What is it?
Trauma is a term that is tossed around and can mean various things depending on the context. From a mental health perspective, trauma can be defined as a response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope with and experience life on a typical basis.
What Symptoms Might You Notice?
- Difficulty focusing
- Increased anxiety
- Increased hypervigilance
- Increased irritability or easily frustrated
- Depressed mood
- Inability to regulate emotions
- Avoidance of people, places, activities, feelings/memories or things that remind one of the traumatic event(s)
- Difficulty with sleeping (too much or too little, quality of sleep is lowered)
- Frequent and distressing dreams/nightmares about the event(s)
- Adverse or unwanted reactions/behaviors if experiencing reminders of the event(s)
- Consistent and disturbing flashbacks or memories of the event(s)
- Feeling detached from one’s self or feeling detached from reality
- Increased use of substances to help avoid feelings, memories, etc. from the event(s)
- Inability to remember details or whole episodes of the event(s)
How Prevalent is trauma?
Many people will experience some form of “trauma” in their lives, but not all people experience trauma in the same way. What may be a difficult event for one person, may be deeply traumatic for another. According to research, on average 67-84% of college students will have experienced a traumatic event, with women having a higher percentage of a more specified traumatic event than men, by the time one enters college. Individuals in lower socioeconomic status and individuals of marginalized communities also tended to have a higher likelihood of experiencing trauma (upwards of 15-20% more).
Things you can do to help:
Meditation – Learning how to get control of your body and mind is hard enough, but even more difficult if you struggle with trauma or distressing thoughts. Learning to control breathing, being mindful of your present moment, and simply allowing feelings to pass without judgment, can lead to improvements.
Grounding Technique – Such techniques help you get control of your immediate surroundings if you feel like trauma symptoms are affecting you. Take a few deep breaths, then find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Describe what you are experiencing as you engage your senses in real life or you can imagine doing these things as well.
Keep to a Routine – Trauma can disrupt our natural flow and daily routine. The more you stick to your daily activities, the more your mind and body can focus on helping you.
Journal – Getting a chance to write out or feelings and thoughts, especially with pen and paper, can be a helpful way to release built-up stress and give some relief to our mind.
Eat, Drink and Sleep Well – Eating a balance of nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water can help your body flush out stress while giving you good vitamins and leave you feeling physically well, which can help your brain relax itself. Getting improvements in sleep helps your body and mind rest, especially if you are feeling constantly on edge and always in “fight or flight mode.”
Exercise – Exercise, in general, is another way one can take control of what our body does and how it responds to the environment around us. Any exercise from a simple walk, yoga, swimming, weight lifting, you name it, has been shown to improve mood, decrease anxiety, reduce stress, and give a stronger sense of control. Simply using your body is a powerful tool.
A Trigger Kit - A trigger kit is something that is kept with you at all times, maybe in their backpack or purse. It consists of items that help if you are triggered such as, essential oils, gum, colored pencils and paper, stress balls, or other fidget items. These items can be quickly accessed and used when needed.
Limit the use of substances – Alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs can exacerbate negative feelings and behaviors as a result of trauma and can lead to many other long term health issues that may further trigger symptoms of trauma.
Talk to a professional – Trauma can be difficult to experience and navigate, especially if you do not understand what is going on. Talking to a professional who can educate you and provide a place to process feelings can be incredibly valuable and helpful to relieve and let go of hurts.
Apps that help:
- Insight Timer: This free app has over 10,000 mediations, talks, and coaches that can help you practice meditation and mindfulness, which can reduce symptoms of trauma.
- Mindfulness Coach: Mindfulness Coach will help you practice mindfulness meditation.
- Youper: The ai app can be used a place to process thoughts quickly, assess levels of anxiety and depression, and potentially give a sense of connection.
- Wysa: The ai app can be used to have conversations to process thoughts quickly.
- PTSD Coach: This app can help you learn about and manage symptoms that often occur after trauma.