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Trauma, Triggers, and Self-Care

If you're overcoming an addiction or a mental illness, there's a good chance that you might also be overcoming trauma as well. The majority of adults have experienced one form of trauma in their lifetime. According to the Sidran Institute (an advocacy and educational organization on trauma), about 70% of adults have experienced at least one traumatic event. And of those 70% roughly 20% go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

If you're an adult who has experienced trauma or who has PTSD, you might know that a person can easily experience triggers which can generate feelings of fear, overwhelm, anxiety, and emotional pain. Because these experiences can be difficult, a person who is healing from trauma often finds support through therapy, friends, family, support groups, and other forms of assistance. In fact, if a person doesn't get the support they need to face triggers of trauma, they might experience the following consequences:

•    difficulty with relationships
•    use of drugs or alcohol to feel better or manage emotions
•    self-harm
•    risky behavior
•    developing or worsening mental illness

Even if you have the support you need, stress can weigh a person down such that they might become more reactive to triggers. For instance, perhaps you feel that generally you can manage your triggers well. However, when there is stress from work, finances, relationships, or emotions, your triggers seem to be bigger and more pronounced. 

When this begins to happen, it is incredibly important to do something for your own self-care. In other words, spend some time taking good care of yourself. You might do any one of the following activities:

•    Visit the ocean and soak up the sun and surf. 
•    Get a good workout in your day. 
•    Let go of the feeling of busyness. Let yourself experience relaxation. 
•    Look for the good in other people. 
•    Surf the web for happy news and the good that is happening around the world.
•    Get a massage.
•    Play with your nieces, nephews, or other children. Or find a way to be playful. 
•    Dance.
•    Draw, paint, or be creative in another way. 
•    Make love with your spouse or intimate partner. 
•    Watch your favorite comedy. 
•    Visit your local comedy club. 
•    Call a friend you haven't spoken to in awhile. 
•    Try some laughter yoga
•    Revise your schedule so that you're working less and having more fun. 
•    Decide to smile once a day. 
•    Spend time in nature. 
•    Make a list of what you are grateful for in your life.

When you engage in self-care on a regular basis, you'll find that what used to be a trigger doesn't bother you quite as much. You might find that your triggers don't slow you down anymore. They no longer cause you to call your therapist. Instead, because you're taking good care of yourself (with plenty of rest, healthy food, and exercise), you can face your triggers with greater ease. An ongoing pattern of facing your triggers with ease will help you heal from a traumatic past. It will also assist with healing from addiction as well as mental illness. 

 

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Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.