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  • Writer's pictureShannon Wiggins

How to Deal with Anxiety | Step One, Know Your Triggers

How to deal with anxiety...

One of the very first things that you're going to need to do in order to get a handle on your anxiety is to start identifying your triggers. Now you may be thinking, “what exactly is a trigger?” Simply put, a trigger is any situation or event that causes your anxiety symptoms to begin or get worse. These events are going to be different for everyone. So for one person, they may have an issue with speaking in front of large groups of people, and therefore, public speaking is a trigger for them. For some people they may have concerns about driving, so having to drive somewhere is a trigger for them. Honestly, a trigger can be anything.


Personal triggers are things that may trigger an automatic reaction from you that are extremely personal in nature. Personal triggers include things like certain smells, tastes, places, or maybe a song. These things can cause a visceral response in us and are connected to us in a unique and personal way.

The reason certain things trigger anxiety in us, especially when it's a personal trigger like a song or a smell, is that it is attached to a negative event or traumatic experience. This is what happens often with people who are diagnosed with PTSD, which is anxiety disorder. Certain environments, smells, sights and sounds trigger them because it is associated with a negative or traumatic event that has happened to them.


So, the very first step in being able to handle anxiety and deal with anxiety in a better manner is to know your triggers. Now a word of caution here. Learning what your triggers are is going to take time. It is not always clear to us what is causing our anxiety. This is because sometimes the things that are triggering us are doing so on a subconscious level. And it’s pretty hard to figure out what you’re thinking when you literally don’t realize you’re thinking it! But don’t worry, there are three great ways to learn to identify your triggers.

1. Writing in your journal-- This works because it gets the thoughts that are in your head out onto the paper and you are able to purge yourself of the things that may be triggering you. Another reason why journaling tends to work is that over time, as you continue to journal you'll start to notice a pattern throughout your journal entries. So, maybe you start to notice that the last time you were triggered and had anxiety was while driving on the highway but when you were driving on a rural road you didn't have any issues. And maybe you start to notice that every time you drive on a highway you start to feel anxiety, but driving on rural roads never seems to bother you. Well, that would be a good indicator that driving on the highway is a trigger for your anxiety. And an important detail here is that driving in and of itself is not the trigger. The trigger would specifically be driving on the highway. The key to remember is to be patient with yourself. This is a process that will take some time.

2. Being really honest with yourself-- As you’re working through your triggers with journaling, it's going to take really being honest with yourself. Even if you decide not to use the journaling method, figuring out your triggers is going to take being honest with yourself. This is a key factor in dealing with anxiety. Oftentimes, having anxiety is seen in a negative light and people don't want to identify as having anxiety, they don't want to be seen by other people as dealing with anxiety, and they don't really want to see themselves as dealing with anxiety. It’s not part of who they want to be. This can make it difficult to really have an honest discussion within yourself as to what is really causing you to feel this way. Another reason why it's so important to be honest with yourself is going back to what I said in the beginning about triggers. They are often attached to negative or traumatic events or experiences. We often don't want to think about these experiences or we don't want to admit to ourselves that that situation has had such a profound effect on us that it now invokes anxiety. So it's really important for you to maintain honesty with yourself while you're trying to identify your triggers.

3. Going to see a therapist-- The reason why working with a therapist is so beneficial in dealing with and treatment of anxiety is simply put, we're trained to work with individuals who are going through the exact same thing that you're going through. If you're dealing with anxiety, a therapist will know what questions to ask, what things may be indicators of anxiety, what may indicate a trigger, and may be able to see things that you didn't necessarily see in yourself. And that's when you have those “aha” or breakthrough moments that you hear so much about. So working with a therapist can be very helpful especially, when you're not really able to pinpoint what exactly is triggering you.

So if you are suffering through feeling nervous, anxious, or having anxiety attacks, and you're wondering how to deal with it, the very first step is to figure out what you are triggered by. From there, you’ll be able to learn coping skills that will help manage the anxiety. But first, you have to know what caused it to begin with.


Do you have tips that helped you learn your triggers? Let me know in the comments below!

Thinking we should work together? That’s a great idea! Fill out the contact form on the website or call directly at 910.745.0303.

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