1. Get Why Your Body Reacts the Way It Does to Tough Times
Understanding how your body and brain react to tough experiences helps you handle them better. It’s key to know that your fear response isn’t something you choose, just like you don’t choose to jump when you’re startled.
Our brains have different parts for different jobs. When our brain senses danger, like reminders of past trauma, the ancient part of our brain that’s like an alarm kicks in with fight, flight, or freeze responses. In these moments, our logical thinking goes offline. That’s why we might find it hard to think straight or even speak when we’re scared.
Depending on our fear response, we might get angry, avoid stuff, or just shut down. These reactions are tough, but they don’t mean you’re broken or bad. It’s actually your brain doing its age-old job to keep you safe.
When someone’s been through trauma, their brain’s alarm system can get super sensitive. Recognizing when this happens helps us manage our thoughts and actions better.
2. Use Your 5 Senses to Stay Grounded
Traumatic memories can drag you into the past, and anxiety about the future can be overwhelming. But if you focus on the here and now, using your five senses, you can break free from those unhelpful thoughts. You can only make changes in the present, after all.
Try grounding yourself by noticing:
- 5 things you can see around you
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 sounds you can hear
- 2 scents you can smell
- 1 taste you can enjoy
Did you spot anything new? If you’re heading into a stressful situation or talking about your trauma
, holding onto something like a worry stone or using a strong scent can help keep you centered.
3. Tune Into Your Body
Paying attention to how your body feels can clue you in on what triggers you and help you calm down faster. Try a quick body scan:
- Are you tense in your jaw, shoulders, or stomach?
- Does this tension increase in stressful situations?
- Do you often have stomach troubles or headaches?
These signals are your body telling you how it’s handling things. Listening to these, instead of judging them, puts you in a better spot to comfort both your body and mind.
4. Break Free from Flashbacks or Feeling Disconnected
When you’re really distressed, thinking your way out isn’t enough because your thinking brain is overwhelmed. Instead, focus on physical ways to regain control:
- Hold something super cold, like an ice cube
- Stomp or clap and concentrate on the sensations in your hands and feet
5. Reach Out to Someone Safe or a Pet
If it’s possible, physical contact with someone you trust, like a hug or holding hands, can really help regulate your emotions. Even just looking at the face of someone or a pet you love can soothe you more than words alone.
6. Look After Your Body to Build Emotional Strength
Taking good care of your body is super important for handling intense emotions. If you’re tired, hungry, or hurting, your brain struggles to judge situations properly, leaving you more open to emotional ups and downs.
It’s common to pick up habits after trauma that aren’t great for you, like unhealthy eating or substance use.
Improving your physical health is a big part of getting better. Activities like yoga, dancing, or exercise not only boost your mood and health but are also great for healing from trauma. They help you move between being alert and relaxed.
Not sure where to start? That’s okay! Begin slowly and always prioritize safety. Any positive change is a step towards healing. This could mean learning more about trauma’s impact, getting sober, dealing with health issues, or trying new ways to stay grounded.
Remember, you’re not alone in this. You’re not at fault, and you’re not broken. You didn’t choose what happened or how your body reacts. But you can choose to get help, and it’s there when you’re ready.