Living with Triggers

Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of trauma.

As someone who has struggled with trauma and cPTSD, I can definitely say I have a bit of experience with triggers. They can come seemingly from nowhere and, once they're there, can last for minutes, hours, days and even weeks. 

Dealing with triggers is something that can take a lot out of you, and so it's best that you do so with the guidance of a professional. I thought I would share some ideas that have helped me, but please, if you're struggling, talk to a professional. 

So, firstly, what are triggers? They can be certain smells, sights, sounds, sensations or just about anything else that can lead to a trauma flashback. Your brain can immediately go into fight or flight mode and decide that you are in danger. Now, triggers don't only impact those who have experienced trauma, they can also impact those who are going through or have gone through anxiety, an eating disorder, OCD, and many other mental health conditions. 

The number one thing is identifying triggers. Identifying the things that you know will cause a flashback can help hugely. This can help in knowing what to avoid in certain situations, but also so you can discuss this better with a professional. Personally, I keep note of things that have led to flashbacks and then I use techniques to work through them.

  • EFT tapping
    This is something I’ve recently learned about. EFT stands for emotional freedom techniques. A great video to give it a go is this one. Honestly, I was sceptical at first, however, after a few tries, I realised that it actually made a difference and has been a great resource for when I’m feeling anxious. 
  • Grounding exercises
    I’ve written about grounding exercises a few times - but that’s because I find they really do help! This could be anything from colouring to using the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. The latter technique involves focusing on five things you can see, four things you can touch or feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. When in a flashback, your brain can tend to pull you back into the past, and using these can help bring you back to the present.
  • Cold water
    This is a technique I actually came across through social media and have used a fair few times. The idea behind it is that the cold water, or ice if that’s easier, is meant to shock your body back into the now. You can put your hands into some cold water or hold ice cubes to your wrists.
  • Hugging something or someone
    A hug can make a huge difference! Hugging a loved one, whether a friend, family member, pet or partner can help a lot when you’re dealing with triggers. If you don’t feel like hugging someone, a blanket or a soft toy is just as good. As long as it helps, that’s all that matters. 
  • Breathing
    We’ve all heard it; use breathing techniques to calm anxiety. The thing is, it can and does help. But not every kind of breathing technique works for everyone. It can take a bit of time to find the right breathing technique for you. Personally, I like the one where you breathe in for six counts, hold for four, and then breathe out for eight counts.
  • Distracting yourself
    If the other tips don’t work, there’s always distraction. This could be watching a comfort movie or tv show, reading a book, counting things around you, drawing, or anything else that distracts your mind from the trigger.


Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to ‘find help’ - it’s not weak to speak!

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