Understanding triggers as they relate to our emotional states and cognitive functionality is key to our well-being and peak performance in all areas of our life.
A trigger refers to an event that causes us to shift into a state of not feeling safe — we do not feel supported and we go on heightened alert — a fight, flight, freeze or fawn sympathetic response which automatically releases epinephrine and norepinephrine in our bodies which then begins a cascade of physiological responses.
Often, the trigger is emotional, such as a loved one saying something that is perceived as disrespectful, signally that “we aren’t enough” which then because of old trauma becomes a trigger of not feeling safe. The body doesn’t distinguish between emotional threats and physical threats, both are handled with the same wash of hormones and heart-pounding, ready to fight or flee (or freeze or fawn, depending on the inherent survival mechanisms) physical reactions.
Being self-aware and tuned into the sometimes subtle, often not subtle, signs of a trigger allow us to move out of the amygdala and into the higher processing of our prefrontal cortex, giving us access to higher levels of decision making. Did the trigger signify a real threat? Is this something we need to address or is it something we can laugh off?
Practicing being aware of our state, whether we are calm, taking deep even breaths, or if we are constricted, breathing more rapidly is the first step in elevating our navigation of triggers. Track your breath, track your subtle physical feelings. Tune into that plane of awareness frequently throughout your day so that it becomes automatic. Whenever anything feels uncomfortable, take an extra breath and an extra scan to notice what is going on in your system.
Use LAVA: Listen, Acknowledge, Validate and Ask Empowering Questions whenever something feels tight or uncomfortable in your breath and/or your body.
Could this be something lingering from the past or anxiety about a future unknown instead of something real NOW, and how can I come back to this moment with love, with grace, with power? What is it that I really want in my heart and how can I get it?
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