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When world events trigger and re-traumatize us

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The world is feeling less and less safe now. So many things feel out of control and as we go about our lives focusing on the day to day management of lists and things to get done, we may notice that we are coping a little less well.

If you haven’t noticed this, then good for you! Keep doing what you are doing because it is working but you may be noticing it in your loved ones and friends so read on.

If you have experienced trauma in your past or are experiencing it now, then world events may feel like just too much piling on and it can be overwhelming.

The current state of our country and our political process is reflecting some of the same abusive behaviors you may have experienced in your family or relationships:

  • High conflict

  • Denial of reality

  • Threats to your sense of security

  • Threats of denial of services or processes that contribute to your well-being

  • Witnessing or hearing stories of violence and abuse inflicted on others you may or may not know or in your group/community that you have affinity with.

If  you are a sexual assault survivor or have experienced bullying, racism or other types of discrimination or harassment or you are the child of a difficult divorce or domestic violence then you may experience an “activation” of old memories or feelings that could be attributed to past trauma.

The current political climate has been an emotionally activating one and if you are a survivor of abuse or experienced an abusive relationship like those listed, then you may be experiencing some re-triggering and activation of old wounds.

You may not have realized it was happening but noticed some old familiar symptoms have re-emerged:

  • Inability to focus or difficulty concentrating

  • Numbness

  • Brain Fog

  • Irritability

  • Jittery Feeling

  • The need for more alone time

  • A feeling of needing affirmation from friends and family

  • An increase in fearful rumination

  • Return or increase in self medication activity – food, smoking, increase in alcohol use

  • Increasing dependence and reactivity when looking at social media

This is what happens and it is completely normal but without language for it, the experience is hard to explain and can lead to increased stress and tension in relationship and a decrease in our day to day management of life.

If you have noticed some of these, then I encourage you to seek support. Your feelings are completely normal. Trauma continues to live in our body long after the experience and without help we can re-experience it in sudden jolts of reactivity or the slow subtle increase of stress and tension we can’t easily connect to anything we’ve experienced recently. Therapy is a great resource to help you manage it and there are several trauma therapies that can greatly reduce or eliminate your symptoms.

Please talk about it with your family and friends or seek people and groups that share your experience and viewpoint. Support is closer than you may think and experiencing the resonance of others who are “in it with you” is a great way to gain language and self understanding of what is happening inside you before it comes out in ways that add more pain and stress.

Some simple and effective things you can do right now that may help:

  • Slow down – take your time.

  • Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep if you can

  • Take a nap – 10-30 minutes in the afternoon is optimal

  • Add some exercise to your daily activities- a short walk or take the stairs

  • Make plans with friends to do something that involves play and enjoyment

  • Take short breath breaks throughout the day – set an alarm on your phone and when it goes off (a few times throughout the day) stop what you are doing and take 6 or more slow deep breaths – here is a short article explaining how and the benefits

  • Cut down on sugar and caffeine

  • Take social media breaks – days or weeks – everyone will be there when you get back

You have more control and power than you may feel right now – turn toward your experience and let it teach you more about yourself. It could change everything for the better.