Brain Battle Blog- Trigger Warning
Hello mental health champions, how are you doing?
So today I really wanted to dig deep into triggers for your mental health issues and anxiety. I think sometimes with anxiety it can be easy to just feel the panic all the time and not even know where it is coming from. I also know that many of my panic attacks came out of absolutely nowhere. It is super scary to just start feeling like you are suffocating, drowning, and dying out of NOWHERE. SO many people go to the hospital during a panic attack thinking that they are literally having a heart attack and are dying. It is such a horrific experience that many people develop PTSD from the panic. Which as you may see where I am going with this, can literally cause you to have a panic attack because you’re worried about what will happen if y0u have a panic attack. You’ve heard of the term “self-fulfilling prophecy”? Well your brain sure can make that happen when you are on high alert as it is.
In this blog post, I want to just touch on some common anxiety triggers and the way that I have personally tried to handle them. I have included a printable “Trigger Worksheet” that y0u can use in conjunction with this post to figure out what your triggers are and how you can go about handling them when you are faced with them. Usually a trigger will be something that stimulates your senses like a smell, sound, or sight. Now for me, the trigger doesn’t always have to be exact to cause me to feel anxiety. For example, you may have had a time in your life where you felt trapped. It could be in an unhealthy relationship or a bad home situation. You can then be triggered by a small space because for some reason your brian connects that sensation to that time where you figuratively felt trapped. Since your brian connects these figurative and literal events, it can be confusing to understand your triggers. This is why I truly have spent so much time really digging deeply into triggers and what makes me feel certain ways.
To help you guys better understand, I will go through some traumatic feelings I have had and then further break them down into what exactly triggers them.
Fear of abandonment.
Now what triggers anxiety around this fear for me?
-People going on vacation
-People leaving me alone/giving me space
-Not talking to people for awhile
-Not knowing when people get home safely after driving
Fear of disappointing others.
Now what triggers anxiety around this fear for me?
-When I think people seem mad or upset with me
-When I don’t accomplish what I want to and think I let someone else down
-Saying “No” and setting boundaries with others
Fear of not being in control.
Now what triggers anxiety around this for me?
-Planes- I am not in control and it gives me major anxiety
-When a friend drives us somewhere instead of myself
-When things are happening around me that I don’t have control over
-Feeling unorganized and lost
These are just a couple examples of how triggers a lot of times are pretty much nonsensical in the way that you would think it shouldn’t upset or trigger you, but it does. Now obviously a lot of times people will say to just avoid the triggers if they cause you distress. In a perfect world that sounds great but there will never be a way to guarantee that you won’t come across a trigger. Or even worse, you may come across something that you didn’t even know was a trigger until you’re standing in a grocery store having a full blown panic attack.
So my personal advice would be to try and expose yourself to the trigger and do the worst case scenario what ifs. With anxiety, we are basically creating a fear of a made-up future. So to combat this, I try to go to the worst case scenario and reason with it. In my own mind, this basically is me taking back control of the anxiety. Instead of letting myself spin so deeply down a rabbit hole worried about the “what ifs”, I instead face them and reason with them.
So for example, I may worry about someone I love abandoning me. Instead of allowing myself to spin out of control and go down the rabbit hole, I take myself through steps. The first thing I will do is say “what is the worst thing that would happen if someone I loved abandoned me?” My therapist taught me that even if I have anxiety about this fear, it will not change the outcome if it were to happen. So why spend time worrying? Why spend time obsessing about if someone is going to leave when you will have no more control when they do? There is no point worrying about it now because that worry isn’t going to prepare me if that were to happen. Once again, anxiety is fear of a made up future. I can obsess about my fears but that won’t change anything when I actually have to face them.
This thought process has helped me to dramatically reduce panic. When I feel myself starting to spin into panic, I gr0und myself (more on panic later this week) and then talk myself through the WCS (Worst case scenario).
It takes a lot of time to fully identify what your triggers are and that is okay. It has taken me about 7 years to fully know what triggers me and how to handle it. And like everyone else, I am human and my mental health issues are always going to be chronic. I have ups and downs too. But when you are able to be more methodical and reasonable about y0ur anxiety, it may just become easier to handle.
Talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3