Health Wise: Are We All Experiencing a Trauma Anniversary?

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As we head into the end of March, it’s hard not to notice this month holding more negativity than before. This time last year, our world changed dramatically. The lockdowns and stay-homes began and panic flooded through the world. What we hoped would be resolved in a couple weeks stretched into months and now, at the one year mark, we are not yet through it.

Even for those of us who may not be thinking in such a way consciously, unconscious cues can also create unease inside us - the weather, the position of the sun, the St. Patrick’s, Easter, and springtime decorations in stores. These things can flash us back to this time last year, when the spring holidays and spring weather did not bring the joy they often do. In the therapy world, we call this a trauma anniversary. Many times, we don’t realize logically why we may get emotional at a particular time of year on an anniversary of something traumatic that happened to us, but we feel it.

Reactions to a trauma anniversary may look like:

    • Increased anxiety
    • Increased alertness and jumpiness
    • Depression
    • Irritability
    • Isolation
    • Impulsivity
    • Increased sensitivity
    • Spike in already existing mental health conditions despite treatment
    • Acting out/behavioral issues (especially kids)
    • Fatigue
    • Physical illness in stomach or increase in pain

Some people may experience very distinct PTSD symptoms, while others may just feel more irritable, anxious, or sad. There’s no one set way to be experiencing a trauma anniversary, but anyone can benefit from understanding what is happening and why, and getting some support or trying some things to heal.

Here are some things to do now to make this time a little easier:

  1. Journal your experience - let it all out.
  2. Talk to people you trust - chances are they are having similar reactions to this anniversary. A counselor/therapist is also an option!
  3. Balance self-care/“me time” and socializing - both are important!
  4. Note the ways things are different/better than they were this time last year.
  5. Focus on things in your control - participating in hobbies, finishing some projects, and meeting short-term goals can help you feel more in control of life.

Most importantly, remember, if you’re struggling right now, you are definitely not alone. This pandemic affected the entire world, which means there’s a good chance there are plenty of others out there feeling very similar to what you’re feeling! Don’t be afraid to talk about, learn more about it, and allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. Accept the feelings and try some of the above ideas for supporting yourself through them - let’s heal together!

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