How To Cope with Trauma Responses

How To Cope with Trauma Responses

What is trauma? Trauma is something that has happened in one's life that was deeply distressing or disturbing. 

It is a moment that has left a replayable mark on the brain. 

This moment can cause chronic depression, manic episodes, and suffocating anxiety attacks. 

Someone who has experienced trauma can even find that they are starting to have severe insomnia or paranoia. 

So, what is a trauma response? 

Trauma response is when one is in a situation that may be similar to what caused their trauma, or when something reminds them of what happened to cause that trauma. 

A trauma response can cause someone to act out aggressively to protect themselves, cry manically, or leave them in a state of disassociation. How does one cope with their trauma responses? 

Well, depending on the trauma that someone went through, some coping skills may be easier than others. 

Below you will find a list of five coping skills that may be the resolution you need to help cope with a trauma response.

Trauma & PTSD Counselors

Lauren Day, SWC

Lauren Day, SWC

(719) 602-1342
Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Mallory Heise, LPC, LAC

Mallory Heise, LPC, LAC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Julianna Miller, LPCC

Julianna Miller, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Bonna Machlan, Ph.D., LPC, CAS

Bonna Machlan, Ph.D., LPC, CAS

(719) 452-4374
Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Randal Thomas, SWC

Randal Thomas, SWC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Sarah Webster, SWC

Sarah Webster, SWC

(719) 696-3439
Katelynn Dwyer, LPCC

Katelynn Dwyer, LPCC

(720) 449-4121

1. Leave the situation and go to your safe place.

Your trauma response may be coming from the current situation you are in. 

The best thing you can do for yourself is to leave and immediately go to your safe place. 

Withdrawing yourself from the situation that can be causing your trauma response is going to help give you the space you need to recollect.

You may be new to coping with trauma, or this can be something you have lived with for a while. 

Regardless, your brain is throwing you into a fight or flight panic and is signaling you to take your leave.

Going to a safe place is going to help you be around things that are familiar and usually give you a sense of peace. 

Once you have left and made it to your safe place, it is time to relax. 

Lay down and absorb the comfort of being in a place where you have no worries. 

A place where you can exist peacefully and be in the warmth of undisturbed energy. 

If it is impossible for you to leave that situation you are in that is causing your trauma response, then number two is going to be a helpful coping skill for you.

2. Breathe and build your safe place.

You are in a situation that is causing you to have a trauma response. 

You are unable to leave for whatever reason.

It is time to take a deep breath. It may feel impossible to, but try your best to inhale as you can through your nose and exhale it all out through your mouth. 

Use the breathing coping skill where you breathe in for three and breathe out for three. 

Breathe like this, in through your nose for 1, 2, 3 and out through your mouth for 1, 2, 3. 

Now, close your eyes and try to imagine a place where you feel safe or that makes you calm. 

First, imagine what you are seeing.

Are there books? 

Maybe there are pictures of your pets, friends, or family. 

Really imagine what this place looks like, pull through every detail that you can. 

Secondly, imagine what it sounds like. 

Do you have your favorite song blasting from your phone? 

Perhaps you hear wind chimes from the window or the sound of moving cars. 

Let that sound fill your ears. 

Next, imagine the smells that can be found in this place. 

Do you light your incense? 

A candle that maybe you always burn. Is it the smell of fabric softener? 

Breathe in that smell as much as you can.

Finally, imagine what you would be feeling. 

Are you petting your dog or cat? 

Maybe you're sitting on your bed and feeling the warmth from your sheets or squeezing your favorite stuffed animal. 

Hold on tight to that feeling as you put it all together to place yourself directly into your safe place. 

This is a coping skill that is to help build familiarity while having a trauma response that you can leave from. 

It will bring you peace and calm you down, even if it's only a little bit.

3. Write or draw to focus on something else.

This coping skill is for when you are in the comfort of your own space, and you suddenly have a trauma response. 

Whether it be caused by something you saw on your phone, in a movie, or read in a book. 

The first thing you need to do is turn off the phone or TV or set down the book. 

Remove whatever may have caused this trauma response and give your brain a moment to recollect itself. 

Take a deep breath and find a journal or a sketchbook. 

For the journal, you can write down whatever may have been the trigger for your trauma response. 

Make a list of things that cause your trauma response. 

Now, to divert your mind from what can be triggering you, start writing down all the things you love. 

Place little sketches of what they may be next to what you may have written. 

