by Teresia Smith
If you have ever experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, you may live with a heightened sense of danger. Small things that many may not even be aware of can create feelings of panic for you. Backfiring cars, disagreements, shadows, loud or yelling voices, violent movies, constant newsfeeds full of crises, someone walking behind you or too close to you or being in a confined spaces are just a few things that can trigger scary feelings for someone who has lived through a violent experience.
What is a trigger? Mary Spicer describes a trigger as “an internal reaction to an external energy, action, feeling, or incident that — once introduced to the body — can highjack and temporarily overtake the emotional, nervous, and mental systems. While in a triggered state, we may feel uneasy, anxious, overwhelmed, or not safe. We may lose our sense of self and temporarily get caught up in the trigger.”
How can we know if we are experiencing a triggered state? Stop and look at your behaviors. Are you putting your needs first? Are you using self-care techniques to soothe yourself? Are you obsessing with social media to distract yourself, not staying in your normal routines and not nurturing yourself? If the answer to those questions leads you to realize you are living in a triggered state, take a deep breath and let’s explore ways to find calm in the midst of chaos.
First, stop and admit something has triggered you. Do not think you can just ignore it because it will continue to affect your nervous system. By recognizing and acknowledging that something has made you feel this way, you can take the power away from the trigger. Then you can work to support your mind and body as you attempt to return to your normal rhythm.
In today’s world, we are bombarded with constant news and information overload. It’s important to give yourself a break now and then, get off the information grid, so you can maintain your equilibrium. Choose how much information you are willing to take in and what is healthy for you. Stay in tune with your body so that you are in touch with your nervous system and know when to walk away and take a break and nurture yourself.
One of the best ways to work to shift a trigger is get back to nature. Taking a walk, lying under a tree or going for a swim are all great ways to help your body return to its calmness. Seek out people who nurture positive feelings and spend time with them celebrating good moments in your life. If you feel you would benefit from professional help, please reach out. There is no reason to live in a constant state of unease and fear.
If you have experienced sexual assault of domestic violence, you are not alone. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free, confidential services and may be reached at 256-574-5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256-716.1000.