For those who have just started their recovery journey, it’s important to be aware of what are called “triggers.” Triggers are types of reactions that can push someone back into their addictive cycle, or even a full-blown relapse.
Triggers look different for everyone but they all share common patterns that you can learn to identify. Ultimately, identifying them can turn into overcoming them so that you can live a healthy and whole life.
What Are Triggers and Why Do They Matter?
In general, triggers can be categorized into three different types:
Social triggers are usually caused by seeing people that you knew or were close with during your substance abuse; environmental triggers are brought on by being in places or situations you frequented during abuse; and emotional triggers can be sparked by any number of stressful emotional or psychological situations.
Emotional triggers are the most complex of the three categories. And oftentimes, other mental and emotional conditions play into how triggers are expressed. According to a recent study in the journal of Addictive Behaviors, people that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are significantly more likely to return to substance abuse habits than those without PTSD.
Although all three types of triggers have their different challenges, emotional triggers are the most complex and difficult to identify. Therefore, the tips below are focused on emotional triggers but can still be used in any situation or environment.
Identifying and Understanding Emotional Triggers
Our brains are wired to react in any given situation. As soon as something occurs, no matter how mundane, your brain sends a reaction signal. The brain then creates a reason for your reaction that is meant to justify your behavior. Unfortunately, this justification still happens even when your behavior makes no sense.
Sometimes this can result in you blaming your situation or people around you for a reaction that is entirely within your own control. You might blame your superiors, your working conditions, or life circumstances for a reaction that you made in a split second. But misdirecting blame is not the only way to deal with emotional triggers. There are healthier and more productive ways to overcome these triggers.
Seven Ways to Overcome Emotional Triggers
- #1: Accept Responsibility
In the first few moments after you experience an emotional trigger, it’s important to place yourself in a position of power and self-control in your mind. Try not to blame things around you. Instead, affirm to yourself that you are the only one who can control how you react and how things affect you.
- #2: Recognize the Emotional Reaction
It’s also important to pay attention to your body in the midst of an emotional trigger. Your body will tell you what emotion you are experiencing by breathing differently, constricting muscles, or activating a feeling in your gut. By noticing these small bodily responses, you’ll have a better chance at slowing down the trigger process enough to think rationally.
- #3: Identify the Cause
Once you determine that you are having an emotional trigger, the next step is to identify the cause of that reaction. Perhaps your emotions are triggered by the perception that someone is taking away something you value in life. Or maybe you’re assuming the thoughts of a person without enough information.
On the other hand, you will also be able to identify if your emotional trigger is a response to a genuine threat or danger. Only by slowing down will be you able to tell if you’re experiencing verbal abuse, manipulative behavior, or even physical danger.
- #4: Choose How You Want to Feel
After completing steps one, two, and three, you can then choose how you want to feel. Instead of letting your body or instinctual reaction decide how you feel and act, this is the moment to take back emotional control.
Once you make your choice about your feelings and what you want to do as your next step, it’s always a good idea to relax and remove tension from your body. This will help you clear your mind of thoughts and focus on how you want to feel. You’ll probably notice how your feelings change and find that you have more confidence in your decision.
- #5: Take Care of Yourself
When your body and mind are a healthy place, it gives you a huge advantage when trying to avoid all types of triggers. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising will put you in a balanced mental state that will help you deal with your new challenges more effectively. Having a clear mind and body helps you to avoid emotional responses that may cause you to relapse.
- #6: Surround Yourself With Supportive Relationships
In addition to the tips dedicated to emotional triggers, it’s also important to address social and environmental triggers. Therefore, it’s vital that you surround yourself with supportive people in safe spaces. Professional support groups and friends that understand your mission of recovery will go a long way in helping you avoid social and environmental triggers. Additionally, avoiding places that you frequented during your addiction will save you stress in the early stages of recovery and your vulnerable position.
- # 7: Believe in Yourself
Perhaps the simplest idea, but the hardest goal to achieve, in a life of recovery is to believe in yourself. To believe in yourself, you must fully forgive yourself for past mistakes and allow yourself to start building self-confidence.
Believing that you can get through a tough patch and address triggers when they arise is a key part to the recovery process. You must believe that you are stronger in sobriety. And although you will always have doubts and fears, your self-belief needs to just be a touch stronger than those doubts for you to succeed. You can do this.
To learn more about how to start your healing journey at Impact Recovery, get in touch with a member of our team here.