Learning your triggers is great, but how are you supposed to keep calm when you’re actually in that triggered moment?
To start, let’s take a moment to recognize that when you start to pay attention to your triggers, they’re going to feel more sensitive and the reaction will be more intense than they were before. The reason for this is because as you’re going through the eBook and doing the work, you’re going to find that your brain will be more on edge. Calling out the things your subconscious is hiding for protection can be scary, and therefore it will get a bit angry. And that’s ok! It’s all part of the healing process.
This is all especially true when triggers involve your kids.
This whole process is certainly connected to the abuse and trauma we went through, PTSD/CPTSD. The other thing to keep in mind that makes this all the more intense is the mom guilt.
Often our kids are on the receiving end of our triggered reactions. They’re there when we lash out or break down. They’re the ones who tend to receive us when we’re not our best because we’re just damn tired. These moments cause us to feel like crap which leads to us feeling like horrible moms. Because of that, as we’re becoming more aware of our triggers, it can make us feel even more guilty which can cause us to implode or push our kids away out of fear.
We’re afraid to react this way so we end up overcompensating and then we lose our confidence as moms. That’s not what you deserve.
I want you to be the mom you’ve always dreamed of being. You deserve better than that.
The very first thing you need to do when it comes to your triggers is to give yourself some freaking grace. Of course your kids are on the receiving end of your triggers – you’re always with them! Especially if your kids are younger or if, like me, you homeschool. Your kids are ALWAYS with you which means you hardly get a break to rest and recharge. That’s why this happens.
I’m not saying that it’s ok that we have these responses, but I am saying that it’s not beneficial for our kids for us to crap on ourselves. The more we tell ourselves that we’re bad moms, the more we’re going to lean into the fact that we’re bad moms and behaving in ways that we don’t like. If we fully believe that we’re bad moms, then we’re never going to even try to be better because why bother trying?
That isn’t helpful.
Remember – give yourself some dang grace. You’re not a bad mom. You’re human and you’re healing.
The next step is to begin building awareness. As you go through Triggered, the ebook I mentioned earlier, you’re going to be building this awareness. But I want you to seriously double down on it. This is crucial for us as moms to be as aware of as many triggers as possible. Not actively working to heal them all at once, of course. But the more awareness you have, the calmer you can be in that triggered moment. If your brain is constantly reacting with no real understanding of why, it will always be in that frantic, panicked state.
But if you have the awareness ahead of time and you do the work in the ebook, you’re going to be able steady your brain a bit and remind it that it’s just a trigger.
It doesn’t mean that the trigger doesn’t exist or that you’ll never struggle, it just means that it doesn’t flare as badly or for as long.
This process will look different for everybody.
We all have different brains, different trauma and different lives.
While there are commonalities (most of us are moms who have gone through an abusive relationship), our personal experiences are different.
You need to understand that we’re all different people and that we can’t judge our brain based off of someone else’s journey.
But I’ll step off the soapbox for this one.
Once you have the awareness, you’ll remain more calm and more present in the situation.
You’ll go into this deeper in Triggered, but start by thinking through some situations that have happened where you’re not happy with your reaction.
Grab a journal and begin to ask yourself what led to that moment. Were you tired or hungry? Were you overwhelmed or exhausted? Were you scared or worried? Write them down. There’s no right or wrong answer, this is just a safe place for your brain to store information.
Understanding the specific situations and how you were feeling in them will begin to shed some light on what your triggers are and where they come from.
Once you have a good list and awareness, the next question to ask yourself is, “How do I want to respond to this situation in the future?”
In an ideal world, if you were triggered, how would you react? Where would you place that energy?
Would you be able to walk away or tolerate certain behavior until you’re able to? Would you breathe before responding or would you ground yourself?
Thinking through how you’d react in these moments gives your brain a foundation to build on. And that foundation takes time to set.
So thinking through how you’d react and then practicing it over and over, even when you mess up, is going to set that foundation so it becomes easier.
Lastly, how are you going to handle things when you inevitably mess up (because you’re only human)?
Knowing this ahead of time is not giving you permission to purposely mess up, but it’s important to know how to deal with it.
It’s importable to know how you’re going to handle your behavior and keep yourself accountable. How and when will you apologize to your child and work towards changing and healing in the future?
These things are so critical to know and yet no one really talks about them.
If you don’t have this knowledge ahead of time, there’s going to be panic, fear, embarrassment, shame and guilt tied to that triggered moment which will only make the situation worse. Working towards understanding and being aware of where we’re at and why we’re doing what we’re doing will help your brain remain calm because it won’t sink into the pit of shame and guilt.
I highly recommend that you journal on this. It’s worth your time to sit down and process through how you’re feeling and thinking. Writing it down also makes it easier to set that foundation because you’re not only thinking it through, but you’re writing it down so it’s hitting another area of your brain.
It doesn’t need to take you two hours. It could just be 10 minutes and you’ll blow your mind with how much you get on paper and how much it helps.
The next step is to think through how you’re going to ground yourself. Triggers come from fear which leads to panic. It’s important to create a feeling of safety within your brain and grounding helps immensely with this.
Grounding looks different for different people. The way I interpret it (and how it works for me) is focusing on every physical sensation that I’m feeling, but only one at a time. I think about how it feels for my fingers to rub against the palm of my hand. I focus on my feet on the floor and the sensation of socks against my toes.
You an also focus on the actual feeling of that triggered moment. What are you feeling right now and what does it feel like? Where is it – in your stomach or chest? Can I name that feeling?
Being aware of this piece by piece forces your brain to focus and step outside of that panic mode.
This is especially important with our kids because, unfortunately, we tend to see our kids’ behavior as a threat, even outside of triggers. Add a trigger onto what we’re already dealing with as moms and it leads to a terrible situation. Getting your brain used to seeing your kids as NOT a threat will not only help your brain, but it will help your relationship with your kiddos.
Do not skip this.
I avoided grounding for so long because I just didn’t think it did anything. But since I’ve been focusing on it in the last year, I’ve not only become a better mom but I have an overall better relationship with my son.
The second thing you can do to ground yourself is focus on your breathing.
Here’s an important tip: when focusing on your breathing, go in through your nose and out through your mouth. But breathe into your belly, not your chest. Chest breathing increases anxiety while belly breathing calms it.
You can do slow breathing to the count of four (count to 4 on the way in, count to 4 on the way out) or you can do a technique like square breathing.
This is when you imagine a square in your mind and each side is 4 seconds long. You breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, breathe out through the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, and then repeat.
My son and I both love this method of breathing and I recommend it for anyone who struggles. If you want more details, there are tons of fun videos on YouTube for both kids and adults that talk about it.
The reason this is so important is because it’s impossible for your brain to remain in complete panic AND focus on your breathing.
But here’s a disclaimer: I’m NOT saying that this is a fix-it for all anxiety and/or triggers.
I have very intense and scary panic attacks and breathing has NOT solved the entire problem. But breathing has made it easier to come back into my body and pull myself out of the panic.
These breathing exercises are powerful – don’t skip them.
Lastly, don’t forget to grab Triggered, the ebook I mentioned at the beginning.
It will help you more than you know.
You’ve got this, mama.