Published On: November 30, 2023Categories: Blog, Uncategorized782 words3 min read

CPTSD, PTSD and Trauma: Managing Fear Triggers (Plus 6 Tricks)

November 30, 2023

My husband and I decided to take an adult, infant and child CPR class. While I’m eight months pregnant. And I had no idea how many fear triggers it was going to set off.

To begin, the class was five hours long. At this stage in my pregnancy, anything that demands five hours of my attention is taxing. The instructor was animated, though, and easy to pay attention to.

He went through the adult CPR training first where we had to practice on one of the life-like dolls that are cut off at the waist. Then it was 3:30 and time for those who weren’t staying for the infant portion to leave. I was spent and ready to leave as well. But I’d have to push myself through this next session as it was the reason I signed up for this class.

As the plastic baby lay in front of me on the table, it hadn’t even crossed my mind how difficult it would be to have a fake baby in front of me and to pretend it couldn’t breathe. Not only had my exhaustion set in by this time in the class, but my fear was starting to creep in too.

The instructor kept pointing to my husband and me and referencing our baby. Which triggered my fear even further. “Don’t talk about my baby,” I wanted to say, but I was frozen. Using everything I had just to make it through. 

As we were instructed, we performed CPR on the fake infants laying on our tables. I had to push myself not to cry. All I wanted to do was breakdown and leave. But I knew I had to learn, so I stayed. 

Next was learning about saving the baby from choking. And the instructor made sure to comment on how my husband and I needed to be aware of all the things our baby could choke on. Another woman in the class told the horror story of her three-year-old daughter choking on a hot dog. How the paramedics had to save her after she’d turned blue. Again, I wanted to run. But I stayed. 

Then it was finally the end of class. And I realized that I’d wanted to fight and flee for most of it. That at points, I froze. That I’d gone through all the stages of my fight-or-flight response. But I’d stuck with it. It made me feel proud that that’s how I’d hopefully handle an emergency situation. That my fear responses would kick in, but I’d stay. And above all else, make sure my baby is okay. 

If you struggle with managing your fear responses, here are some tricks I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Drink something hot or something cold. It helps keep you present. I had cold water and hot coffee during the CPR class, and each time I sipped one, it helped me be in the moment. 
  2. Make observations of the things around you. Especially when you’re feeling the need to flee, unless you’re in danger and actually should flee, start noticing your surroundings. The color of the walls inside, the weather outside, the smells, the sounds, etc. 
  3. Run an inner dialogue. The entire time I wanted to leave the CPR session, I kept telling myself, “you can do this,” which gave me the strength to push past my fears. What we say to ourselves is powerful. 
  4. If it’s available to you, write. Writing helps us hear ourselves, so especially if you’re struggling to hear your inner dialogue, write. You can type on your phone, make notes on a scrap piece of paper. This technique has saved me many times throughout my life. 
  5. Take breaks. During the CPR class, there wasn’t a scheduled break, but I went to the restroom frequently to give myself a pep talk in the mirror. And if you’re in the restroom, running cold water on your hands and wrists will help you be present too. 
  6. Visualize what brings you joy. The entire end of my CPR class, visualization is what got me through. Visualizing my baby being healthy. Visualizing never having to revive her. Visualizing leaving the building feeling relieved that the training was over.

Whatever ways you find to manage your fear triggers, make note of them. Keep them available so that when you find yourself having a fear response, you have the tools to manage it. I know it can be difficult, but you’ve got this. 

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Photo by Joanne Adela

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