This section of our site is a work in progress and we will continue to add to it over time. If you would like to suggest content to be included, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Horizon self-help resource, created in close consultation with survivors of sexual violence, is now available to support people in
Managing trauma while awaiting counselling
SARSAS (Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support) have produced a self-help guide for survivors of sexual violence, which can be downloaded here: https://www.sarsas.org.uk/self-help-guides/
Roisin Ross and The PEACH Diaries have also created this self-help resource: My Little Book of Coping Methods
Further help is available at https://www.survivorsuk.org/resources/self-help-guidance/
If you have experienced sexual violence or abuse, recently or in the past you will have probably experienced trauma.
When a person has experienced a shocking, unexpected or traumatic incident, they ae likely to developdeep emotional and physical shock or stress. These reactions are normal and will be unique, personal and individual.
What is trauma?
The trauma occurs when you are exposed to danger or a traumatic event such as sexual violence or abuse; the intuitive side of your brain takes over. It does what it needs to survive. When you have suffered trauma it can affect how you think, feel, behave and how you see the world. You may use negative coping mechanisms to try to distract you from the pain you may be feeling such as alcohol, drugs or self-harming.
Remember: what you are feeling is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation
There wil be certain things, sights, smells that remind you of the trauma, these are called triggers. When something has triggered you it can be extremely frightening and distressing, it can make you feel that you are experiencing the trauma all over again.
You may experience flashbacks. A flashback is sudden or unexpected memeory, they will be extremely vivid and you feel like the event is happening all over again - you can see, hear, feel and smell the same things that you did at the time.
These reactions are normal, some of these typical reactions may be:
Rapid heartbeat, unsteady breathing, tension.
Panic attacks, nightmares, loss of self-confidence.
Increased smoking or drinking, impulsiveness, cutting or other self -harm.
It can be hard to stop thinking about what happened to you, trying to understand it can be confusing and can lead you to think things about yourself that are not true: blaming yourself, feeling different to others or feeling alone.
There are ways which can help you deal with these thoughts and coping mechanisms to help you manage your trauma.
It may be helpful to look at what your triggers are - can you figure ut what, when where and who can set off a flashback or panic attack? A trigger record will help you cope when you have a flashback. Now you recognise your triggers and understand what is happening to your bodies try some of these techniques,
Dealing with Panic Attacks
To ease a panic attack, or to prevent one from getting worse:
- Breathe as slowly and as deeply as you can. Concentrate on breathing.
- Breathe into a paper bag. By doing this you re-breathe your own carbon dioxide. This helps to correct the blood acid level that had been upset by over-breathing which makes symptoms worse (described above).
Simple Steps to End a Panic Attack
Panic Attacks Are Common - Many people experience panic attacks frequently and live their lives avoiding situations that frighten them, in many cases irrationally. This simple technique for ending a panic attack is part of hypnotherapy sessions and has been used successfully by many. Using the four easy steps below, you can learn to end a panic attack in as little as three minutes.
What Is A Panic Attack?- A panic attack is a condition of adrenaline being released into your bloodstream. A message of fear sends a signal to the adrenal glands that there is an emergency.
The adrenal glands are pea-sized organs that sit on top of your kidneys. They are filled with adrenaline that, when released into your body, gives you heightened abilities to respond to emergency situations. This emergency response causes physical symptoms that many people misinterpret as a heart attack or other serious physical conditions. Misinterpreting these symptoms can cause the fear response to continue.
Here's How It Works
Adrenaline causes the heart to pump extra blood. This extra blood gets pumped into your major muscles to increase your ability to run fast and to increase the strength in your arms. Extra blood also goes into your brain to give you heightened abilities to respond to the emergency.
It takes three minutes from the time that your brain sends the emergency signal until your body is fully adrenalated with extra blood in your large arm and leg muscles and in your brain. In that three minute period you experience your heart pumping hard and extra blood flowing throughout your body. As long as your adrenal glands keep getting an emergency message, they continue to produce and release additional adrenaline. Once your brain stops signaling an emergency, your adrenal glands hold the adrenaline instead of releasing it.
