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How to Stop Reacting to Triggers

Photo by Jure Širić from Pexels

Terrible things can happen to any person at any given time. It’s not okay, but it’s just the way of the world. You could say it’s all that ‘trials and tribulations’ jazz. Sometimes those terrible things have a big effect on us, which is completely normal. You could even say it’s to be anticipated. We are human, and we can’t be expected to go through all of life’s trauma and come out unscathed. Those scars we earn throughout our lives, don’t always fade away so easily. That is where triggers come from.

A trigger is a psychological stimulus that reminds a person of a traumatic experience they have suffered through. Anything could be a trigger. It could be loud sounds, a particular person, or even a color. Anything that may have stuck out to a person while they were experiencing their trauma can carry on in their subconscious and jump back out when they encounter something similar to it. That encounter, depending on the degree of the trauma and the person, can cause a person to experience panic attacks, anxiety attacks, or any other psychological response, hence the name ‘trigger.’

Triggers can stick with a person for a very long time. Desensitizing yourself to your triggers directly correlates to recovery from the trauma that caused them. That is the first and only step. It will take time, and perhaps a lot of it. You could even consider it to be more of a marathon than a single step, but you get the gist. Some trauma will take longer to heal, and some people will heal faster than others. The experience is completely unique to the individual, so don’t try to compare your healing process to someone else’s.

Overcoming trauma and triggers is a very personalized experience. For the most part you have to go through trial and error to figure out what works for you, but there is such a thing as umbrella advice that should be adequate enough to help most people. Some advice that could apply to anyone who is trying to overcome triggers: accept yourself and your circumstances. While what happened to you was probably tragic and terrible, it happened. As much as you might wish to undo it, you can’t. You need to first and foremost accept what happened to you.

There are some seriously messed up people and messed up situations in this world. Whatever it may be, come to terms with it. Whatever your trauma may have been, it probably was not your fault. Do not feel guilty. On the off chance that it was your fault because you made a mistake, you are self-aware now. That is growth and you should feel proud, not guilty.

Accepting everything and coming to terms with it is not an easy thing to do. Take as much time as you might need. If you’re having a hard time, don’t be afraid to seek help. Therapists and counselors are available to you. There is no shame in getting professional help. Nonetheless, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, you can always turn to your friends and family.

Another bit of umbrella advice is to learn what your triggers are and know what you can or cannot handle. Familiarize yourself with what triggers you and take note of what gets triggered. It could be a spout of depression, a panic attack, an anxiety attack, or any number of things. Know the process so you can slowly learn to handle it. If you do this, you can also help your close friends or family understand so that they can eventually learn how to help you as well.

Once you understand what your triggers are you can make sure to actively avoid anything that could set you off. If it is loud noises, don’t go to large parties or concerts. If it’s a person, take preemptive measures before going out with your friends: ask who will be there. You can’t ensure that you will never encounter a loud noise or a certain person, but you can try to minimize your exposure. While it’s not necessarily fair that it is your responsibility to take care of it now, but it is your responsibility all the same.

If you do find yourself in a situation that triggers you, here are some potentially helpful tips: First things first, if you’re in public go to the bathroom or your car. Any place that is private enough to allow you to feel everything you need to feel comfortably will suffice. If you need to, call someone. If you are home, turn on your favorite movie, listen to your favorite songs, or cuddle with your pet. Just distract yourself. Do whatever you can to get another part of your mind into gear. Make sure that you breathe. I mean meditative breathing, not child labor breathing.

Just remember that you are not your circumstance, you are a strong woman. Do not let yourself be overtaken by an experience that you could not truly control.

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