Handling traumatic memories

I really enjoy the feeling of nostalgia. It has a sweet sadness to it, bringing up wonderful memories from the past that I would love to revisit if I could. 

But when a sight, a smell, or a situation suddenly transports us back to a difficult or traumatic time in our past, the feeling is much less enjoyable. Some people struggle with intrusive traumatic memories, and others with flashbacks where it truly feels like you are re-living a traumatic moment from your past. 

How can we handle such moments, when something in today’s present triggers a traumatic memory from our past? Here are a few ideas from trauma therapy interventions:

  • Identify “red flag” situations and do what you can to address them or avoid them. When are these memories most likely to pop up?
  • Prepare a “response” to the memories to use when they arrive. The memories likely trigger strong emotions, but what would your logical brain say? How could you talk back to the memories to remind yourself of truth?
  • Have a support system in place, so you can call someone or spend time with someone when the memories are getting you down. 
  • Practice slow, deep breathing when the memories arrive. Try to keep your body calm, and it may help your overall reaction. 
  • Identify helpful distractions from the memories, including thoughts, activities, people to talk to, or other enjoyable things. 

We all have memories from our past that are upsetting, some more than others. You are not alone. If you need help dealing with traumatic memories, iHope counselors are available. 

Written by Jessica Hayes
iHope Communications Director