If you live with the aftershocks of trauma, one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and others is to self advocate. Speak up about your triggers. True, over time and with proactive work, you can desensitize or eliminate your triggers. But in the mean time, learn to speak up for yourself. This not only helps to stop the trigger from happening, but it communicates clearly with others that you have a boundary that you’d like them to respect. Maybe that’s being touched or approached a certain way, or loud noises of a certain kind, or certain conversational topics. When you see the trigger coming, or right when it happens, politely but pointedly speak up. You can say something like;
“Hey, please don’t touch me from behind.“
“I don’t handle that well, please don’t do that.“
“I’m not okay with this, please stop.“
“This kind of thing is upsetting to me, can we turn the tv off/the volume down please?“
You don’t have to go into a lengthy explanation of why you have a sensitivity. The important thing is that you, in a respectful manner, advocate for that sensitivity in a clear and direct manner. How someone chooses to react will tell you valuable information about the individual. More often than not, the other person will say “Oh, sure, my bad.” And hopefully they’ll make a mental note of this new boundary you’ve set and will make an effort to respect it in the future.
If the other person is blatantly disrespectful and refuses to accommodate your reasonable request(s), make a note of it. This person is willfully disrespectful. They do not respect you and you should set boundaries with them accordingly. If they intentionally subject you to the triggers after you have clearly communicated your request not to, it would be healthiest, if at all possible, to reduce your contact and communication with this person wherever possible. If they’re a friend or family member, that still applies. Loved ones do not have some special right to disrespect you. They should be held, on the contrary, to a high standard than the average person in your life!
If the disrespectful person is in the workplace, school, or other place you’re obliged to be present at and thus you must be around this person, my best advice is lead by the change you want to see. If someone goes out of their way to disrespect you, after self-advocating and reminding them that you’ve requested respect from them, be certain that you go out of your way to respect their boundaries. Chances are this other person has been disrespected so habitually in their life that they resent respecting others. So giving them due respect may enact some positive change in their life.
Granted, I’m not referring to instances of overt and blatant abuse here. Abuse situations require self advocation of a stronger suit. That’s a topic in and of itself.
In conjunction with self advocation, you need to also respect your self. The two go hand in hand. Each will make the other easier, but the absence of either will hinder your efforts. You may be at war with your body or your mind (or both), but they’re the only ones you’ll ever have. Take small steps in treating yourself with respect by physically supporting the needs of your body and mind. It’s hard to expect others to respect you when you aren’t showing basic respect to yourself.
So find ways to advocate for your body- to your self! If you are struggling with your diet habits, make small, positive, healthy choices and changes. Do it for YOU. For no one but yourself, your body. You were born with a meat ship and you’re stuck driving it until you die, so do your best to keep it running as smoothly as possible. Try adding a few new veggies into your diet, or cooking a nice homemade meal, even if it’s simple, instead of eating out or microwaving an instant meal. Validate your worth, justify splurging a bit on yourself with a cut of high quality meat or fresh seafood from the local meat shop, or a switch to organic pastured eggs or higher quality ingredients, that rare-but-crazy-expensive seasoning that you normally don’t let yourself get, or, one of my own favorites, buy that obscenely over-priced pomegranate. Why? Because eating pomegranates without a utensil is fun, of course! I’ve learned to thoroughly enjoy the juicy, messy challenge, for no other reason than indulging in something that’s not only healthy, but is amusing, nonsensical, and lightens my mood.
If you struggle with hygiene, try simple conscious steps to improve the physical health of your skin- I highly recommend tea bathes for this. Put a large pot of water on to boil while/before drawing your bath. After it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and add loose-leaf herbs. Lavender is soothing, mint is energizing, rose leaf is astringent, basil is antiseptic and pain numbing- these are all herbs many of us have in the kitchen or yard already. If you have lung complaints, eucalyptus leaves can be added, or a few drops of its essential oils can add a lung-soothing aromatic to the bath. Find a way to be intentional with your hygiene. Do it for you body, because your body deserves your respect.
If you struggle with stress and sleep, both of these things can negatively impact your body in profound ways. Prioritize YOU. Sever your evening obligations and go to bed early because your body and brain deserve a good night’s sleep. Dedicate 1 day per week to relaxing or being lazy- if that’s too drastic of a leap, dedicate 1 morning each week to sleeping in and having no agenda before noon. Take time for you. For some people that looks like quiet alone time, meditation, reading, or sleep. For others that might be something indulgent and stimulating, like exercise, cooking, working outdoors, or completing a project. Anything goes, as long as it’s not increasing your stress or insomnia.
On the topic of stress, self advocation applies here as well. It’s not just triggers that people need to stand up for, but stressors as well! Learn to say “No” to people and be at peace with it. You always have the right to decline. I mean, there are some obscure, creative exceptions. Like, when you get pulled over for speeding and the officer says “Can I see your license?” you probably shouldn’t say “No, thanks for asking though.” Aside from certain scenarios, it’s generally healthy to exercise your “No” muscles. Especially with friends and family, where it’s often the hardest. Why? Because caring for yourself and tending to your needs not only sets a healthy example of self-love to your loved ones, but when people see you respecting yourself, they become more inclined to respect you as well. Saying “Yes” to everyone all the time isn’t healthy for anyone. Period.