It can be tough when you’re feeling triggered – like suddenly, you’re back in the middle of the traumatic event, feeling all of the associated thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. But it is possible to learn how to stop being triggered. Here are some tips:
-Try to become aware of your triggers. What situations, people, words, or even things remind you of the trauma? Once you know your triggers, you can avoid them or prepare yourself if exposed.
-Challenge your thinking about the triggering event. If you’re replaying the event repeatedly, try to question your thoughts. Are they based on facts? What would other people say about what happened? Would things have turned out differently if you had made different choices?
-Talk to someone who will understand and can offer support. It can be helpful to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience or is trained in supporting people who have been through trauma. Sometimes it’s just helpful to talk about what happened with someone who will listen and won’t judge you.
-Practice self-care. Taking care of yourself is essential when you’re dealing with trauma. Make sure to eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise, and do things that make you happy.”
What is a trigger?
A trigger is anything — a person, a place, a thing, or even a memory — that triggers a negative reaction in you. That reaction can be anything from feeling anxious or angry to feeling depressed or even experiencing physical pain.
Triggers are often related to traumatic experiences, such as childhood abuse. Still, they can also be related to everyday situations, such as being around someone critical of you.
It’s important to remember that only some have the same triggers. What might be a trigger for one person might not affect another.
There are two types of triggers: internal and external. Internal triggers happen inside of you, such as feeling overwhelmed or stressed. External triggers happen outside of you, such as seeing someone who reminds you of someone who has hurt you in the past.
There are also two types of reactions to triggers: fight-or-flight and freeze. Fight-or-flight reactions are when you feel you need to defend yourself or get away from the trigger as quickly as possible. Freeze reactions are when you feel like you can’t move or think because you’re overwhelmed by the trigger.
The difference between being triggered and having a reaction
When we talk about being triggered, we refer to a deep emotional response set off by a person, situation, memory, or anything else that stirs up a strong reaction. This reaction can be positive or negative and is often related to something from our past.
For example, you might strongly react to someone critical of you. This might be because you were frequently criticized by a parent growing up, and the criticism from this other person reminds you of that painful experience. In this case, your reaction is considered to be a trigger.
Understanding the difference between being triggered and having a reaction is important. A reaction is an understandable response to something happening in the present moment. For example, if you are in a meeting and someone interrupts you while speaking, it’s normal to feel frustrated or annoyed. In this case, your reaction is proportional to the situation and has nothing to do with your past.
Being triggered occurs when our emotional response is out of proportion to the current situation, and it’s usually related to something from our past. A trigger can cause us to feel scared, angry, defensive, or hopeless. It can be very difficult to manage our emotions and respond productively if we need help understanding what’s happening and why we feel this way.
How to stop being triggered
A trigger sets off a memory or an emotion within us. We all have triggers. They are our own experiences that we have had in the lives that stick with us. Usually, these experiences are negative ones that we associate with a certain person, place, or thing.
Understand your triggers
Triggers are anything that sets off a negative reaction in you. They can be people, places, things, or even certain words or phrases. It’s important to understand what your triggers are so that you can avoid them or healthily deal with them.
There are three main types of triggers:
- Internal triggers happen inside you, such as feeling tired or hungry.
- External triggers happen outside of you, such as seeing a certain person or being in a certain place.
- Psychological triggers happen in your mind, such as thinking about a traumatic event or reliving a bad memory.
- Refrain from trying to control your triggers.
Trying to control your triggers is a losing battle. The more you try to control them, the more power they have over you. Instead of trying to control your triggers, learn to manage them. Here are some tips:
-Identify your triggers. Write them down or keep a list on your phone.
-Label your triggers. Give each trigger a name or label. This will help you identify them more easily.
-Acknowledge your triggers. When you feel triggered, take a deep breath and acknowledge the feeling. Don’t try to push it away.
-Breathe through your triggers. Once you’ve acknowledged your trigger, take deep breaths and focus on breathing. This will help you calm down and center yourself.
-Talk to someone about your triggers. Talking to someone who understands can be very helpful in managing your triggers. Find a friend, therapist, or coach who can help you process your emotions and thoughts around your triggers.
Don’t try to fix your triggers
Triggers are stored in our bodies as memories. Our nervous system makes intense associations between a particular stimulus and a past traumatic experience. When we try to fix or change our triggers, we are trying to change how our nervous system responds to them. This can be helpful in some cases but can also be overwhelming, confusing, and ineffective. It’s important to remember that you cannot control your triggers—you can only control your response to them.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to stopping being triggered, but you can do some general things to become more resilient and better equipped to deal with difficult situations.
- Understand your triggers. Reflect on what kinds of things tend to trigger you and why. This self-awareness will help you be more mindful in situations where you might be prone to get triggered.
- Practice self-care. Make sure to take care of yourself emotionally and physically to have the energy and resources to deal with challenging situations. This might include exercise, relaxation techniques, and spending time with supportive people.
- Develop a support system. Find people you trust who you can talk to about your experiences and who will understand and support you. These people can provide a listening ear, offer helpful advice, or be there when you need them.
- Seek professional help if needed. If your triggers are causing significant distress or interfering with your ability to function in day-to-day life, it may be helpful to seek professional counseling or therapy. A therapist can help you work through the underlying issues contributing to your triggers and teach you additional skills for managing them effectively.