Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Coping with trauma anniversaries

As a trauma survivor I know how difficult trauma anniversaries can be. Other people may tell you to “get over it” or just not think about the trauma around the anniversary time, but we, as trauma survivors, know it’s not always that simple. Thus, I have created a list of suggestions that may help you care for yourself during a trauma anniversary as well as the time surrounding it.

Treat yourself to something you love: It is important during tough times that you remind yourself that you deserve good things and that you did not deserve the abuse, rape, or violence you experienced or witnessed. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do for yourself because when you are in this state of mind you feel as if you don’t deserve good things or to treat yourself well. So, here are some suggestions that may help you think of your own!
- Take a hot bath or shower.
- Put on your favorite scented lotion.
- Enjoy something you love to eat or drink. For instance, indulge in a Starbucks coffee, ice cream, chocolate, fruit, yogurt, or whatever you love.
- Wear comfortable clothes.
- Take a walk, run, bike ride, or whatever you enjoy doing.
- Cuddle with your cat or dog.
- Talk with a trusted friend.
- Plan dinner, shopping, a workout, or other activity with someone you enjoy spending time with.

Grounding techniques: Learning grounding techniques will help you if you are experience flashbacks or panic attacks. These techniques focus on the present, so they will bring you back to the present instead of the past.
- Clap your hands together or stomp your feet on the floor.
- Tell yourself you are safe and in the present.
- Touch the things around you and name them aloud or to yourself.
- Name the noises you hear around you or focus on any conversations taking place near you.

Make a safety plan: A safety plan will allow you to stay safe during an anniversary. You might want to notify trusted people of your trauma anniversary and request their support. It is perfectly okay to ask for the support you need. Think about what is helpful for you and tell trusted people so that they can better support you. You might ask trusted people to talk with you, go out to dinner, shop with you, watch a good movie with you, or just be available to listen to you.

If you have a tendency to self-injure, make a list of individuals, hotlines, and hospitals you can call in times of emergencies. Reaching out to someone, whether it is a friend, pastor or priest, family member, counselor, or a trauma related hotline is a healthy way to cope with your feelings.

Remind yourself that it will pass: It is hard to cope with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, depression, fear, and anger. It’s also difficult to cope with symptoms you may experience from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder such as nightmares, easily startled, flashbacks, and triggers of the trauma. However, reminding yourself that the feelings and symptoms will pass may help ease the anxiety you feel about them.

Set aside time to relax each day: Setting aside time to relax may ease your symptoms and anxiety. What do you enjoy doing that eases your mind? Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
- Read.
- Write in a journal or a letter to a friend.
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Talk with a friend or other loved one.
- Spend time with your cat or dog.

Pray or meditate: Finally, engaging in prayer or meditation may help you through an anniversary time. If you are religious, pray to your Higher Power for the strength and courage you need to get through this difficult time. Read the Bible to find peace and comfort. Go to church for support from the church community.

If you meditate, make sure you set aside some time everyday to do so. I hear meditation is relaxing to the body, mind, and spirit.

Getting through trauma anniversaries is difficult, but you don’t have to do it alone. The suggestions provided here will help you take care of yourself while struggling through the feelings and symptoms associated with traumatic memories anniversaries often bring to the surface.

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