Anxiety triggers can be a tricky. I used to get really hung up on ‘triggers’. And I think lots of people who experience anxiety can get fixated on pinpointing a trigger in their search for a ‘solution’.
I mean, if I know when/where it’s going to happen, I can avoid those times/places, right?
Sorry to be blunt, but that is so far from a long-term solution, it’s frightening!
In the beginning, my anxiety was totally centred around work and speaking, until it got to the point
I had to leave my job because it involved lots of presenting, meetings, and you know… talking!!!
But by leaving my job, I created an avoidance strategy. I didn’t realise that’s what I was doing at the time,
I just knew I couldn’t carry on that way and felt like there was no other option… (now, I know better!).
As a result, by avoiding (not facing) the anxiety, the triggers became more regular and seemed to become completely random – standing in line in a coffee shop, driving my car, even having a drink with old friends
in the pub (my natural habitat!).
That’s when I started obsessing over triggers and what they could be.
Getting lost in a loop of victimhood and ‘why me?’
She’s just trying to keep you safe. Her main job is to keep you alive and it’s a pretty big job!
Somewhere along the line (at a time you may or may not even be consciously aware of), your
hypervigilant primitive mind created an association between something that happened to you which
it perceived as ‘dangerous’ and a ‘new’ thing which now triggers your anxiety.
The subconscious mind operates using feelings, associations, reactions, experiences, and emotions to
make ‘sense’ of the world (not always successfully!).
Unlike your conscious mind (or cortex), which has the luxury of taking its time and using reasoning,
logic, creativity, and rationale to relate to its environment.
Associations made by the subconscious mind are powerful!
And no amount of logical, rational thought will interrupt them once they have been triggered.
So, be kind to yourself and your primitive mind – soothe rather than scold –
even when she appears to be doing her best to sabotage you.
She really isn’t trying to destroy your chances of getting your dream job. She’s just recalling a fearful
situation you were in the last time you encountered someone wearing the same aftershave as your
interviewer, for example.
Consciously, you’re not aware of it, but subconsciously?
So don’t get mad at her. Soothe her.
Let her know everything really is fine, and you’ve got this.
Calm and slow your breath, use a calming visualisation (she loves visualisation!) and ease into what you
need to do as comfortably as you can.
The only way your subconscious mind learns is through experience.
Which is why ‘exposure therapy’ is the most effective treatment for all kinds of anxiety-inducing phobias and fears.
Experience of the very thing you fear most and coming out the other side provides proof to your subconscious mind that whatever it is won’t kill you and is therefore safe.
Voila! Fear dealt with and gone!
You can go one of two ways with this.
With my clients, I always choose the slow and steady method.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a big, exciting, scary goal as much as the next coach, but I help my clients, break it down… break it down again… and again if necessary! Until the actions are so aligned and so incremental, there’s a chance your subconscious mind won’t even notice how much you’re changing,
so will stay quiet and tantrum-free!
The other way is called ‘Flooding’ and should always be done with a trained professional.
Yep, it’s as terrifying as it sounds!
It’s when you hear of the extreme arachnophobe walking straight into a tank full of tarantulas.
It’s extreme and aggressive and I’m pretty sure will scar you for life if not done properly.
But if you come out on the other side, the benefits are pretty immediate and powerful. Afterall, the primitive mind works with powerful emotions and reactions.
But, oh hell no!! I’ll stick with the meandering wander to my goals, thank you!
In the end, the search for triggers can be counter-productive.
It’s the search for something to which you can give away your control.
You become at the mercy of the trigger and can abdicate responsibility for what’s happening.
For example, if you’ve been triggered by crowds – and go on to ‘blame’ the crowds.
You will feel compelled to have a panic attack in a crowd, near a crowd, or when you think about crowds.
You create the result by believing the crowd will trigger you.
Sometimes, there isn’t a discoverable trigger. Sorry.
Your brain just gets confused, creates associations that are unhelpful, and sets off a chemical reaction
that is disproportionate and unnecessary. Let’s call it a ‘design-anomoly’!
The more you look for triggers, the more you invite the panic in…
e.g. I always panic in crowds… I’m in a crowd… I MUST PANIC!!!!
Letting go of the idea of a trigger means you are not compelled to always panic in certain situations.
It also means you stop avoiding things and situations – and as we know, avoidance only compounds the problem.
For me, comfortable, controlled, calm experience of the very thing you perceive as triggering is the way the subconscious mind will learn most effectively that it doesn’t need to protect you or prepare you for fighting or running away.
Let me know if triggers are an issue for you – I have a brilliant exercise which I use with my clients to delve into the world of subconscious associations and triggers, which can unearth some fascinating results!
Hi there, my name’s Kathryn and I’m an Anxiety Release Coach at My Chakra Life.
My mission is to help open-minded professional women who want to transform their relationship with anxiety so they can fall back in love with their work and life.
Over the last ten years, I have honed and tweaked the tools and techniques which worked for me, into my three-stage Anxiety Release Process:
Why not join us in our Facebook Group – our community for creative women learning to live anxiety-free, reconnect with their inner-selves, and shine in their career or business with conscious, calm, confidence.
Or you can download my guide: ‘Journal your way to CONSCIOUS, CALM, CONFIDENT‘ to give you a little ‘Consciousness Jumpstart’!