If you are struggling with a mental illness, then you’re probably familiar with the term “triggers”. A trigger is any external event or form of stimuli that produces negative psychiatric symptoms. The symptoms may be anything from anxiety to discouragement, to despair, to negative self-talk, and more. It is normal to respond in this way to these triggers, especially if you have a mental illness.

It is crucial to learn to recognize your own triggers and become aware of them before they trigger a negative response. Failing to recognize triggers may result in responding to them inappropriately and can even lead to spiraling downward into a worse mental state. In this article, we will lay out some ways that you can be aware of your triggers and how you can plan to avoid or deal with them. Doing so will increase your ability to cope more effectively with your mental illness and will lead to a greater likelihood of avoiding these negative symptoms.

Identifying Your Triggers

The first step in managing your triggers is identifying what they are. Start by making a list of all the things that have triggered you in the past. If you can’t identify all of them, it is okay to add triggers to your list whenever you become aware of them. Some examples of common triggers are:

  • Being yelled at
  • Loud, sudden noises
  • The anniversary date of a sad event
  • Being made fun of or picked on
  • Certain smells, tastes, or sounds
  • Seeing acts of violence on TV
  • Hearing a certain song
  • Having too many things to do and becoming overwhelmed
  • Spending too much time by yourself

These are only a few examples of triggers that may commonly occur in your daily life. Writing them down is a great way of making yourself aware of them, and will help you to recognize them quicker whenever they occur. If it is too hard for you to think about your triggers and confront them on your own, ask a family member or friend to help you identify them and write them down. It may even help to talk with a therapist. A therapist is a licensed professional in this area, and they are experts at identifying triggers and helping you through them.

Take Action Against Your Triggers

Once you have identified your triggers, you can begin to plan ways to effectively deal with them. This will ultimately help you avoid the negative effects that triggers can place on your mind. You can begin with making another list and writing down the things that have helped you feel better in the past.

You can also ask a friend or family member how they deal with difficult times and incorporate them into your list as well. Once again, a therapist can be a huge help in this process too, as they have much experience helping other individuals through similar situations.

Ways to Cope

So, what are some suggested ways of dealing with triggers? To begin with, you should always tell somebody, even just one person. Call or talk to a trusted person in your life, such as a family member, friend, or therapist, and ask them to listen as you talk through whatever is triggering you. The worst thing to do when you are being triggered is to keep it inside. Bottling up negative emotions will only further worsen the effects the trigger has on your mental illness. Reach out to somebody and let them know what you’re struggling with. They are in your life because they care about you and want to help you.

Another way to combat triggers is to use relaxation techniques. There are many relaxation techniques out there that can help you in these difficult moments. You can try any of them out to see which works best for you. To just list a few of these techniques, consider breathing exercises, guided imagery, meditation, yoga, and prayer. You can even incorporate more than one of these practices into your daily routine. If you are experiencing a trigger, try a deep breathing exercise while shifting your focus onto something positive. While triggers may seem powerful, the mind is an even more powerful weapon. Mental illness does not mean you have to surrender to the triggers and negative thoughts. Make it a habit to incorporate relaxation techniques into your life.

Writing in a journal is another fantastic way of coping with triggers. This is another method that encourages you to not bottle up your emotions. Make it a goal to journal for at least a half hour. Setting a time goal will help you stay on task and really get you to let out what’s going on inside you. If you find it hard to write about the trigger, write about something positive instead. You could even write a story or a poem. Whatever it is you are writing about, it is a very therapeutic way to deal with inner emotions and your mental illness.

Exercising can also be a great way to deal with triggers. Not only will it take your mind off the negative thoughts, it is also great for your body in all aspects. When you exercise, your brain releases what are called endorphins. Your brain secretes these hormones in response to the exercise and results in a very positive feeling. It does not have to be anything vigorous or too difficult. Even just a half hour of walking outdoors can boost your mood and take your mind off the trigger.

There Is Always Help Available

If you are dealing with a mental illness, then you know that triggers are sometimes inevitable in life. We don’t always have control over a situation, but we can control the way we respond to it. Hold onto your list of triggers and your list of ways to deal with them, and keep them in a safe place. Making these lists will help you better understand yourself and your mind.