MENTAL HEALTH AND SELF AWARENESS: Understanding Your Triggers.

Self-awareness, put simply, is shining a light on the parts of your internal world that might otherwise get buried down, pushed aside, or go unnoticed. Your “internal world” just means your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and urges. Awareness of these aspects of yourself is the first step to change and growth. After all, you can’t change what you don’t know about. – Dr. Jacqueline Baulch

To be self-aware is to recognize your feelings, thoughts, and motivations.

Take, for example, you realize that you are antisocial because you are ochlophobic (having a fear of crowds). Here is what you have done: you have successfully learned something about yourself that you had not given much thought to previously.

The victory of self-awareness is not the fact that those traits haven’t always been present but the fact that we can identify the traits and call them by name. That way, you decide whether to always give in to these feelings and motivations or work your way out of them. Two core points in self-awareness are recognition and response.

Being self-aware leads you to feel more in control and as such, making decisions becomes easier. You can open up to others easily concerning significant matters. You might even feel more hopeful and this would help you identify your triggers.

Concerning Triggers

Triggers are external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair, or negative self-talk.[1]

For example, when someone with a history of trauma comes around anything that reminds them of a traumatic experience (i.e a trigger), it can make them feel like they are experiencing the trauma all over again (the response).

Reacting to triggers is normal, but if we don’t recognize them and respond to them appropriately, they may cause a downward spiral, therefore, making us feel worse. Identifying triggers is a great part of self-awareness that increases our ability to cope and to develop plans around avoiding or dealing with triggering events.

Some examples of common triggers are:

  • family friction
  • being yelled at
  • physical illness
  • sexual harassment
  • frightening news events
  • the end of a relationship
  • being around your phobias
  • spending too much time alone
  • certain smells, tastes, or noises
  • too much to do, feeling overwhelmed
  • the anniversary dates of losses or trauma
  • financial problems; getting a far-reaching bill
  • being around someone who has treated you badly
  • being judged, criticized, teased, bullied, or put down
  • aggressive-sounding noises or exposure to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable

[1] https://www.mentalhelp.net/recovery-and-wellness/triggers/

How do you deal with triggers?

Many people believe that they can overcome trauma and mental health issues without help. Sadly, the situation often worsens as a result. Here is our advice for dealing with triggers:

  • Identify your triggers – Keep a journal at hand and be honest with yourself. Write when you feel triggered and try to figure out what led to it.
  • Practice relaxation techniques – Such as deep breathing exercises, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and meditation.
  • Pay attention to trigger warnings – The media and community organizations have taken up efforts to put up a warning like “This content might include graphic references to topics such as sexual abuse, self-harm, violence, eating disorders, and so on, and can take the form of an image, video clip, audio clip, or piece of text.” Always act in your best interest concerning such contents.
  • See a therapist – It is always in your best interest to seek professional help.

Author: Elizabeth Odeniyi

Contact info: odeniyielizabeth@gmail.com

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