How To Handle Things That Trigger You
Let’s talk about triggers and how to handle things that trigger you.
I’m someone that’s very easily triggered by a lot of seemingly innocuous things. I have ADHD and probably some other neurodivergent tendencies.
And it does manifest in me stressing out about pretty minor things.
Small Things That Trigger Me
Things that trigger me include things like:
- the sound people make when they eat
- the way some people pronounce some words – and it’s hard to give specific examples of that because it sort of happens in the moment
- sometimes the way people walk
- things being uneven or off centre.
And actually, there are a lot of other sounds that seem to do it to me as well.
I am fully aware all of these are very minor things. I have no control over them.
None of them are my business and it’s not my place to tell anyone else how they should or shouldn’t do something.
Me being triggered or stressed about them is entirely my thing. I don’t want to stress about them. And I know that they’re not my business, but somewhere deep down, my brain doesn’t want to cooperate with that.
It’s not like I’m deliberately trying to be annoyed by other people for completely innocent things.
Plus I can mask most things really well. And I don’t think to date, anyone has really been able to tell from how I act or how I behave that I’m feeling stressed or triggered by something like this.
Dealing With Daily Low-Level Stress
It’s a very long-winded way of me saying that I have a lot of things that trigger or stress me out on a daily basis. And if I didn’t have a way of coping with them, I don’t think I’d bother getting out of bed anymore.
As someone that’s kind of constantly got this low-level stress to try and navigate, there are a few things that I realized helped me handle my triggers.
Change Your Environment
I’m going to start with the one that I’ll normally resort to last, and that is changing my environment or getting out of the setting that I’m in.
And I’ve tried not to do this one because most of the things that trigger me are just things that are out of my control or just people being people.
And I need to be able to cope with them unless I want to live like a hermit for the rest of my life – which I mean, there might be some upsides too.
But anyway, the point I’m making is if all else failed and you feel stressed or overwhelmed in the setting that you’re in, then it’s worth trying to change that environment at least for a few minutes to give yourself that break.
Reduce The Load On Your Senses
The first thing I try and do is actually normally try and reduce the sensory load that I’m feeling. Being neurodivergent, it’s very easy for my senses to feel overloaded.
Reducing the load I’m trying to take in makes it much easier for me to try and actually cope with whatever stressing or triggering me.
For example, if I go for a walk, I’ll normally wear headphones and be listening to something that I can control or I’ll be wearing noise-reducing – not noise-cancelling – so noise-reducing earplugs just to help reduce that sound.
Narrow Your Focus
The next thing I’ll try is to narrow down my focus to something else.
If you’re in a social setting, you’re probably not going to be able to put earplugs in.
Although, to be fair, if anyone was in a social setting and just comfortably said, “Yeah. Just bear with me, I’m just going to reduce your sound” and then sticks some earplugs in, I would probably applaud them.
But most people in a social setting are not going to be able to put earplugs in.
So you need something else that’s going to work in case you can’t find a way to reduce that sensory load.
And for me, that happens to be narrowing my focus onto something.
A good example is if I’m surrounded by noisy eaters I can focus quite well on something on my plate. So that’s something I can direct my attention to, and it means that I’m not absorbing these triggers quite as much.
On a flight with crying kids around me, I can use earplugs that might not always work. In that case I might be able to open up a Sudoku game on my phone and just work on that.
Again, because I can focus my attention on one specific thing, it’s going to help reduce my absorption of other things around me.
Get Some Rest
Next up is to make sure you get some rest.
Feeling a constant low-level state of stress and being able to cope with it takes a lot of energy and it’s absolutely exhausting. So it’s really important to look after yourself and make sure that you’re getting the rest that your body and mind both need.
Otherwise, you end up in a spiral of being stressed from lack of rest.
And that means because you didn’t get that rest, you’re not quite as well equipped to cope with whatever’s triggering you.
And that means that it’s going to stress you out more, which is just going to make it harder for you to actually go and get some rest after that as well.
So you end up in this cycle in the spiral, which you want to try and get out of.
And the last one on my list is to set some boundaries.
If someone’s doing something that’s triggering you, even if it’s not their fault, and even if it’s something that you need to address internally yourself (like pretty much all of my triggers) it’s okay to put some boundaries in place.
It’s okay to say “I need a time and a place where I can get away from everything. Get away from these things that are stressing me out and then just be me.”
That’s going to allow me to feel more ready to cope and not feel overwhelmed.
I do need to point out that this is very different to say someone deliberately triggering you. So if someone knows that you get stressed out or triggered by loud eating sounds. And they’re going out of their way to stress you out by eating even louder, that’s a whole separate topic.
That’s 100% on them and hopefully, you’ll be in a position where you feel comfortable to be able to speak up and get them to stop. In certain circumstances in certain situations that might not always be possible, or you might not feel comfortable doing it.
How To Handle Things That Trigger You
So yeah, figuring out how to handle things that trigger you, annoy you, or cause you some kind of stress on a daily basis is often do trial and error to see what works for you.
For me, it seems to be down to a combination of different things in different settings.
It is always worth exploring what works for you.