Now you have read the information about ‘what is trauma’ and the ‘differing types of trauma’, this page is for you as young people to understand your individual responses to the trauma you have experienced. Trauma can impact in many differing ways, it is normal to feel frightened, to have difficulty sleeping, having bad dreams, experiencing flashbacks to the event or that you feel anxious and jumpy a lot of the time. This page will outline how you ‘may’ respond to trauma, and how differing strategies and techniques may help you. This is not a list that fits all, please use this page to determine what your responses are, and what strategies or techniques you find helpful.
SeeYou may see a person who resembles a person from your past HearA song may remind you of the past, or a noise inside or outside of the home such as a car horn, a siren, a trigger could also be a T.V. programme or social media clip SmellA smell associated with the past will create a reminder, such as the smell of smoke, or a deodorant spray TasteA drink may remind you of the past TouchThe feel of a texture could be a reminder, clothes, sand, or if petting your dog
The way you feel after the event will be different for each person, there is not right or wrong way. The feelings and thoughts you may have could be confusing and upsetting which is normal.
What happens to the teenage brain when it experiences Trauma?
When a young person experiences trauma, their brain will adapt to survive.
The pre-frontal cortex is undergoing a huge period of growth and development which is in charge of decision-making, organisation as well as initiating behaviour. The emotional part of the brain the amygdala has more control during this time, emotions are more influential than the thinking and rationale brain.
The thinking brain and the emotional brain are in conflict when a young person has experienced trauma. This results in flashbacks and other trauma responses which we have described, resulting in neural pathways being hard-wired into responding in a survival response which if observed might be seen as the young person as acting out. An example might be, hearing people argue, this might result in a young person moving into a stress response and finding somewhere safe to hide and maybe use a distraction technique they have found helpful in the past such as putting on headphones and listening to music.
Flashbacks and Bad Dreams
Flashbacks are common when people have experienced a trauma. These are like mini video clips of the trauma you experienced and be so vivid, it may feel like it is happening right now. Nightmares are common after a trauma; some can be so intense that you wake up and can cause extreme distress.
Flashbacks and bad dreams are the bodies way of making sense of the trauma and trying to process it.
Watch this video to help you understand what flashbacks and bad dreams are and how to deal with them:
We have described later on in this page, emotional regulation techniques which can help you ground yourself and bring yourself back to the here and now.
Sleep music for Teenagers:
Fight, Flight, Freeze
The fight-or-flight response (also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.
Walter Bradford Cannon (1932)
Watch this video to help you understand our survival response:
The Fight Flight Freeze Response (Video by Braive.com)
When we encounter a trigger from our past and the trauma we experienced, it can activate our survival response. It is important for you to be able to notice your stress responses, the potential triggers and what happens to you physically and emotionally. These will be your first steps during your path to recovery. Your challenge will be to learn to regulate yourself and remain in the best emotional place whereby you feel safe, happy, and calm. Dr. Dan Siegel describes a zone from which we can fluctuate dependent on our levels of stress. He describes this as the window of tolerance which identifies the zones in which we are able to function and deal with day-to-day stress or how the impact of severe anxiety or trauma can fluctuate between the differing zones.
Drinking from a sports bottle, this soothes the brain and will calm you downStar jumps count as you jump. Counting uses the cognitive brain, this pulls you from the survival responseAny form of exercise, use counting with exercise as this willre-boot the cognitive brainAnything sensory will enable you to re-regulate, the movement the sensory material between your hands, regulates the brain. Warm water or soapIf angry, use your pillow as a punch bag, this is a safe way of punching out your angerUsing colours to describe feelings with a parent/carerColouring, choosing colours and the task of drawing requires the cognitive brainTumble dry sheets/wet wipes, the smell is sensory and will remind you of nurtureFoam soap, this again is sensory. Use the sink or a large bowl, let them squeeze the foam soap and mould it in their handsEmotion cards, they can point to how you feel if you are unable to find the wordsRelaxation and yoga on YouTubePuzzles, such as dot to dot or mazes. These use the cognitive brain so puts the brain back online and pulling you from the stress responseGames, play any game with your family, your closeness to others who signify trust and safety will re-regulateSoothing, cuddle into a blanket which helps you to feel warm and safeA safe place, agreeing with a parent/carer that you have a safe place that you will use when you feel things are toughBreathing, which will reduce the effects of a stress response. This also helps when experiencing a panic attack. Deep breathe in, hold, and count for 3, release blowing out for a count of 10, keep repeating until you can feel your head feeling fuzzy. Counting requires the cognitive brain (cortex) so you are putting your brain back online, oxygen helps by…….MindfulnessMeditationBuilding your awareness to your environment, where are you? What can you see? What can you hear?Warm shower or bathWrite down what is happening and explore why
Use the wheel to link your emotions to how your body responds (click to download). As well as different feelings, your body will also seem different to you which can feel really tough for you to deal with. You can share this with a parent, a friend, or a teacher to help them understand what you are going through.
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