How To Build a Trauma Emergency Toolkit
If you are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) self-care becomes a way of life. PTSD can be caused by living with the constant emotional physical and psychological terror of being in an abusive relationship.
When you have PTSD you know that to manage your symptoms of anxiety and or depression you need to take care of yourself. For many people with PTSD, their symptoms can cause them problems at home; they might have nightmares, flashbacks or other triggers. However home is a place where they feel they can control their environment and so they can find themselves isolating themselves there. For many people suffering from PTSD it can feel like you have survived a war zone, and being in an abusive relationship can be just like that as often for many years you have battled to keep yourself safe. The problem with isolating yourself at home is you might feel like it keeps you safe and your symptoms under control. However, this can make the depression you may also be suffering from worse, and when you do encounter a trigger, your reaction may well be far more severe than if you were able to brave the world and manage your reactivity.
Often when you are out in the world your capacity to cope with your PTSD is really tested. This is where putting together your own personal trauma emergency toolkit can be useful in minimising the impact of triggers. This toolkit is designed to help you shift out of your trauma response and dissociating, that is going to the place where the trauma happened in your mind and experiencing the physical emotional and psychological triggers, and bring you back into the present and the reality around you.
Your trauma emergency grounding toolkit
Your emergency grounding toolkit should be sensory. All of us process the world in different ways. Some of us are visual, some are auditory, and some are kinesthetic or action orientated. If you can identify your ways of processing, you can intercept your trauma response and interrupt it.
The first thing you need to do is tune in and notice what happens before you have a trauma event. It might be that you see something that triggers you, it could be a smell or even something you touch that takes you right back to the moment when the trauma happened. If you can be mindful of these moments that lead into the trauma response, you can put together a toolkit to help you manage yourself when an unexpected emotional trigger happens.
Have these strategies organised to have with you when you go out
Sound – Make sure you have music on your phone that you can listen too if you feel yourself starting to dissociate or flashback. Put the earphones in your ears and crank the music up loud. The sound of the music will be hard to ignore, and it will bring you back into the moment.
Touch – Reach out and touch something in your environment that has texture or a different temperature. As you reach out and touch something in your environment the idea is you will focus on it, and it will help to bring you into the present. Rubbing an aromatic hand cream on your hands is another option.
Taste – If you can bite into something very sour like a lemon the reaction to the taste can bring you right back into the present moment. (You can carry a slice of lemon in a container in your handbag). If not carry chewing gum and focus on the taste and on your chewing.
Smell – Carry some peppermint oil or another strong smell and sniff this when you feel that you are dissociating. The smell of the peppermint is hard to ignore, and it will bring you back into the moment. Headache balm that is aromatic is another option.
Sight – take an inventory of everything around you. Count five objects around you, look for colours and noticing where you are, can make a tremendous difference in identifying your reality and stopping flashbacks.
If you struggle to calm down after a traumatic event, there are simple breathing strategies you can use anywhere to calm yourself down right in the moment. Counting meditations and Progressive muscle relaxation for stress relief are posts on this blog that will give you some further reading
What works for you?
These are suggestions of different strategies you can have in your tool kit. Everyone is different; there may be other ideas you have that work better for you. If you would like to share we would love to hear from you, please comment below.
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