Preventing Triggering, Guarding Your Mental Health (6 Ways To Do It During Covid-19)

Vulnerability is a triggering feeling. It’s that too familiar place you have been in your own recovery from narcissistic abuse. Anything that touches that same ‘feeling state’ of vulnerability can regenerate the response feelings of that—fear and powerlessness.

Survivors, especially need to recognize two things:

- While you are at risk of feeling triggered because you have, or had, trauma,
- YOU more than anyone know how to get through tough times.

Narcissistic abuse is at the top of the list of tough things to learn to live through, so you got this. A couple tweaks to your routine will help you stay out of triggering.

1. Being Informed But Not Overwhelmed

Because you do have/had trauma, limit the amount of exposure to news media AND social media which has a tendency to focus on the traumatic pandemic storyline which can reactivate trauma in you and create in others ‘vicarious’ trauma who then begin to have similar feelings of fear and powerlessness. What you focus on ‘grows’ so get the information you need about the updates and then get off media and social media. The goal is to get informed without getting overwhelmed.
Use trusted sources of information when you do get ‘updated’ like the CDC website, NOT
news or social media which may generate overwhelm. Early in recovery you had to find accurate sources of information to understand what was happening, and the process is the same—find reputable information to decrease fear and increase preparedness.
2. Check Your Trauma Thinking
Traumatic thinking in yourself, or the vicarious traumatic thinking from others, is ‘fear of the
future’ which can set off feelings of powerlessness. Keeping your thinking in-check helps to regulate your emotions and stay away from the feelings of vulnerability.
Re-framing negative thoughts helps to reduce adrenaline fight/flight reactions. For instance, instead of “I am isolated” reframe as “I get to be safe at home and spend time with my family.” Instead of “The community is crazy, and the resources will run out” reframe as “I have prepared for this and have what I need for now. Important places like stores and medical care is still
If others you are staying in contact with are showing signs of vicarious trauma (fear of the future, focusing on the fear), limit your time talking with them just as you are doing with media and social media. Early in recovery you recognized the benefit of going ‘no contact’ to reduce traumatizing yourself and to reduce the toxicity. It may be necessary to go ‘no contact’ with those who can’t regulate their worldview of this situation and who are stuck in talking about it over and over again. Your first priority is to stay mentally balanced for yourself and your family.

3. Jack Up the Self-Care

This IS the time to ‘up’ your self-care regimen. Everything you have learned about how to self care for yourself in the early days of recovery will give you the knowledge to utilize now. Utilize soothing skills to reduce symptoms such as belly-breathing, grounding techniques, peaceful imagery, calming sounds, laughter, music/singing, art, and relaxation activities.

4. Focus On What You Can Control
Just like after the dump and discard when everything felt out of your personal control and you had to focus on the things you did have some control in, NOW is the time to focus on the things you DO have control over to reduce the sense of powerlessness.
Like: what you prepare for a meal, what activities you are going to do that day, how much and
often you self-care, what you are going to do outside to get a little air and exercise, maybe what online class or workshop you will take during this time.

5. Meaningful Distraction

After the discard and dump you found ways of distracting yourself so you could redirect your thinking away from the confusion and loss. Now is the time to inject meaningful distraction.
Like, all the projects you have wanted to do if you ‘just had time.’ Spring cleaning, that online course you wanted to take, to work more on your recovery and symptom reduction skills(!), to finally get back to the interests you had before the D&D, like writing, art, gardening, or cooking. To catch up on the sleep deprivation you have had through this, to spend more quality time with your kids, to get more exercise, to learn yoga.

6. Stay Connected

Recovery is all about community. We heal in relation to others. So, stay connected to others during this time—those friends and family who are not exhibiting vicarious trauma and fear of the future that could be triggering.

Have a phone buddy you check in with daily. Reach out to those people you have ‘meant to stay in contact with’ like old friends that fell away during the pathological relationship. Might be time to make ‘amends’ for the damage the narcissistic relationship did to your OTHER relationships.

Find Trauma-informed care support online that is positive and forward-facing. More than many others who have never been through seriously trying times, you have, and what you have learned thus far in surviving something as difficult as narcissistic abuse has given you skills for this very time we are facing. Utilizing what you already ‘know’ is right there inside of you. Just recycle it for this important hurdle and apply these six suggestions. Stay well!
Written by Sandra L. Brown, MA
The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction
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