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6 Ways I Combat Being Triggered

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A trigger is defined as something that often creates a playback loop of an original trauma. For me, triggers can be sounds, smells and even music. I have had to learn to identify triggers in my life and try to understand them so they no longer hold such power over me.

• What is PTSD?

I understand that different things trigger different people — not many people get triggered by the sound of mild rain as much as I do. These tips have helped me deal with my own trauma and are presented so they may help others better cope. As always, if you’re in crisis, please seek help.

1. If possible, step away from the situation.

Triggers are not always rational and can come packed with a lot of emotional weight. Other people might not understand how their behavior triggered you and the frustration can build on top of the already existing emotions, causing far more damage than if you just took a step back. Take a moment for the feelings to wash over you and approach the situation with fresh eyes.

2. Do not sabotage yourself by expecting some things to be triggering.

Triggers are, quite often, not even perceptible at first. They’re often a combination of elements that cause an emotional memory. It often takes time and recurrence to fully understand the many elements of a trigger. More often than not, it is not one word that sets it off, but a combination of elements. Triggers often have many moving parts and it’s easy to go into everything looking for something specific that triggers you, but this might not always be helpful.

3. Love yourself and develop coping skills.

As much as we love and are loved by our friends, family and support system, I think it is ultimately up to us to love ourselves enough to invest in coping skills. Coping skills are, perhaps, the greatest gift we can give ourselves. It takes a lot of hard work and is often frustrating but once we start to make progress, it’s all worth it.

4. There might be new triggers.

It seems that, in my case, no sooner do I identify and deal with one host of triggers, do more emerge. This can be very discouraging. But you shouldn’t be discouraged. Once you start developing coping mechanisms, it can start to become easier to combat new triggers. They might catch you off guard and knock the wind out of you, but you can take away a lot of their power a lot quicker with positive coping skills.

5. The world cannot possibly recognize everyone’s triggers.

Unless done personally and with malice of forethought, other people usually cannot be held accountable for our triggers. A person you do not know who does not know wearing a certain cologne causes a flashback of a trauma is not being cruel. We cannot possibly control everyone else and we should not expect everyone else to read our minds. I do not know your triggers. You do not know all of mine. We simply never will.

6. Sometimes social media can be self-defeating.

There are a lot of unfiltered responses on social media. There is also no way to tell a person’s tone of voice by what they post. If something triggers us, we’re usually already an open wound and the last thing we need is anything opening that wound further. I have found it very helpful to simply walk away for a minute or two and wait for it all to pass. When emotions are already raw, there is usually nothing helpful that comes from further exchange. Self-care means knowing how and when to care for yourself. Sometimes that means stepping back from social media or “unplugging” as they say these days.

I sincerely hope these tips help at least one person. I hope everyone can get one step closer to developing healthy coping skills and I hope for a better dialogue on how to combat triggers. We all deserve to live a happy and healthy life.

Unsplash photo via Chris Benson

Originally published: December 13, 2017
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