Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Discovering Your Triggers

I recently had a conversation with a reader of the blog and it has prompted this post, I hope she doesn't mind. Sometimes I take for granted where I am in my process of figuring all this out that I don’t realize all the steps it takes to get there.

Specifically, I know what my triggers are. Performing for people via eating, driving, playing the piano, etc. all cause anxiety for me. Eating is enough anxiety to cause a panic attack. But it took me YEARS to realize that this was what it was. I struggled thinking maybe I was allergic to something, maybe I had a weird eating disorder, maybe I had IBS, and so on.

This reader was puzzled because she didn’t know what caused her panic attacks. They would come out of no where and so it was hard for her to prepare for them.

If you fall into this same category, all is not lost. Here is my suggestion. For the next while, any time you feel any anxiety at all, track it. Depending on how often you have panic attacks or bouts of anxiety this will fluctuate on the length of time you need to do this. Get out a sheet of paper that you keep somewhere (when I worked on this I had a journal that I dedicated to my anxiety that I carried around everywhere with me. I kept all the little thoughts and quotes and affirmations in it, so I would also track them in there). But a note card or sheet of paper will be just fine. Once you have the anxiety immediately or as soon as you can write it down. Write down the date and time you had the feelings, where you were when you felt them, what you were doing right before hand, what thoughts you were thinking, how strong the feelings/anxiety were on a scale from 1-10 and anything else you feel is important. After time goes by where you continue to track them consistently, you should start to see a pattern developing. It may be a location that is similar, maybe the time of day which could have to do with what you are eating beforehand, a certain scenario, a certain thought that reoccurs, all sorts of things that might be causing your panic.

If you want to take it a step further, you can look at the thoughts you wrote down that you were thinking and replace them with a positive one, so when you have that thought again, you can easily tell yourself the positive thought and slowly work on reprogramming your brain. I do this often and I will post them here. Instead of carrying my journal around I started blogging instead and now my life is a bit of an open book.

This was how I learned that I feared above all else being judged by others. I knew I got sick when I ate, but I didn’t really realize that my mind was screaming inside me with the fears of “What if this happens, what will they think of me then?!?” until I thought about it and wrote it down each time.

When you are able to figure out what your trigger situations are it comes with a price. Yes you are able to be more prepared before entering a trigger situation, but then you introduce the anticipatory anxiety, or worrying about worrying in a given situation. This can be extremely stressful. But if I had to do it all over again, I would rather be able to prepare the best that I can for an event with the additional stress, as opposed to not knowing and having a panic attack pop up out of no where and leave me sick and scared and worst of all, feeling helpless and powerless against it.

Related Posts:
The Importance of Not Avoiding Your Fears A.K.A. Triggers

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Robert said...

Food for thought here, Aimée! Thanks! I'll pass this on to my wife, who's been doing better. But you can never get too many tips!

Glad to hear you had a good trip to Las Vegas. Now you'll be able to plan others!

Btw, I watched an autopsy. Fascinating! I surprised myself by NOT feeling the least bit uncomfortable or squeamish.

Molly said...

You look so happy on your trip! I am so glad that you were able to be proactive and keep your anxiety in check!
Take Care!

Anonymous said...

Every person has some anxious moments and worries in his/her life, which is normal and necessary. However if the anxiety and worry is excessive then one may be suffering from "Generalized Anxiety Disorder".

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