Replacing Triggers

Alex Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW
Individual, Couples & Family Therapy
IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor
AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor
Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.

Posted by: Alex Robboy
CAS, MSW, LCSW Individual, Couples & Family Therapy IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.
267-324-9564

Anxiety Treatment in Philadelphia - Replacing Triggers: Focusing on Anti-Anxiety Alerts Anxiety triggers are key circumstances that engage the anxiety response. Some people may find that crowds trigger their anxiety. Others may discover that deadlines, office meetings, or even certain sounds or sights can trigger their anxiety. Anything can be a trigger and everyone who suffers from anxiety is different, so their triggers differ slightly. Uncovering triggers is a great deal of the fight against anxiety. Once pinpointed, triggers become warning signals that anxiety is immanent and allow the individual to employ anti-anxiety techniques to assuage an attack.

But all triggers don’t have to be negative. Once the concept of triggers is understood and natural triggers for anxiety are established, you can learn to replace the old triggers with new, positive signals that shift the focus of the mind off the negative, anxiety inducing patterns and onto more positive, affirming patterns. Developing new triggers to phase out the old ones can be a very effective way of dealing with the issues behind the anxiety, and not just the attack itself.

The first step to creating positive triggers is to sit down and think carefully on what relaxes you. Keep a pen and paper with you to make notes and feel free to involve a loved one or partner who can help you with this process. Be sure you have ample time and a comfortable space to really get into the exercise. Think of the word relax. What images or ideas does that word stimulate in your mind? How do you see yourself in relation to that word? Are you sitting, moving, talking? Are you alone or with someone else? Who? Do you picture someplace outdoors and sunny or perhaps a cozy nook inside? Don’t screen for what you think is appropriate here, just brainstorm and make notes of anything and everything you see and imagine.

You can go through a list of words with this replacing triggers exercise. Words like happy, positive, peace, calm, and serenity are good examples. Any word that can help you identify the things that work against your anxiety will do. Once you have tried several words and have a full list of ideas and images that spring to mind, you can sort through those ideas for the ones that are most likely to make practical triggers. What you’re really looking for are things that can be quickly and easily implemented throughout your day. Obviously, if you associate the beach with relaxation you cannot run off to the beach every time you desire; but you could utilize a beach photo or some other simulation to get the idea across. Narrow your list down to handful of convenient images or concepts.

Now you must insert one or more of these items into your daily routine. You can make the item a trigger itself or you can create a trigger to implement the item. For example, you could place a postcard of the beach near your computer at work. Associate this picture with a something positive like the word calm or a deep breath at home first through simple repetition (saying the word or breathing deeply while viewing the picture). Now, every time you look up and see the postcard throughout the day you will respond automatically by thinking of the word calm or taking a deep breath, both of which are beneficial in reducing stress throughout your day.

Another example of replacing triggers would be to choose a trigger already in place, such as your coffee breaks at work or every time you go to the bathroom, and place the postcard where it can be seen during that time, such as next to the coffee pot or on the bathroom mirror. Now, whenever you engage in that activity you will see the picture of the beach and be instantly reminded of calm, happy, positive associations. Again, you are exposing yourself to positive, affirming, relaxing stimuli throughout your day to reduce anxiety build up and the likelihood of an attack. 

Utilizing positive self-placed triggers is a great way to make the idea of triggers work for you. In the end, it aims to switch the busy, subconscious focus of your mind from anxious, destructive patterns to calm, peaceful ones. The next time you take a sip of hot tea, enjoy the sunshine, or listen to soothing music, stop and consider if that could be part of a new trigger to fill your day with tranquil thoughts and feelings that will eventually drown out your apprehensions.

Center for Growth / Anxiety Treatment in Philadelphia - Replacing Triggers

Speak with a counselor today 267-324-9564.