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What is Trauma? And What Are Triggers?


We see the words trauma and trigger everywhere, but what do these words mean?



What is trauma?

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, a natural disaster, crime, or grief. There is also the medical definition of trauma, a set of psychological and physiological responses to pain, injury, and illness. Both acknowledge the adverse effects of trauma on someone’s mental health.


What are triggers?

Triggers are reactions to things that remind a person of their trauma. They negatively affect your emotional state, even years after the initial trauma. Triggers cause reactions, including significant distress, long-term grief, unpredictable emotions, unstable relationships, and physical symptoms like nausea, headaches, pain, and sleep deprivation.


5 Ways to Manage Feeling Triggered:

  1. Make your immediate environment safe by increasing comfort, such as drinking tea, grabbing a comfortable blanket, or going outside to feel the sun.

  2. Communicate with safe people who commit to supporting and understanding you.

  3. Temperature is one way our bodies regulate responses in our nervous system. Opening a window, placing ice in your hands, or drinking a warm drink are ways to soothe your activated nervous system.

  4. Journaling can help you identify what triggered you and increase your insight and understanding of your triggers.

  5. Practicing deep breathing, stretching, or progressive muscle relaxation can help you remember what it feels like to be safe within your body.


After experiencing a triggering experience, there are many ways to get to a state where you have coping strategies to manage trauma. Many people work with a trained mental health professional; consider working with us here at Radical Liberation Counseling, LLC.


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