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How to Manage Your Triggers

Anyone who has been through any type of trauma may have experienced or will experience ‘being triggered’. But I have come to learn that not everyone knows how to manage these triggers when they occur, more so being proactive about it. In my last post, I wrote about understanding triggers, now let us learn how to manage triggers.

Managing triggers may sound very simple, but they may not be as easy as they sound, however, it is completely doable. You will just need to give yourself time to understand yourself and your patterns in determining what works best for you. I will split this into three main parts on how to manage your triggers: pre-trigger, ‘trigger-crisis’ and post-trigger.

Managing Yourself Pre-Trigger

  1. Understand your triggers: Pay attention to the things that cause you triggers. In the last post, we talked about internal and external triggers. Are your triggers more internal (such as fear, anxiety, panic) or external (environments, certain people and places). Do they occur at certain times of the day, month? How about maybe around specific seasons? For example, I noticed the birth and death anniversaries of my parents and brother are triggers for me, including Christmas (my dad died a little over a week to Christmas). I got depressed and overwhelmed a lot around these periods. Problem is they always snuck up on me, which leads to the second thing.
  2. Name and Prepare for your triggers: Once you can pinpoint your triggers, name what you feel when they set in (for example, panic or depressed), then prepare for it. As mentioned earlier, the triggers I experienced used to sneak up on me, but once I understood the dates and time, I prepared. One thing I did was:
    • Initiate the thoughts myself rather than let it come in haphazardly. For instance, I would think ahead of things I am grateful for about the lives of my loved ones who had passed and those still here with me. This sort of ‘redirected my feelings’ and I was better prepared when the negative feelings came.
  3. Engage your support system: Talk to at least one person whom you trust who can tell behavioral or psychical signs in you, and if need be, stop it in its tracks. For example, I start to get irritated for no reason. Sometimes, my husband calls me out on it, and I know I need to scale back on stress.
  4. Decide on a ‘happy place’: This can be a person, place, thing or memory that brings you so much joy. For me, my family is my happy place. More to come on this.

Managing Yourself During a Trigger-Crisis

The steps to manage yourself in this sounds the simplest, yet the hardest. It is kind of like trying to cure a sickness rather than working to prevent it. Takes more effort (energy). But here are some things that can help:

  1. Admit to yourself that you have been triggered and acknowledge the feeling. This is like gliding with the wind, rather than fighting against it.
  2. Practice deep-breathing (this helps calm your nerves)
  3. If the trigger was a familiar object, close your eyes and combine it with #2
  4. If you can find an object, shift focus to it.
  5. Picture your ‘happy place’: This is why it is important to decide the happy place before a crisis. In the middle of the crisis, it is easier to ‘go there’ when it is pre-determined.
  6. Call someone who can help you keep calm or remind you of these steps
  7. Have an internal affirmation: This can be anything. My go-to was “Jesus help me”. Also, muttering something like “this is not real” can help too.

Managing Yourself Post-Trigger

  1. Relax: Do not try to rush off to the next thing. Your body has just gone through stress. Stress is not the next thing it needs.
  2. Journal: Again, do not try to do this right after a trigger-crisis. But not too far either that you forget. Write down all you can remember (what helped and what didn’t). Soon enough, you will notice a pattern and that can help you be better prepared next time.

In addition to the above, the following are also ways of managing triggers:

  1. Exercise: this helps balances hormones in your body and reduces stress. Personally, I find, stress is my number one undoing.
  2. Eating clean: Also hormone related, but you feel better energy overall, which helps.
  3. Therapy: I have personally never undergone therapy, but it definitely can work. Depending on how severe it is, it’s probably advisable to see a professional.
  4. Have a Support System: whether it is someone (people) actively praying for you or who you can call when triggered, you need positive and compassionate people around you.
  5. Meditation & Prayer: I am a Christian, and this is by far what worked the most for me. Engaging the truth of God’s Word for me through mediation, confession and prayer was and continues to be the best thing for me. If you have no relationship with Christ, I encourage you to re-think (and feel free to send me a message)

So there it is people, these are some ways you can manage triggers, and/or help someone you know experiences such. I must say that I am not a psychologist, or a therapist. These are drawn from my personal experience dealing with triggers and what worked for me overtime. I know first hand triggers and the experience they bring can get in your way of living life to the fullest, but it does not have to be that way.

What have you tried, did it work? Share with me me in the comments below.

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Blog My Clear Mind UnderstandTEEN-YOUTH

When We Were Teens

All too quickly, adults forget what it was like when we were teens. So we have lots of teens who keep issues to themselves and end up making mistakes that could have been avoided if only we chose to remember what it was like when we were teens and provided the support they need. So let me share a quick story with you.

