Being triggered, refers to being transported mentally or emotionally back in time to when the abuse was occurring. Perhaps something that someone said reminded a part of you about that time, maybe even on an entirely subconscious level. It may be as severe as a flashback or “abreaction”, or it could result in a generalized sense of anxiety and terror. In order to help you “ground”, or get back into the present day there are a variety f things you can do – this is generally called grounding
One of the fastest ways to ground, or bring yourself back from the past mentally is to shock your body of sorts. Many people recommended ice or ice water for this. Holding an ice cube is the simplest way. Filling a bowl, or even the sink with ice cubes and then covering the ice with water will allow you to put your hand or arm in the cold water. You can even splash the water on your face.
In general strong sensory input of any kind will help. Smells can help. Spray some of your favourite perfume. Peel an orange or a lemon. Vanilla is also a strong aroma. Basically anything with a strong smell can help.
Sometimes when we get very scared, we try to become invisible by doing things like closing our eyes, or holding our breath. Being conscious of these things, focusing on breathing slowly and deeply as opposed to shallowly and rapidly can help us get our bearings and calm down. Opening our eyes and noticing the things around us can help us reorient to the here and now.
Get involved with your body. Take your shoes off and rub your feet flat on the ground. Remarkably, doing this can be really “grounding”. Move your body. Again, this reverses the “get invisible” reaction. Get up and move around if you can. Wave your arms. Jump up and down. Pay attention to how your body feels in a physical sense.
Keep telling yourself “That was then, this is now”. Say it out loud. Notice things that reinforce that knowledge. Get in touch with where you are. Chances are you are having a hard time remembering that the memory, whatever it is, is not happening now. Look around you. See where you are. Be aware of what is different in this place than what was in that place. Get up and touch objects. Feel their reality. Make it a point to “See 5 things. Name 5 things. Touch 5 things.” Sometimes remembering it that way can get through the haze of memories. Have a calendar nearby that has the year prominently displayed.
Sometimes having an item that you know you couldn’t possibly have had back then helps remind you that it’s now, and couldn’t possibly be happening. Notice this object and pay attention to it when you are in a more settled state. Reinforce that this is an item that will help you ground should any of you get triggered.
If there is another person in the house, talk to them. Ask for a reality check. Call a friend, if no one is home. Even just hearing a human voice can help, so i you cannot get in touch with anyone turn on the radio or TV
Once you get somewhat more settled, do something that normally calms you down anyway. Take a warm bubble bath. Play your favorite computer game. Watch a fun movie. Go for a walk. Have one of your favorite comfort foods. Read a good book.
- Get ice or ice water
- Breathe – slow and deep, like blowing up a balloon.
- Take your shoes off and rub your feet on the ground.
- Open your eyes and look around. See you are in a different place than then.
- Move around. Feel your body. Stretch out your arms, hands, fingers.
- Peel an orange or a lemon. Notice the smell. Take a bite. Focus on the taste.
- Pet your cat, dog or rabbit.
- Spray yourself with favorite perfume.
- Eat ice cream! Or any favorite food. Pay attention to the taste.
- Hold a stuffie. Pay attention to the feel of it.
- Repeat “this is now, not then”
- Call a friend, or your T.
- Take a shower.
- Take a bath.
- Go for a walk. Feel the sunshine (or rain, or snow!)
- Count nice things.
- Dig in the dirt in your garden.
- Turn lights on.
- Play your favorite music.
- Hug a tree!
- Touch things around you.