Episode 45: How to Manage Triggers

Do you know your triggers?

Do you know what triggers even are?

Today I’m going to share with you what triggers are and how to help your brain not only cope but heal them. As someone who went a really long time without knowing how important they are, they completely ran my life. I couldn’t even hang out with friends without having some kind of crisis.

What is a trigger, anyway?

A trigger is something that happens inside of your brain that gives you a reaction. It may be instantaneous, it may take some time for it to show up.

What does that mean?

For example, I saw a video a few weeks ago now a few weeks ago and it reminded me of abuse that had happened in my past. It sent me on a downward spiral where I had flashbacks, I couldn’t sleep, I was nauseous.

That was a trigger for me.

Imagine a gun and someone putting their hand on the trigger. If no one pulls the trigger, the bullet doesn’t leave the gun. But if someone wraps their finger around it and pulls, the gun goes off. Our brains work the same way.

Especially when we’ve gone through abuse, there’s almost always a finger on the trigger. Whether it’s pulled or not depends on the trauma we’ve experienced.

Not every trigger is going to have an immediate response.

Some triggers react hours, days, sometimes a week after the fact because the brain had to process it and then have the reaction.

The triggers that have an immediate reaction are some of the easiest to identify so those are going to be the ones we focus on today.

How do we identify triggers?

The first step is to sit down and really think about the times that you react in a way that don’t like.

When I am being blatantly gaslighted, I react right away.

I recently went out with someone who did this which is what made me realize how big of a trigger it was for me.

It happened via text message so I was able to read the messages repeatedly. He ghosted me and then told me it was my fault for not texting him multiple times. It hit me in the gut and made me feel sick.

This was a reaction that I had to something that happened to me so often throughout my life.

I was able to figure this out pretty quick because I had been doing a lot of personal work on my triggers.

It doesn’t always happen so quick, but if you do the work you’ll piece things together quicker than you think.

You have to commit to taking off your survival glasses.

For years you’ve been in survival mode. You’re just doing everything you can to make it to tomorrow, so you’re wearing your survival glasses.

Then there’s living. That’s when you’re truly living and enjoying life and enjoying what’s happening around you enjoying the things that are given to you.

Because I spent most of my life in survival mode, I wasn’t able to recognize these things. That’s why it’s so important to take off those survival glasses.

You have to take responsibility for your growth.

You have to make the choice to recover. This is a choice you have to make everyday. I’m not saying it’s easy. But once you make that commitment to living and not just surviving, you become the hero of your story.

That’s when you’re able to heal. So once you take off the survival glasses you’re going to be able to see these triggers.

Time to get out a notebook.

Begin to write down some responses that you have to situations that you don’t like.

For example, I’m a yeller.

I’m really working on breaking this habit but for a long time it felt completely out of control. So I wrote down things that would cause me to yell.

Whether it was my son doing something or a family member saying something, I wrote it down.

Think of a time where you react out of nowhere.

Whether it’s an uncomfortable feeling like I have to being gaslighted or the yelling reaction I have to certain situations.

Put your pen to paper and begin to write. You may not be able to recognize everything right now and that’s ok. Don’t force yourself, just think for a few minutes and write down what comes up.

Maybe it’s something that your husband says that automatically sends you into a fight or flight mode. Maybe something happens around you and you immediately get defensive and you get angry. Think about those things.

This brings awareness which is extremely powerful. Once you become aware of these triggers, you can begin to heal.

Begin to analyze these triggered responses.

Look at one of the items on your trigger list and ask yourself two questions:

What event leads to this trigger?
Why might this be a trigger in the first place?

If you’re feeling really stuck, that’s ok. Put your list down and come back to it tomorrow.

Now you have that in your mind and go throughout your day, maybe wait a day or two. Now that you’re aware of what’s happening, you can catch yourself and “oh, my gosh, my husband made this sarcastic comment. And that’s where this reaction came from. It’s not random after all.”

“That comment is what causes this reaction. Why am I having that reaction? Well, back when I was in an abusive relationship, my ex boyfriend would always make snide comments at me. And it made me feel like garbage. And so I would immediately get defensive for X, Y, and Z.”

Once you begin to piece two and two together, it’s gonna be a lot easier than you think to begin to manage them.

Once you become aware, you gain so much power.

Then you figure out why that trigger happens.

Think about why it’s getting to you.

A really good way to go about this is to use the Why Test. Click that link to dig deeper into this works. It’s SO good.

Once you break down that why it’s a lot easier to cope.

How do you manage these triggers?

The first thing I recommend is to focus on managing the physical response. When I’m triggered by disrespect, I cross my arms and it becomes VERY clear that I’m on edge. So I wanted to attack that first.

A lot of triggers have a lot of elements to them. You do not need to tackle all of them at once. So starting with the physical response is, for me, the easiest place to begin.

Get your journal back out and write your trigger at the top of the page.

Begin to think through how the trigger affects you.

Does it start physically? Do you cross your arms? Does your breathing get heavy? Write that down.

Step number two is to think about if this a knee-jerk reaction trigger or if you’re responding to what you think is happening.

For example, disrespect is a big trigger for me. So I had to begin to think about why I was reacting that way. Were they actually being disrespectful or is it just how I was perceiving the situation?

What that means to me is, are they making a snarky sarcastic comment like I make all the time and I just don’t like it when it’s dished back to me? Or are they actually being disrespectful?

Begin to break down this thought process.

Why are you having the knee jerk reaction? Do you need to work through how you want to respond?

I broke it down kind of like a tree. I had step one, step two, and then step three was dependent on whether or not they’re being disrespectful. If I realized the person was not being disrespectful, I would work really hard on bringing down my heart rate and getting centered. If they were being disrespectful, I give myself full permission to either respectfully defend my position, or walk away without explanation.

I know this process can seem overwhelming. But if you start with one trigger at a time, you’ll learn how this works. You’ll find a system that works with your brain.

If this is really resonating with you, I want you to know you’re not alone. We’re all recovering together.

The next step would be to sign up for Recovery Bootcamp. This is my FREE five day challenge where we’re going to discuss managing triggers like these and SO much more.

You’re going to get an hour of coaching every day for five days. After these five days you’re going to have a completley new understanding of yourself and your recovery journey.

Click here to grab your spot!

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