Facing My Triggers
Pop quiz, what do the following things have in common?
Calorie Counts on Menus
Images of Men’s Muscular Bodies
The answer is they are all triggers for me. In one way or another these things awaken my insecurities and anxiety. My need for perfection is amplified and I immediately go into comparison mode, telling myself I’m not enough or that one wrong decision will ruin my progress.
Triggers are everywhere. I could try to avoid them by declining invites to see my friends or go out to eat with Matt, but what fun would that be? I could delete social media, all media for that instance, but I would feel disconnected from the world and my friends. I could take down all of the mirrors in my house, but what will I do the next time we check into a hotel room or go to a friend’s house? And nutrition labels, well good luck with that one!
I can no longer let my fear of these triggers control my life, which means I have to face these triggers to live the life I want. But it is scary as hell!
I’m learning to embrace the way triggers make me feel. It doesn’t matter if I’m anxious, upset, or even angry, I stay in that space and experience those feelings. They are my natural reactions to a stimulus. I’m not weak or inferior because something makes me feel the way I do. I’m simply human.
Now I just mentioned my new favorite word, space. It is through holding space for myself that I am developing the tools to fight back and overcome my triggers. Holding space simply means I am stripping away all judgment of myself and connecting with my true inner self. Heavy stuff, right?
When faced with a trigger, I no longer judge myself for experiencing the emotions I feel. Take for instance my recent trip where calorie counts on the menu sparked anxiety and fear. Following the first encounter at the ice cream shop, I beat myself up for having that anxiety. I failed to create space because I was judging myself for being anxious, which in turn just made me feel worse.
The next morning, however, I invited that anxiety and fear to have breakfast with my husband and me. I stepped into the discomfort. I took several deep breaths and embraced the way those calorie counts made me feel. I granted myself permission to feel. And guess what? My guests ended up ditching us before the meal even came!
I create space in several ways. I walk every morning and then return home to write in my journal for a few minutes. I participate in activities such as meditation and breathwork to help me connect with my true being. While I’m not subject to triggers during these activities, I consider this my practice for the times I am.
So when I sign online and my feed is full of shirtless guys who have more muscle and likes than I can ever dream of, I am better equipped to slow down and acknowledge why I’m feeling the way I do in a judgment-free zone. I might even pull out my journal and write down how it makes me feel.
Or the next time I’m in the kitchen and I see a double-digit fat count on my box of snacks, I’ll take a breath and return to the space I am creating for myself.
Creating space and overcoming triggers requires practice. There will be times like my recent outing at the ice cream shop when the triggers prevail, but it’s okay. Simply recognizing what triggers me is a sign of growth and another step forward on the road to recovery.