Coping with triggers

Putting one’s life back together following a traumatic experience can be a difficult and complex task.  Survivors may experience triggers that can stir up memories associated with the trauma, even months and years later.  A trigger is something that sets off a flashback, transporting the person back to the traumatic event.

Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. They can be activated through one of the senses such as sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.   The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli they think triggered the flashback.  A trigger can cause an emotional reaction as intense as what was experienced at the time of the trauma.  When triggered, a survivor may also experience physical effects such as heart palpitations, headaches and stomach pains.

These trauma reminders can also be caused by approaching parole dates or even coverage in the news.  The media tends to recount horror stories and tragic events that can remind the survivors of the pain and suffering they have experienced.  It is important for survivors to take a break from news events and to be more aware of potential trigger signs.  These can be feelings of powerlessness, fear, anger, frustration, bitterness, sleeplessness, irritability, feelings of detachment, panic attacks, muscle tension, shortness of breath, fatigue, stress and sadness.

Taking care of yourself is very important to your recovery.  Here are some positive coping strategies to help you overcome your triggers:

Connect with family and friends.  Stay in contact with people you enjoy and care about.

Share your emotions.  Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling.  Talk to a health professional or contact a community organization such as a crisis centre.  Sharing your feelings and your experiences can be very therapeutic as it will reduce your anxiety and will help you sort things out.

Eat healthy and regularly.  Maintain three meals a day with healthy snacks.  Try to eliminate fast food and junk food from your diet. By adding fruits and vegetables to your daily meals, it will help you sustain a state of good mental health.

Rest.  Getting enough sleep can help protect your mental and physical health, and quality of life.

Exercise. Do activities that you enjoy and relax you. Take daily walks in a surrounding that you enjoy.  Take deep breaths. Exercise is good for your mind, body and soul.

Keep a journal.  A journal will help you recognize that your symptoms are normal reactions to abnormal situations.  Write down your thoughts, feelings and reactions to events. Journaling will help you set goals and let you see your accomplishments.

Get involved.  Volunteer at community organizations; they are always seeking volunteers.  Try something that interests you and that you enjoy.

Experience Fun.  Do activities that you enjoy, laugh a little, visit museums or art exhibits. Socialize.  Read a light-hearted book.

Become aware of the following negative coping strategies and work towards eliminating them altogether:

Substance Misuse. Abstain from alcohol and other addictive substances. Medication should only be taken if recommended by a doctor.

Compulsive behaviours.  Avoid overeating or under-eating, compulsive shopping or compulsive sexual activity. 

Isolation.  Extensive time in solitude may worsen your symptoms. It is important that you connect with your social network.

Healing takes time.  Be patient with yourself.  Surround yourself with loved ones and do things you love doing most.  Pamper yourself.  Take one day at a time.  Live in the present, not the past. This is the path to your recovery and taking back control of your life.

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime offers support, research and education to survivors and stakeholders.

What's New

My name is Donna McCully.

It was always our wish to live in Jamaica in our dream home. So, in August 2012, my husband Sedrick Levine and I left Canada to move into our new home. We were thrilled to finally be starting the next chapter in our lives, in Sedrick’s beloved homeland. He bought a little bus and planned to operate tours for visitors to the island. I was helping him run this business venture, as part of our semi- retirement in Jamaica.

My life as I knew it was suddenly shattered when two masked men broke into our home on Sunday, November 17, 2013. Sedrick struggled with the men, allowing me to flee upstairs to call the police. His actions saved my life that day, and that of my father and his housekeeper, who were visiting us at the time. One of the masked intruders chased me upstairs and kicked in the bathroom door, but he stopped when he heard a gunshot from downstairs.

My husband Sedrick was killed that day and the men fled our home with a laptop. The Jamaican police have not yet found these men or charged them with killing my beloved husband. Their motive remains unknown.

This crime has completely changed my life. I suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder now and have depression as a result. I came back to Canada, but I feel very isolated since this happened. These emotional scars may never heal.

I managed to find the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime by searching online one day. I didn’t know where to turn for help when I came home to Canada. The CRCVC has provided me with a lot of emotional support, which has been tremendously helpful. They’ve also written numerous letters to Jamaican officials seeking justice for Sedrick, as well as intervening with Canadian officials on my behalf. The office also helped connect me to a trauma therapist for counselling sessions too.

In order to try and make sense of what happened to Sedrick, it is my hope that others could support the work of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. There are so many other victims/survivors out there who also need their assistance.