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  • Writer's pictureBright Light Counseling Center

Practical Approaches to Dealing with PTSD Triggers

Updated: 6 days ago

Living with PTSD can feel like you’re walking on eggshells. A simple thing can set off a host of unpleasant memories and uncomfortable sensations. Coping with PTSD triggers is a challenging and ongoing process, but the good news is there are practical approaches and strategies that can help you manage your symptoms and regain a sense of control over your life. 

What Are PTSD Triggers and How Do They Work?

woman with backpack looking afraid

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Sights, sounds, and smells can all be triggers. It could be the screech of tires, a loud bang, or the smell of smoke. For some, triggers are linked to a location, object, or person involved in the traumatic experience.

When triggered, the amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for emotional processing, goes into overdrive. Your heart races, your palms sweat, and your muscles tense. It can feel like you’re reliving the trauma all over again as the trigger has activated your body’s fight or flight response. Some people may try to avoid their triggers altogether, and while this can be useful (usually only in the short term!), there are other ways you can cope.

Here are some practical tips to help you out.

Understanding Your PTSD Triggers

Pay Attention

Pay attention to your reactions and thoughts when you feel distressed. Look for patterns to determine your triggers. Do certain sounds, images, or smells make you feel irritable or panicked?

Do you have recurring thoughts of a traumatic event? Note how your body reacts, like increased heart rate, sweating, or nausea. These can be signs that you’re triggered.

It’s essential to identify your triggers so you can develop coping strategies. Give yourself space from triggering places, and learn to say no when necessary. However, keep in mind that excessive avoidance may not be a permanent fix.

Have a Coping Plan

When you’re feeling triggered, have a plan in place for how to cope. Things like deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, journaling, or calling a support hotline can help you stay grounded in the present moment. The more you practice coping strategies, the more effective they’ll be when triggers arise. Remember, all this takes time, so be patient with yourself.

Challenge Negative Thoughts

Try to challenge any negative thoughts associated with your triggers. Remind yourself that the traumatic event is not currently happening. Practice relaxation and mindfulness techniques to help shift your thoughts. Taking a deep breath, or going out for exercise can help you regain control. These practices help shift your mind from the past to the present moment.

man sitting on couch reaching out for support on cell phone

Connect for Support

Call a friend or loved one who understands what you’re going through. Let them reassure you and help ground you in the present moment. You can also contact emergency support hotlines for immediate help from trained professionals. Lean on your support system for assistance. Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms that provide only temporary relief (such as alcohol, drugs, excessive exercise, excessive sleep, or avoidance). And remember self-care — do things that make you feel relaxed and happy. 

Seek Professional Help If Needed

If triggers continue to impact your life, speaking to a trauma-informed therapist significantly can help. A therapist can help you process trauma, give you tools to manage symptoms better and find the right treatment plan for you. 

Healing from trauma takes time, but with time and practice, triggers may become less frightening, and PTSD symptoms may fade. But coping with them will always remain an essential part of your self-care. Be patient with yourself, and keep practicing strategies that build your resilience and calm.

Stay focused on the present, be gentle with yourself, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Recovery takes time, but each small step forward is progress.

No matter what you’ve been through, healing from your past trauma is possible. If you feel overwhelmed or hopeless keep in mind there are many mental health professionals out there who dedicate their lives to helping you grow and overcome your pain. You don’t have to heal from trauma alone.

When you are ready, reach out to us to help cope with trauma and PTSD triggers.


Disclaimer: Our content is on and related to the topic of mental health. The content is general information that may or may not apply to you. The content is not a substitute for professional services. This website does not contain professional advice, nor is any professional-client relationship established with you through your use of this website.


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