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  • Writer's pictureHeather Keenan, LCSW

Managing PTSD Triggers

Have you ever experienced a sudden onset of anxiety or a feeling that something just isn’t right? Or maybe you have felt a sudden pit in your stomach, not knowing what caused it.

It can be overwhelming when our past is triggered and our body and brain react throughout day-to-day activities. Triggers of our past experiences and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms can really impact our daily functioning and stop us from enjoying things we used to find fulfillment in.

Here are a few suggestions on how to manage these triggers when they do arise:

Identify What Your Triggers Are:

Oftentimes, triggers can feel overwhelming because we don’t have the insight to know what actually caused us to get triggered. The thoughts, feelings, and body sensations can arise suddenly and with no warning.

Next time you find yourself getting triggered, analyze the current situation you are in. Take a look at your environment. Was it a physical place, a sound, a smell, a conversation that could have resembled your past trauma? Were you experiencing certain thoughts, emotions, or body sensations? When you know what your triggers are, you are able to better prepare for them.

Identify What Triggers You Can Avoid:

Once you identify what your triggers are, take a look at which you can avoid. For example, if you know that a certain road or alley way triggers your PTSD, consider taking a different route. Of course, we can’t avoid all triggers so it can be helpful to have a safety plan for the ones you can’t avoid. A safety plan can entail coping skills you can utilize and people you can call.

Deep Breathing:

Deep breathing allows you to calm your nervous system when experiencing a trigger. This can help decrease the body sensations you may be experiencing, as well as the anxiety that accompanies a trigger. While deep breathing, focus on each breath going in through your nose and out through your mouth. Be mindful and notice your chest and stomach expanding and contracting with each breath.

Focus On The Five Senses:

Another mindfulness technique is to focus on your five senses: see, hear, feel, smell, taste. Identify things you can visually see, sounds you can hear, items you can physically touch, identify what scents you can smell, and lastly anything that you can taste. Completing this technique can help ground you back to the present moment.

Seek Out Therapy:

Along with these suggestions, it may be helpful to seek out therapy. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, or EMDR therapy, is especially beneficial for those who have experienced trauma. EMDR therapy has been found effective in decreasing PTSD symptoms and the body’s physical and mental reaction to triggers. Whether it is individual or EMDR therapy, just know you do not have to face these challenges alone. There are resources and tools you can utilize to bring enjoyment back into your life.

If you or anyone you know has experienced trauma and feel you/they may benefit from EMDR therapy, please contact me today for a free 15-minute consultation at 954-391-5305.


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