Many trauma survivors experience anniversaries that bring about disturbing feelings, thoughts, or memories of the traumatic event. Such days can make you feel angry, grieved, numb, confused, or scared despite all the work you’ve put in to heal. It’s almost like what happened to you is happening all over again, a phenomenon commonly referred to as the “anniversary reaction.”
When you find yourself in the midst of a trauma anniversary and feel forced to relive your experience, you may battle increased anxiety, depression, sleep problems, loss of appetite, outbursts, or nightmares. Specific dates may inevitably trigger individuals in recovery, but learning to cope will make them more bearable. Below are six techniques to try to help you deal with your trauma anniversary:
#1. Allow Yourself to Grieve
Having a poor reaction to your trauma anniversary may feel like a setback, especially if it’s been multiple years since the event happened. Such thoughts are not helpful and could cause you to feel shameful. Instead, try acknowledging that what you’re feeling is because your body and mind are trying to get your attention. Validate the responses you’re experiencing, and don’t try to push them away. Self-validation includes accepting your feelings without judgment.
#2. Lean on Your Support System
Talk to those around you, and remind them that you may need a little extra support on this day. Try scheduling a lot of time with loved ones or asking a few friends to check-in via text if you want to be alone. Know that it’s perfectly okay to ask for help and take things slow. It can be challenging to open up to others about your experience, but you don’t have to talk about it. Simply spending time together can be therapeutic.
#3. Practice Self-Care
Self-care looks different for everyone. It could be as simple as ordering your favorite comfort food, going to bed early, or watching your favorite movie. Roll out your yoga mat, go for a walk, or sleep in. Whatever will heal your body and mind, take the opportunity to do that, even just for ten minutes.
Before the day arrives, try tidying up by catching up on laundry, doing dishes, or cleaning your bathroom so you can enjoy a clean space without feeling overwhelmed. Freeze some meals in advance if you know you won’t want to cook or spend money on take-out. It’s also a good idea not to take on any big tasks for work.
#4. Create Positive Associations
Numerous survivors find it helpful to go over the top to create new memories or positive events to remember on this day. You could plan vacations each year, throw a party, go to an amusement park, or attend a concert. You could also keep it low-key and go for a walk somewhere that’s meaningful to you and helps you reset.
#5. Honor Your Experience
One great way to commemorate your trauma is to donate time or money to a charity that aims to help others who’ve experienced a similar traumatic experience as you. It’s tempting to avoid thinking about what you’ve been through, but it can also be very healing to show support for others and inspire them to get through it too. Another way to honor your experience would be to organize a nice dinner with loved ones as a way to reflect on the occasion together.
#5. Limit Social Media Time
Avoid spending time on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social platform that could potentially trigger you if you stumbled upon reminders. Social media is filled with distressing imagery about multiple public traumas, such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, accidents, and more. Limit what you’re exposed to on your anniversary or even during the days leading up to it.
#6. Create an Emergency Plan
If you know there is potential for this day to trigger you and cause you to spiral, have a crisis plan in place. This may include techniques for panic attacks, having a support system on standby or with you throughout the day, or talking to your therapist.
Although not everyone experiences reactions from trauma anniversaries, they can be crippling for those that do. Whatever feelings arise for you, take the opportunity to acknowledge and validate them, and take the necessary steps to care for yourself. If you know these tips will not help you, you can recover and discover yourself at Hawaii Island Recovery. Our treatment center in Hawaii may be just what you need to heal.
Trauma anniversaries can be very upsetting and understandably so. While it’s common to feel a range of emotions on this day as you’re reminded of what you went through, it’s crucial to remind yourself that if you’re experiencing an anniversary reaction, you’re not losing all of the healing progress you made. If you or a loved one is looking to gain control over your emotions or needs help creating a crisis plan, Hawaii Island Recovery is here to offer support. Our knowledgeable, compassionate team members are here to support you every step of the way. We can help you learn how to relieve these feelings to prevent you from damaging relationships, careers, and your overall well-being. Our treatment program in Hawaii is committed to assisting individuals in healing their minds, bodies, and spirits with customized plans that address their specific needs. You can reach Hawaii Island Recovery 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at (866) 390-5070.