Do you know what a “Trigger” is?
A “Trigger” is any event that brings up old feelings of panic and danger even if there is no danger around. It is a PTSD response very similar to what war veterans experience. One minute you are fine and the next you are not. the emotional response happens immediately and without warning when a Trigger presents it’s self. Triggers can be places, people, times of year, events, holidays, weather, smells, sounds, music, memories; anything can be a Trigger. And because of this it is nearly impossible to avoid your Triggers! Triggers bring up past trauma unexpectedly and with such force that often it can feel like you are actually reliving a traumatic experience. This really sucks!
The part about my Triggers that angers me off the most is my ex-husband doesn’t give a flying flip that he has done this to me or his family. He doesnt care in the least. If he did care at all then he would be working to alleviate the triggers and the pain that comes with it. Instead, he is off chasing his new girlfriend because he “deserves some happiness.” I know I am not alone in this. My kids suffer, and my grandkids suffer. We all suffer the devastation while all he cares about is his own happiness. So here we are having to deal with these difficult emotional responses without any assistance (even financial assistance) from the perpetrator. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?
I have a triggered response everytime I drive by the hotel where my daughter caught my husband in a hotel room with another woman. When I drive by this hotel I burst into tears and re-live the whole ugly experience again and again. Because of a series of business meeting I have had this week I have had to drive by this particular hotel 6 times this week. It has been brutal! I could have gone out of my way to avoid it, gone another way, but I am determined not to let these experiences run me or my life. So I chose to just power through it this week. But how do you do that? How do you face something so painful head on?
I have learned that when triggers come it is because your pre-frontal cortex (thinking brain) has been hijacked by your limbic brain (emotional brain). To beat back the trigger you must access the pre-frontal cortex and put it back and charge. As you learn to do this you can quickly disarm the lymbic brain, redirect the thought patterns, and put the pre-frontal cortex back in charge. This works for any kind of panic or anxiety response. The idea “control your thoughts, control your destiny” is really very true. Gaining power over Triggers is getting back the power over your mind. Triggers won’t go away, but you can lessen their effects, and with practice, stop them as they are happening.
I was reminded of what triggers are like while watching Harry Potter with my daughter last week. Triggers are like Boggarts, they are not real, they look real and they feel real, but they are just your worst fears manifest. The students of Hogwarts were able to fight them with a spell… “expecto patronum!” The Boggart was vanquished and thrown back into the box by most of the students. Except some Boggarts are scarier than others. Demetors are the scariest. I have come to think of Triggers as Dementors, they suck all the happiness right out of you! For a while Harry had to have help fighting against the Dementors. At first, he couldn’t do it alone. It took practice! But when he eventually needed to rely on himself to do it, he was able to becuase he practiced. Beating back Triggers, especially the scariest ones, is a lot like that, it will take practice and patience with yourself.
So here are a few tips and tricks for putting your thinking brain back in charge:
Breathe – deep, mindful breathing. Breathe in, hold it for the count of four. Breathe out slowly whild counting to four.
Affirmations – Repeat your affirmations over and over until the trigger subsides. Make sure you have a list of daily affirmations that support areas where you are struggling.
Count and tap – cross your arms over your chest and touch your hands to your shoulders. Begin counting. As you count tap every other shoulder. Do this for a count of six and then start over. Continue until the fear and panic subside. It will usually take about 15 to 20 sets of these. It also really helps if you deep breathe with tap. Breathe in , 1, Breathe out, 2, and so on.
Count your blessings – it is surprising how simple this is and how well it works.
Prayer – Prayer is a powerful antidote to Triggers. Use it to pour your heart out to your Heavenly Father and ask for help in overcoming your Triggers. He will tell you what will work best for you!
Read an interesting book –Keep a book around for this purpose. In times of triggers I often open up my scriptures. Its the book that works the best for me!
Work on a project – keep a craft or other project handy you can work on. Crocheting, knitting or cross-stitch are all great for anxiety because of the counting aspects to them.
Workout – working out does wonders for releasing endorphines that will lift your spirit and improve your mood and outlook.
Go for a Walk – Walking outdoors and breathing in fresh air does wonders for the mind and the soul!
Mindful Meditations – there are a number of Apps that will help you with this. Search the app store for mindful meditations, self hypnosis and meditation. You will find plenty of free and paid apps. Some of them you can try before you buy. I have used Surf City apps, Happify and Head Space with lots of success.
Call a friend – sometimes you just need to talk things out with a trusted friend. Call her. It will help.
Call your sponsor – if you are in a 12-step program then you will have a sponsor you can call when you are having a tough time. She will be a great listening ear and resource. Your sponsor often understands in ways a friend can’t because she has traveled the road you are now on.
You can see that these remedies for trigger responses are also self care. As you make an effort to do your “dailies” of self care you will build up a muscle memory response to triggers. Over time you will automatically start to respond to the triggers in more helpful and healthy ways. This is one of the reasons that self care is so important to do everyday!
What are some of the things you do to help overcome your triggers?
Stay Sweet, Be Strong!
The Cupcake Warrior