When Rain is Triggering
Remember when rain was just…well, rain?
I know for many who lived through the 2013 Colorado flood, a rainstorm will never again be the brief interlude between days and days of sunshine. Instead, rain has become a threat, a taunt, “This might be only the beginning of the devastation.”
Unfortunately, (or fortunately, as the case may be), our brains are designed to go into a state of high alert whenever we re-experience anything that happened as part of a trauma. A small structure, buried deep in our emotional brain called the amygdala records a Technicolor-like record of every sense, thought, feeling, or event that we experienced shortly before or after the trauma. Later, when we experience a similar sense, thought, feeling, or event our brain starts its warning sirens, “DANGER, DANGER, DANGER! DO SOMETHING TO SAVE YOUR LIFE.” Our bodies shift into a fight, flight, or freeze mode. That is a great survival mechanism if there is really a threat.
The trouble is that 99% of the time, rain is likely… just rain. Rain that will fill our reservoirs, nurture our gardens and bring life. There are long-term solutions to this amygdala-triggering response, namely trauma-specific therapy. For those of us who did not receive this type of treatment after the flood, here are some short-term ways to cope.
- Remind yourself that the flood was a very, very, unusual occurrence.
- Anxiety, at its best, is a signal system. Use that signal to reassure yourself you are prepared. If you are not prepared do one or two small things that make you feel prepared.
- Don’t give in to the fear. Remind yourself, it is your amygdala talking. Not the rational part of your brain.
- Indulge in a dose of reality. Remind yourself of all the differences between this rainstorm and the ones during the flood. For example, the forecast is different. It only rained buckets for a few minutes and then stopped.
- Use the rain as an excuse to do something that makes you feel cozy. Make some tea or hot chocolate and snuggle up with a book and a blanket.
- You are shut in the house, you may as well tackle one of those projects you have been avoiding. You will end up feeling productive instead of frozen.
- Music can be very powerful in helping your change your emotional state. Play some of your favorite music or something that makes you want to sing aloud or dance.
- Do not allow yourself to brood about the what-ifs. Absolutely DO NOT try to convince yourself that with global warming anything is possible. Global climate change is real but this is not the moment to be thinking about it.
- Reassure yourself that you are strong and adaptable. After all, you survived the flood of 2013. If we do have another one, you will find the strength to cope and thrive.
Good Luck! We are all in this together!
Cynthia Divino, Ph.D.
Executive Director, InReach
Member Long Term Flood Recovery Group
InReach (formerly BIPR) offers affordable counseling for children, adolescents, and adults, parenting help and resources and professional trainings for early childhood and mental health professionals. Contact InReach at 303-442-4562.