Everyone is feeling stressed right now. It is a normal response to the unexpected and demanding circumstances we are experiencing. But is the stress you are feeling just garden variety normal day to day stress or is it something more? Stress is felt in the body as tension and is experienced by the mind as worry. Once you release the tension and address your worry, you usually feel better. If what you are experiencing is more than just normal stress, you may be feeling hypervigilant, emotionally fragile, reactive. If this is the case, then you actually may be experiencing re-traumatization.
Old traumatic experiences revisited during a crisis destabilize us. When old traumas are triggered we find ourselves not only dealing with what is happening in the current moment, but old fears resurrected from the ancient past. This is a normal even predictable response. Distressing memories may return temporarily, but they need not stay. You can interrupt the PTSD cycle now, today, in this moment.
- Stay present with what is happening now. It is tempting to avoid or try to distract yourself. This is not a good strategy. Notice what is happening and stay in the “here and now.”
- Be self-protective. Stress-filled, dramatic events do the most damage when we fail to protect ourselves. Be honest with yourself about what you need to feel safe right now, in this moment. No future tripping. No living in the past. Right here, right now, what do you need?
- Avoid catastrophizing. Worst case scenarios are rarely helpful. Plans, structure and back-up plans are what empower us. If fear threatens to overwhelm, make a plan. Structure helps give us a sense of control.
- Choose empowering action. Be decisive and act on your decisions. Move your body. Don’t shut down. Physical outlets and empowering action are critical.
We are less impacted by traumatic events when we apply these strategies. The good news is that regardless of whether you are experiencing normal stress or feeling re-traumatized…the disruptors are the same!