Once upon a time, there lived a teenager who was full of life. No matter how brightly a room was lighted, it felt like she brought a brighter ray of sunshine with her whenever she stepped in.

She gave hope, listened to those who hurt, offered comfort and loved each person like they were all that mattered. Every girl wanted to be her and every parent wanted her for a child.

Until one day, she was announced dead! Tears flowed, people wondered, how could such a young beautiful girl so full of life be dead? It was unfair. People wanted to say much at her funeral, but they were unsure how to connect the dot between such sweet girl and the fact that she killed herself.

Shocker, she killed herself! STOP! REWIND!

Let us go back to the beginning of this story. Once upon a time, there was a girl so full of life. She always was the life of the party, but she was hurting. She felt alone, misunderstood and afraid of appearing weak if she opened up about what she was experiencing.

Sleeplessness, overeating, crying incessantly for no reason were all the things she felt. She tried to talk to her parents, and Dad said “go talk to your mum, this is ladies business”. So she went to mum, and mum said “it is normal puberty feelings”, give it time they would go away, the feelings remained.

“Maybe I am overthinking this” she thought, so she tried to continue being the life of the party, and the ‘good girl’ she was. Soon enough, homework started to feel like a burden, school was a drag, everything became irritating, the crying increased and she never wanted to get out of bed. “Stop being a lazy brat”, mum would yell. “Listen to your mother”, Dad echoed.

Conflict and tension started to build, she thought her parents were not being understanding, “they just don’t get me”, she thought. Her parents are starting to have serious concerns, “why is this girl being so lazy all of a sudden, what are we doing wrong” they wondered. So the cycle began, and the not so helpful conversations.

“Maybe you are not praying enough”, says the Christian friend. “Maybe you need to workout more”, says the gym-addict. “I think it is because you are too fat”, or “maybe you are just not strong enough”. All of these voices, they echoed very much what the one other voice that mattered the most had been saying to her- ‘the voice in her head’.

Each time she heard about all the things she was not doing enough, that voice said “I told you so”, see “you will never be good enough”, “you will never be pretty enough”, “you can never do anything right”, and “maybe you should just end your life”.

On the inside, she was torn apart each day, on the outside, whenever asked- “how are you”, with the brightest smile you had ever seen, she replied “I’m fine, thank you’. Her smile was so bright it blinded you from seeing the sadness in her eyes, until she finally listened to the voice in her head.

And just like that, she who was once the life of the party, had no life left in her. STOP! FAST FORWARD! She is actually alive. These were the thoughts and battles she dealt with, but she never really listened to the voice in her head. She came close so many times, but, ‘soldiered’ through it, until she met someone she could talk to.

When she did, her issues did not disappear all at once, but she felt better, because she spoke up. The need to be perfect, the pressure to be something to everyone, all lifted.

What did start as feelings of puberty had grown into depression, suicidal thoughts and a near-suicide attempt. Add to that the social pressure of perfection and the ‘achievement’ culture we have created, there is no telling that these things impact teens a lot.

As adults, some of us felt these things when we were teens. And we wished someone was there to walk us through it, to listen to us, and let us know that it will all be okay in the end. Many of us suffered in silence- heck we still do suffer in silence, because the culture told us to feel this was was weak, demonic and meant that we had to be ostracized. Are we really going to let our teens of today go through the same?

What to Do If You Are The Girl?

  1. Realize that there are lots of people who have been in this space. Open up to someone you trust, who can listen with compassion and no judgement.
  2. Remember that YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
  3. Prayers, mediation, exercise, good diet, workout etc. are actually great and releases the right hormones to help mitigate those feelings, practice as much as you can on them.
  4. Stop putting pressure on yourself. You have time to grow, so just grow. No plant ever frets about whether or not they are budding right or if their flowers look good enough. They just grow.
  5. Talking about it can be hard, but not talking about it only makes it worse

