The recent terrorist attacks can effect all of us in different ways, one of which is the compromise of our collective sense of safety. Going through our day-to-day activities without worry or threat is a basic assumption for many Westerners that when something happens, it can be unsettling. Those who have a history of traumatic experiences can experience the threat to safety in a more heightened way. If your basic assumption is that you are not safe (versus that you are) and something happens that reinforces that orientation, it can feel terrifying. Essentially the message to survivors is that they are right; they are in danger and need to be vigilant. As a therapist, a lot of our work surrounds increasing trust in your environment and other people to allow the central nervous system to quiet a bit. Statistically, the west remains one of the safest places in the world to live, but terrorist attacks can make it feel unsafe, primarily because of the random nature of the attacks and associated feelings of helplessness. Mitigating trauma triggers when being bombarded with the details of trauma can be difficult. Here are some basic suggestions to manage triggers:
1. Turn it off. Continued exposure to the details of a traumatic event is often re-traumatizing. Minimize exposure to traumatic material. Easier said than done!
2. Maintain routine. There is a great deal of comfort and safety routine.
3. Connect with friends and family. Isolation can fuel negative thought.
4. Connect with our furry friends. Animals can offer a great deal of comfort and nurture.
5. Play. Being playful is the opposite of being fearful. Engage in activities that are fun, make you laugh, and bring you joy.
Safety is never a guarantee, regardless of geography. The only thing we know for sure is what we see in front of us in the here and now, so don’t travel too far into the future or the past; we have little control over what has happened or what will.