Write a poem or haiku about what you are feeling. 

Make it metaphorical like a garden that's been disrupted.

Writing just about anything that can take your mind off of it will relieve some of that anxiety. 

If you are not much of a writer, try drawing.

You can draw whatever may best describe how your mind is feeling. 

Like a skull with flowers blooming out of it, or a forest with creatures unknown wandering in it. 

There is a meditation practice for drawing you can even use. 

Here's how you do it: 

First, you need to sit down at a table or desk with a piece of paper or sketchbook and a pen. 

Next, put in some earbuds or turn on some music that you can zone out to. 

Now, you need to clear your mind by taking a few deep breaths. 

Finally, just start drawing a couple of lines, swirls, whatever feels natural. 

Let the pen guide you and let your intuition take over. 

Try not to lift your pen too much and just keep adding to it.

By the time you're done, you should have some kind of image that you can make out of it. 

It will help your mind go blank and relax you as much as you let it.

4. Take a long shower or bath.

Trauma response is going to make you tense up. 

It's going to constrict your muscles from the anxiety. 

So, how can you help relieve the tension while having a trauma response? 

For everyone, it can be a different solution, but one that helps almost everyone relax is a long shower or bath. 

With either option, you should turn on some music and make sure the door is locked.

You want yourself to feel as secure as possible while you're trying to calm your mind. 

With taking a long shower, consider sitting down and just feeling the water hit your back or head. 

Focus on the feeling of it dripping down your back. 

Tune in to the sound of the water releasing from the showerhead. 

Absorb the music you are playing. 

Take your time to be in the moment of the warmth of the shower. 

For taking a bath, if you have Epsom salt available to you, you should put some into the water. 

Maybe even your favorite bubble bath. 

Like taking a shower, you want to just absorb the feeling of the water, the sounds of it splashing against the sides, and the music. 

There is a meditation practice you can use while taking a bath. 

It is a practice used to focus on every inch of the body and the energy surrounding it. 

To do this meditation practice you are not going to want bubbles in the water. 

First, make sure the music you are playing is not too loud. 

A medium volume should be fine. 

Second, you are going to merge yourself under the water so that your ears are underwater, but leave your cheeks, nose, and eyes above the water. 

Next, you will close your eyes and do your best to relax so that you are almost floating. 

Now, really focus on your body. 

Imagine the feeling of your toes, then the arch of your foot, your ankles, and keep working up on every specific body part till you reach your head.

Once you've gotten to your head, work your way back down to your toes, still imagining the feeling of every body part. 

Once you have reached your toes, start to listen to noises around you in the water. 

How does the water sound? 

Can you hear your heart beating? 

What are the lyrics of the song playing? 

Really place yourself into the sound.

Eventually, your mind should go blank and you will be floating in relaxation.

5. A trusted person.

Once you have experienced something traumatic, it is important that you make sure you have a trusted person or people.

Really be selective with who you choose to be this trusted person or even people. 

You're going to want a trusted person so that when you have a trauma response it will be easier on you. 

The point of a trusted person is that you can call, text, or go see them when you are having a trauma response. 

You want someone who will not make you sit there and explain why you are feeling the way you are. 

Rather someone that will just be there to keep you company and won't push you to open up until you are ready to talk if you even do at all.

Someone who you don't mind co-existing with for a short period of time or that will be able to keep you distracted without pushing you to do something. 

A trusted person is just someone who understands what you went through and knows that you are just in need of company or a shoulder to cry on. 

It's important that you do your best to have at least one trusted person so that you do not feel alone. 

Having two to three trusted people can be more beneficial on the off chance that one of them is busy or unavailable. 

However, not even having one is completely understandable. 

What you went through was incredibly hard and trust may feel like an obstacle now.

Now that you have some coping skills.

Trauma responses are different for everyone, but just know you are not alone in experiencing them. 

Majority of people who have experienced something traumatic deal with trauma responses on a daily basis. 

Finding some kind of coping skill when you experience a trauma response is going to be the best thing for you.

Your coping skills do not have to be this in-depth, and these methods may not work for you. 

Everyone is different and needs different coping skills to get them through whatever may be impacting their life. 

Don't push or beat yourself up for not having a coping skill that works right away. 

Like most medications, it takes a while for coping skills to work. 

Be patient with yourself and show yourself kindness when experiencing trauma responses. 

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July 21st, 2024

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