Last article, I talked about things you can do when coping skills aren’t working. Fortunately, there will also be times when coping skills do work and they will have the desired effect you are looking for.
When this happens, lean into it and embrace the effects of your intention and hard work. Rejoice in moving through some difficult emotions and coming out the other side.
When you reach a point where you feel that you can rationally reflect on the heightened symptoms you had, there are some questions that you can reflect on that will hopefully decrease the frequency in which your heightened symptoms occur.
- Can you identify what triggered your heightened symptoms?
- Triggers are a term within mental health that we lean into when we try and figure out what sets our symptoms off. For example, maybe you read a work email before bed that talked about an upcoming project deadline and then your anxiety heightened and you couldn’t go to sleep.
- Is there something within your control that you can change about your trigger?
- Running with the same example as above, a change that you could make would be to no longer check your email before bed.
- Are there broader shifts you can make with your trigger to minimize the likelihood of heightened mental health symptoms?
- In the specific instance when your anxiety heightened, it was right before bed so you shifted to no longer checking your email before bed. Reflecting more on this experience, you realize it could be even more beneficial to silence your work email any time you aren’t at work. You may not feel your anxiety gets as effected when you check it during other times during the evening, but you realize that by silencing it any time you are not at work you’ll be able to be more present with your family and more intentional with your focus.
- Are there common messages that were going through your head when you found yourself triggered?
- When you read the work email about the deadline, maybe your internal thoughts started to tell you that you were going to fail and that you would end up fired. Or maybe your thoughts told you that you wouldn’t get the job done on time and this would be the job where people realize you’ve been an imposter this whole time. Chances are when you start to take note of your internal dialogue, they tend to circle certain core thoughts. Like not being good enough, not being worthy of connection or being different and alone. When we start to identify these common messages, we can then begin doing direct and intentional work at restructuring those.
Sometimes, these questions are things that you can work through on your own or with the help of the insight of those close to you. Other times, your triggers can be outside of your awareness and therefore nearly impossible to identify. If you are finding difficulties identifying aspects of your triggers, this is where a mental health professional can step in and aid in this discovery.
Kylie Larson, MA, LPC