It Only Takes Three Minutes To Stop A Panic Attack
It takes three minutes for your adrenal glands to fill your body with the adrenaline response. It also only takes three minutes for your body to stop the adrenaline reaction. If you stop a panic attack as soon as it starts, the reaction only has to last for three minutes.
Stopping a panic attack can be very simple. All you have to do is stop the emergency message from being sent to your adrenal glands. Learn these four simple steps and your panic attack will only last for three minutes. Once you understand how this works, you never have to have a panic attack again.
Learn These Four Simple Steps
If panic attacks have been a recurring problem, write the four basic steps on a little card, with a list of sample Coping Statements on the back. Mark the card with bright stripes to make it easy to find in your wallet, and keep it with you everywhere you go until you memorize the steps and know them thoroughly. Study these steps and learn them in advance. If you have a panic attack, get out your card immediately and follow it exactly. Once you learn these steps you won't need the card.
The Four Steps:
- Stop Negative Thinking.
- Use Coping Statements.
- Accept Your Feelings.
Step 1. Relax
Relax by taking slow, deep, complete breaths. Calm yourself by remembering that you are only having a panic attack and that nothing more serious is happening to you. Continue to take slow, deep, complete breaths. Slow, deep, complete breaths will relax your body, which is the first step to reversing the release of adrenaline.
Step 2. Stop Negative Thinking
Stop negative thinking by shouting the word "STOP!!!" really loud inside your head. By shouting the word "STOP" you are interrupting the emergency message that your brain is sending to your adrenal glands. Often people having a panic attack get into an endless loop repeating the same catastrophic thoughts over and over in their head. Interrupting this endless loop gives you the opportunity to replace the scary message with a calming one.
Step 3. Use Coping Statements
A coping statement is a positive statement that is at least as strong as the catastrophic statement that you have been scaring yourself with. Replace the negative thought with a positive one. Choose a statement that addresses the negative thought.
For example, if you think that you are having a heart attack (a common fear during a panic attack) then you might be saying something in your head like, "Oh my God, I'm having a heart attack" or, "I'm going die, oh my God, I'm going die!" After you shout the word "STOP!" immediately replace the fear thought with a positive statement that helps you to cope with the situation, such as "I'm only having a panic attack and it will be over in three minutes if I relax" or, "My fear is making my heart pound harder, my heart is fine."
Other coping statements might be, "I've gotten through this situation many times before and I can get through it again" or, "I am fine, everything is fine."
Brainstorm the kinds of fearful thoughts that bring on panic for you and then make a long list of coping statements that you can look at when you need to rather than trying to think of coping statements in the middle of a panic attack.
Step 4. Accept Your Feelings
Accepting your feelings is very important. Minimizing this experience usually serves to perpetuate it.
Start by identifying what emotion you are feeling. Most panic attacks are caused by the emotion of fear or some variation of fear. Identify the emotion you are feeling and find the reason that you feel it.
Validate that feeling and the reason for it. If you are having a panic attack before giving a speech, you are afraid because it's scary. Stage fright is a common cause of fear and panic. If you're afraid that you're having a heart attack, it's certainly valid to be afraid of that. If you are afraid of footsteps behind you on the street it's reasonable to be afraid that something bad might happen to you.
In all of these cases take the appropriate precautions. Have a regular check up so that you know that your heart is healthy. Walk in a well-lit area and be aware of your surroundings on the street. Walk like a warrior and not like a victim. These are all important precautions to ensure your safety. Then, when you use a coping statement that reminds you that you had a check up recently and that your heart is fine, you can reassure yourself that it's okay to be afraid, knowing that you are safe.
Fear is a positive emotion that reminds you to take care of yourself. Listen to your feelings, take good care of yourself, and keep your emotions in proportion to the situation by keeping an appropriate perspective.
Make a list of things that you can do to comfort yourself. Include simple things like listening to music, drinking tea, putting a cool flannel on your forehead, curl up in a warm cosy blanket, hug a teddy bear, do something mundane that you are good at, like washing dishes. Taking a few long, slow, deep breaths is one of the most effective ways to calm down when you are panicked.