A trigger is reexperiencing a past injury or trauma.
What is a Trigger?
A trigger is an environmental stimulus that for some people causes them to have an extreme or overreaction to an event, a person, a physical sensation, a place, things/items, smells or sounds. It can be something someone has said, a past negative memory or event, or even something that you have seen on the television. Almost anything can be a trigger based on your own personal history and experiences.
Triggers are automatic emotional responses.
How to identify if you’re being triggered
If you feel as though you are having a BIG reaction to something seemingly normal this may indicate that you have been triggered! You may feel particularly vulnerable and almost childlike. Hence, your reaction is an overreaction and not necessarily related to present events but has triggered a past traumatic memory causing significant anxiety.
Firstly, be curious, what was the trigger? Did you hear raised voices, did someone yell at you or make you feel uncomfortable, did you smell a familiar smell, did you get stuck on a train? There can be many life experiences that have caused this significant and uncomfortable emotional response.
You may not be immediately aware of what the trigger was, spend some quiet time going back over your day and the events that you experienced or were exposed to.
Often triggers are the result of childhood trauma.
What are the symptoms of being Triggered?
People can often feel fear, anger, anxiety, loneliness, muscle tension, physical and/or emotional pain, sadness, overwhelm, vulnerability, abandonment and out of control. They also may experience panic attacks, cry, and they may also dissociate. And in some instances, people may even self-harm to avoid a negative memory or feeling.
A trigger becoming activated leads to a hyper-aroused negative emotional state.
What can I do to help myself if I recognise that I have been triggered?
Once you recognise that you have been triggered, move your attention back to yourself, and become aware of your thoughts and how your body is feeling. Acknowledge your emotions rather than push them away.
You may want to speak to a friend or a loved one about how you were triggered and what this meant to you.
Alternatively, you can use grounding techniques to reorient yourself back to the present, for example, look for 5 things in the room/environment and name them.
Some other grounding techniques that might be helpful include:
- taking your shoes off and standing on the grass
- sitting outside in nature (it has been scientifically proven that these types of grounding experiences decrease anxiety and improve your immune system)
- using paced breathing techniques (breath in through the nose and out through the mouth to stabilise your breathing)
- move your body (go for a walk, put on some music and dance or do some stretches)
- you could also put on some comfortable clothing and snuggle up on the couch and let your emotions just be (this may include crying however this is a healthy technique to remove tension from the brain/mind).
To be curious about what has triggered you may assist in decreasing the anxiety around the trigger.
Seek professional help.
Frequently, triggers can be difficult for people to manage no matter where they arise from. The staff at Mind Up are qualified to help you understand your triggers and where they have arisen from and thus provide you with the skills and techniques to alleviate your symptoms. Feel free to contact our office for a private and confidential intake call to assess if our psychologists or counsellors are right for you.