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smells like teen spirit


"Ain't it funny how a melody can bring back a memory" Triggers are happening around us all the time. A trigger in psychology is a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma. What is it? Typically - it is a reminder of a past trauma, it's a lot like a memory, but without the positive associations.


This reminder can cause you to feel fear, sadness, anxiety, or panic. What I want to point out is that triggers can take many forms. They may be a physical location or an anniversary of the traumatic event. But, someone could also be triggered internally by stress. I tend to use trigger in the context of other mental health issues, such as anxiety, basically queuing an increase in (anxious) symptoms.


In the fall, around Thanksgiving, or thereabouts, I would start my usual recurrent searches of the CDC website. I would track and trend these cases, on full blown alert for the infamous stomach flu. Those two words, along vomit, puke, barf, you name it, are triggers for me. Granted I do not have the response I had five years ago, but the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! I am thankful some triggers have lessened their bite, but that's not always the case.


Let's think back to college and PSYCH-100. I am sure you learned about fight of flight - the automatic response critical to survival at our most primitive level. When you struggle with anxiety spurred on by triggers, it feels like your fight or flight is always on def-con one- people get stuck in a permanent state of fight or flight - automatically going into crisis mode when presented with one of those stimulus. Triggers are like landmines. You can be walking along through your day, your meeting, your conference call, step on a landmines and BAM - full blown anxiety.


Why triggers - why now?


Little background. When I quit smoking - years ago - I knew I would have to go through so many "firsts" without a cigarette... First stressful day at work, first road-trip, first concert, first cocktail, first cup of coffee, first football season, you get the picture. I went through all the life scenarios smoke-free. Landmines popped up all over the place, but I was able to keep pushing through and quit smoking.


So, why triggers - why now?


I went golfing for the first time since becoming sober. I was not prepared. I knew I was not going to drink, but what I did not know was that I would be asked about it more than once and it was one of those "things that make you go hmmmm" questions. "Can't you just have one?" Well as a matter-of-fact, that is exactly the case, I never could have just one... So that was a "first" I was not prepared for combined with triggers.


It was the trifecta of triggers. The sights, the sounds and the smells from golf course danced around in front of me. Not once, for a minute, was I even tempted to have one (NO WORRIES THERE) ... it sure did make me take a step back and feel compelled to share about triggers. They can be sneaky little fun suckers, Stand Strong.


Know your triggers - avoid your triggers and always remember, you do not need to live in constant fight or flight - keep pushing through with a little gratitude and grace. You got this!

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