What to Do as A Parent of the Girl

  1. Listen to your child. When they come to you , pay attention. I know we are busy, but this is your child, what could be more important? Be the person they trust the most, and want to talk to about their feelings, fears, dreams and aspirations. Make yourself attractive to your kid
  2. Help them know they are not alone. Share some of your teen-years epic failure stories. To draw the lesson, share the consequences of your actions, what you could have gone back to do better. Trust me, they will think about it. Let them have to ‘laugh’ at you about it. You would have taught them valuable life lessons, and also told them, they are not alone and you get it! This is how to make yourself attractive to them.
  3. Model life balance for them. Let them see you take a break and rest/relax with dirty dishes in the sink. Let the see you pray, meditate, read a book, work. Share some of your unwinding secrets with them (provided they are good stuff, oh God, it better be good stuff). Dance with them, exercise with them, cook healthy meals together. Family activities creates bond, lowers defense walls, and sets the right tone for authentic expressions.
  4. Do not put pressure on them. Nudge them towards being better, but not in a negative way. Avoid comparisons with siblings and others. Before you yell at them for not doing the right thing, ask yourself “have I actually taught them what is the right thing to do here?” Set reasonable goals with them and build support system to help them achieve those goals.
  5. Let them know its okay to share how they feel. Sometimes, just letting them vent and sitting there to listen is the best you can do. Pray with them afterwards, and continue to pray for them. Please be actively involved in your child’s life.
  6. Finally, Parents, study your child, and use this mental health spectrum to get an idea of where your kids are mentally. It shows behavioral acts that matches where people are on the spectrum. If you observe disturbing consistency outside the green zone in your child, take the necessary step (including professional help) to correct it and bring them to optimal mental health.

Last year into this year has been particularly hard for lots of teenagers. It is hard enough being a teenager: hormones all over the place, feelings you have no idea what to do with, worried about asking questions or making mistakes, trying to maintain good grades, do house chores, meet everyone’s ecpectations and then now, COVID-19.

In Canada, the inconsistency with school, the back and forth with closures and the pandemic in general has affected social interactions among teens. In addition, thier pysical acitivies ahve also been impacted. And like everyone else, they still worry about not getting infected with COVID-19.

We can all agree that they can use a little more patience, understanding and compassion. Much more so, they can use a loving, listening ear. Will you be that person for them? Or have you forgotten what it was like to want to be heard and understood, when we were teens?

Its #BellLetsTalk day. This is yet another opportunity to peel off stigma form the topic of mental health. This impacts us more than we care to admit, so why don’t we start having honest conversations about it? I for one, perhaps because I work closely with teenagers have decided to make a case for teens today.

So how will YOU make the conversation easier? Being open is a good place to start!

Thank you for reading and sharing.

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Blog My Clear Mind UnderstandTEEN-YOUTH

Why you should know about the mental health spectrum

“Ignorance is bliss”. Ever heard that before? I bet you have. But is it really? Food for thought- for you, not me! Get thinking after reading this.

You ever heard of the mental health spectrum? If you have, give yourself a pat on the back, welcome to the elite club! If not, then now you get to know. Either ways, dare I ask if you know where you belong on that spectrum?

But knowing about it is not enough. Before I share the spectrum with you and why you need to care where you belong, let me share a quick story with you. You may also want to just scroll down, don’t, you will love the story, I promise.

Actually you know what? Read a different related story- remember the one I shared about “the the day I died”? There were some clear signs that my mental health was whack,. but no one saw it, I knew I felt weird and honestly depressed a lot, but didn’t know what to do about it or who to talk to, until I became suicidal, but for God.

Here is another thought, when you find yourself sneezing consistently, having a headache, feeling sore in your throat and nauseous, what would come to your mind? If you are a regular normal human, you probably start wondering if you are coming down with the flu, malaria, typhoid, etc. Do not self-medicate. Get your cute sick self to the doctor. These are SYMPTOMS that signal to our bodies that something is wrong and needs to be taken care of.

In the same way, there are symptoms that signal to you the NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.

I cannot begin to tell you how many people whose state of mental health are likely out of shape, but they are not even sure of how to put their feelings into words or know what steps to take. This is where the mental health spectrum/continuum comes in. Simply a chart you can use to measure your mental health.

Why you should know about the mental health spectrum- where are you on the continuum?
Source: Dr. Karim Dharssi

Now I get to ask you again, where are you on the spectrum? Not sure? Look at it again. If you are outside the green and yellow columns a lot, please seek help. There is NO SHAME! Everyone deserves to live life in the green.

As someone who was sexually abused from a young age, I lived more on the right side of the continuum for longest time in my life, without taking the matching action, hence why I got to the point of being suicidal.

But it does not have to be that way for you. There is no shame in admitting that you need to boost your mental health. If you have ever visited the doctor when you were physically sick, you owe it to yourself and loved ones to see a doctor for your mental health as well. This is why this spectrum is important- it shows you the symptoms that let you know if and when you need to rest, take a break, de-stress or seek professional help.

As an additional tip, parents, watch your children, if they start to exhibit some of non-green columns, something is UP, look into it, either as teens or little kids. I went from a super active child to being withdrawn at some point, but I doubt anyone noticed anything. Friends and families you have your role- pay close attention to your loved ones. Let us be indeed one another’s keepers.

How has this helped you see your mental health? I would love to know, share in the comments below. Like, share and subscribe.