How to Cope If Hashtag #Metoo Triggers Trauma Memories
Wednesday, October 18 2017 Melissa Renzi
Even positive events can trigger trauma memories sometimes. This week, the hashtag #metoo flooded social media accounts to demonstrate the widespread problem of sexual assault and harassment. We witnessed a multitude of voices share deep-seated shame and anxiety associated with trauma. Whether through a simple #metoo or a painful story, we unloaded our burdens. While freeing for many, the hashtag could have triggered trauma memories for some.
While events of harassment and assault are diverse, all stories are important. They highlight our collective trauma and the ways we unconsciously condone violence in our society.
As a survivor of sexual trauma, I know I felt both empowered and anxious. And the criticism I read suggesting that some stories are more deserving than others made my anxiety worse. I may be a social worker and yoga teacher by profession, but even I have that voice that says the sexual abuse was my fault and downplays the severity.
Yet, while unmasking our silent truths can give a sense of empowerment and unity, it may also trigger traumatic memories, which can cause anxiety symptoms.
When Trauma Memories Get Triggered and Cause Anxiety
Just last week, my partner and I were embracing each other one morning and I began crying out of nowhere. A memory that I had tucked away in the bottom of my brain surfaced. My stream of consciousness somehow took me from his warm, safe embrace through a thought pattern that led me to unpleasant memories.
Traumatic memories can be triggered at any time and can cause deep anxiety. In these times, we need tools to soothe ourselves to heal and restore a sense of safety and empowerment.
How to Cope with Triggered Trauma Memories
- Move your body. The stress response that comes with trauma and anxiety can disrupt how your nervous system responds and make you feel stuck. Get your body moving to release endorphins and shift your body’s response (Relieve Symptoms of PTSD: Allow Your Body To Shake).
- Use grounding techniques. Bring yourself into the present by getting in touch with your senses. Feel your feet on the ground. Notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
- Go outside. This is a great place to apply grounding techniques. Breathe the fresh air. Go for a walk. Rest on the earth and let yourself feel cradled.
- Practice cozy self-care. Draw a warm bath. Cuddle a pillow. Put on your comfiest pajamas and massage any parts of your body that feel tense.
- Let emotions be. If you feel sad, angry, anxious, or whatever, allow yourself to process the emotions with patience.
- Try tapping. Tapping calms anxiety, builds self-acceptance and draws your awareness into your senses.
- Get support. Who do you trust? You don’t necessarily have to talk about the trauma to process your feelings and challenges with a trusted friend. Having a sense of community is essential to avoid falling prey to isolation.
The suggestions listed in this article are meant to be used as complementary treatment to any professional treatment you may be receiving. If your anxiety symptoms or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms persist, please seek professional support from a qualified therapist.