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  • Writer's pictureTina Chan

Demystifying Being "Triggered": Navigating Emotions and Building Resilience


Unveiling the Power of Triggers

Life is a symphony of emotions, and at times, certain chords strike more intensely than others. You might have come across the term "triggered" in various contexts, but what does it truly mean? In this journey of understanding, we'll dive into the world of triggers, unraveling their significance, types, and most importantly, how to navigate them with emotional resilience. So, if you're in your early thirties and seeking clarity on this topic, buckle up for an informative and personal ride.


What is Being "Triggered": A Deeper Dive

Imagine this scenario: You're going about your day, and suddenly, a seemingly ordinary sight, sound, or situation ignites a firestorm of intense emotions. You've been triggered. But what exactly does that mean? It's not just about feeling a little uncomfortable; it's about experiencing a potent emotional reaction that can be especially overwhelming if you've faced trauma or deal with mental health challenges.

Think of triggers as emotional landmines that can detonate unexpectedly, leaving you grappling with feelings like anxiety, fear, or even panic attacks. Triggers are like keys that unlock the doors to past traumatic experiences or moments that hit a raw nerve within you.


Diverse Triggers for Different People: Internal and External

Triggers aren't a one-size-fits-all phenomenon; they come in various forms, tailored to your individual experiences. They can be internal, originating from memories, emotions, or physical sensations deep within you. Alternatively, triggers can be external, springing from your environment - think people, places, or situations that stir up intense feelings.

For instance, an internal trigger might be loneliness, stirring up memories of times when you felt abandoned or isolated. External triggers, on the other hand, could be encountering a scene in a movie that mirrors a past traumatic event, or hearing a sound that instantly transports you back to a moment of distress.


The Origin Story: How Triggers Form

Understanding how triggers come into existence is like piecing together a complex puzzle. While experts are still exploring the depths of this phenomenon, it's believed that the brain stores memories of traumatic events differently from other memories. When triggered, your brain can interpret past traumas as if they're happening all over again, triggering the same physical and emotional responses you experienced during the actual event.

Picture this: You're recovering from alcohol use disorder, and a particular activity or scent reminds you of drinking. This connection is called "traumatic coupling," and it's what ties triggers to the traumatic events, often bringing back both memories and the emotions that accompany them.


Coping Strategies: Navigating Emotional Storms

So, how do you navigate this whirlwind of emotions when triggers strike? Here are some strategies that can help you ride the waves of your emotions and build resilience:


1. Social Support: Sharing the Load

I've found that one of the most powerful tools is connecting with others. Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or support groups. Sometimes, just talking about your triggers and experiences can provide a sense of relief and help you realize you're not alone in this journey.


2. Deep Breathing: Taming the Storm

When a trigger hits, your body's stress response goes into overdrive. Try deep breathing exercises to calm your nerves. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few counts, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. It's a simple practice that can make a big difference in grounding you.


3. Exercise: Channeling the Energy

Physical activity is a powerful way to manage triggers. Engaging in exercise releases tension and endorphins, those natural mood lifters. It offers a healthy outlet for your emotions and helps you feel more in control of your body.


4. Mindfulness Meditation: Anchoring to the Present

Mindfulness meditation has been a game-changer for me in handling triggers. By focusing on the present moment, you can detach from the intense emotions stirred by past experiences. Techniques like deep breathing, body scans, and guided meditations can help you stay rooted in the here and now.


5. Therapeutic Writing: Unleashing Emotions

Expressive writing can be a powerful outlet for processing your triggered emotions. Put your thoughts on paper to gain clarity, release pent-up feelings, and gain insights into the impact of triggers on your emotional landscape.


6. Seeking Professional Help: A Step Towards Healing

Remember, reaching out for professional support is a sign of strength, not weakness. Therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and trauma-focused therapies can provide you with tools to manage triggers. They offer a safe space to explore your triggers' origins and develop effective coping strategies.


Your Journey to Resilience

Triggers are the emotional currents that can either knock you off balance or serve as stepping stones to emotional resilience. Equipped with insights into what triggers are, the different forms they can take, and strategies for managing them, you're now better prepared to navigate these emotional storms with grace.


Remember, your journey is uniquely yours. What works for one person might not be the magic solution for another. Embrace the process of discovering what coping strategies resonate with you. The path to resilience may have its challenges, but armed with the right tools and a support system, you can transform triggers from overwhelming adversaries into opportunities for growth and healing.


As you navigate this journey, remember that you're not alone. Your story is woven with threads of strength, courage, and the unwavering spirit to overcome. You have the power to rise above triggers and emerge stronger on the other side.


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