Because we all need a toolkit.
Know that as you confront overwhelming or triggering material and experiences while practicing self-care, you are learning to take back control of your own emotional wellbeing. Our wish for you is: Be safe. Be well. Be supported. Know you are loved.
Do you have a self-care plan for when unexpected trauma reminders hit you? Write down a few strategies that have worked for you in the past when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. It can be helpful to keep a copy with you (saved in your phone notes or journal) so that you can work through the list when decision making becomes difficult or confusing.
- When intense feeling or the triggered sensation arises, look around the space you’re in and ask yourself: “Am I safe right now?” If the answer is ‘no’, call Lifeline/ 000 or do whatever it takes to create safety. If the answer is ‘yes’ for right now, you can use an affirmation, combined with deep breaths: “The past is in the past. I am safe right now.” You may need to repeat this over and over again in your mind until you feel calm. This process may bring up deep emotions that need to be heard, so let the tears come if they need to and treat yourself as you would a small child- just hold space for what is real. Sometimes feeling unsafe can convince you that you are in danger, when you are in fact OK. You can help your brain to override this feeling by reminding yourself that you are safe at this very moment. It’s important to be aware that as soon as your safety situation changes, you need to take immediate action.
- Grounding techniques can be used to regulate overwhelming emotions. Grounding is very helpful in these instances because it helps you to find the present moment, use your body and the five senses to experience being in the sensation of right now. (Grounding techniques here)
- Protect your peace. If you know you are in a space of fragility or low energy, it is important to avoid situations that may trigger or re-traumatise you. This is not avoidance, this is self-love in action. Safe spaces can be created with the people you trust, a comfortable environment, and having a plan to keep you out of danger. Actively integrating safe spaces into your routine can help you rebuild your overall feeling of safety over time. The process of creating safety is one to be patient with, so know that there is no pressure to find a “normal”, only a need to find what feels safest and lightest for you.
- Find an outlet. Find safe spaces to express and make sense of what you’re feeling. Many of us assume that our friends or family are the best people to talk to about our trauma, and whilst it’s important that our loved ones are aware of where we are at so they can support us, it’s important we find the best person to hold space for us. This is so we don’t cause any further damage to ourselves. You wouldn’t try to fix a car without the help of a mechanic, would you? In the same way, we have to find someone with both the experience and capacity in order for us to feel truly supported. A great place to start is by journalling or using art to understand and come to terms with how we are feeling. Being in nature, whether that be in your backyard, the sun patch on your living room floor, or by the ocean, is also a free form of connection to self.
- Therapy, therapy, therapy. We are firm believers in therapy of all kinds – finding a good therapist changes your entire life for the better. (Study can be found here). A therapist can help you identify why things are happening or feeling a certain way, give you an objective perspective, teach you skills for managing trauma symptoms, and offer you comfort when you feel overwhelmed and stressed. You can work with a range of individuals such as talk therapists like social workers and psychologists, or therapists who practice using the body as a tool of communication such as kinesiologists. Finding a therapist can seem like an overwhelming task, so we have put together a shortlist of therapists tried and tested by other Voidians. Many of these practitioners are now available on Zoom too.
- Be gentle with yourself. There is no benefit to trying to walk after a car crash when your legs are broken, so take recovery from mental health crises just as seriously. You cannot control every single aspect of reality, but it is important to take measures to ask your loved ones and your workplace for some extra support or leeway. When triggers pop up, have your self-care plan handy, take breaks, use your grounding exercises and stay proactive in your healing journey. The basics of eating good food, drinking 2L of water each day, showering, getting 7-8 hours of sleep and exercising should never be underestimated and can significantly improve your mental health when done consistently.
- Trust your ability to grow. Allowing your emotions to rise when they need to is so important in allowing trauma to move through the body. It may be helpful to visualise these moments of intensity like a wave. It can be helpful to take a step back and observe these feelings rise and fall while knowing that you do not have to participate in them. Affirmations are excellent helpers in this space: “I accept and love myself through every emotion” “I am worthy of peace”. You are strong enough to have survived a past trauma and you can survive reminders of past trauma as well.
- You don’t have to be a victim forever if you don’t want to. Be open to finding personal strengths or meaning after a traumatic event. This doesn’t mean that you have to be grateful that a traumatic experience happened to you or forfeit your wish that a different reality happened for you. But if you can honour your strengths and lessons from a difficult experience, it can help you cope, and give you more control over your life narrative. You are allowed to be walking and crying, strong and exhausted. There are a multitude of realities inside of you- you don’t have to make them fight with each other to be heard. They are all real and acceptable.
- Keep crisis resources on hand. If you enter a space of sudden darkness and your therapist or support system is out of reach, call Lifeline. Their highly trained staff will offer confidential support on the spot.