, etc.) can help you stay grounded.
Social Support: Develop a circle of care of supportive friends, family, or support groups. Reducing triggers require community care, and cannot be done in isolation. The impulse of triggers is to often isolate, however, isolation will often make symptoms worse over time. Talking about your experiences with people who understand can provide validation and comfort.
Remember, as humans we are designed for co-regulation, so seeking help is a necessary process for healing. Co-regulation allows for the reduction of PTSD symptoms. What works best for you might be a combination of different strategies, and it’s important to find what suits your needs. Consulting a mental health professional and doctor is a crucial first step in this process in your wellness journey.