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How Do I Calm Myself Down When I Get Triggered?

A trigger is something that sets off a flashback to a traumatic event. Not everyone has the same triggers, however, it can cause intense fear and anxiety. Whenever you are triggered, it’s important to give yourself gentleness and compassion. Being harsh and rigid with yourself when you are moving through intense emotions only intensifies the negativity and triggers you further. You must remember that it is your unhealed, child self crying out for help. This is maybe something that heavily impacted or disturbed you as a child, or it’s something that makes you feel unsafe and reduces you to your child self. Regardless of the circumstances, your mind is in flight or fight, child mode, and you need to be your own mom and dad in these moments. When your brain is triggered and freaking out, it might not be so easy to soothe and parent yourself. Here are some tips that can help you regulate yourself after something triggers you:

Take deep breaths

This seems simple and obvious, but it is a very important step that should not be skipped. When you start to feel anxious and triggered, your heart starts to race, which makes it difficult to breathe. The harder it is to breathe, the less likely it will be that you will get that necessary oxygen to your brain. When your brain doesn’t have enough oxygen, it can’t think clearly, and you then can’t access the tools that you need to reason with yourself and bring yourself back to reality. Take slow, deliberate, and deep breaths to regulate your nervous system.

Ground yourself

You can ground yourself by focusing on the five senses. You can use this as you practice your deep breathing. Focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things that you can hear, 2 things that you can smell, and 1 thing that you can taste. You can also close your eyes and imagine that there is a cord extending from the bottom of your spine down into the earth, anchoring you to the ground. Imagine that pure, white energy is traveling up that cord, filling you with peace and stability.

Freewrite about your trigger

When you notice that you are feeling triggered, get out a pen and paper and free-write whatever thoughts come to mind. This helps you transform your negative thoughts into something more tangible that you can face head-on. Being able to see on paper what is affecting you mentally makes it easier to have enough awareness to reason with it. This can help you gain more clarity amidst all the confusion you might be experiencing and it also allows you to let it all go and leave it on the paper.

You can also write using these journal prompts:
-What specific emotions am I feeling?
-What negative thoughts is this making me think about myself?
–How am I identifying this with my trauma?
-What specific things am I doing to cope?

Keep your hands busy

When something triggers you, you may feel intense anxiety as you relive a traumatic memory. Keeping your hands busy in these circumstances will help keep you calm because it gives your mind a break. There are plenty of ways to do this. You can mold pieces of clay, play with kinetic sand, embroider or sew, draw, paint, or cook yourself a meal. These activities calm your brain because they give you the opportunity to focus your mind on something other than your anxiety. You’ll still be thinking of it, but it won’t feel as intense because you have something else to focus on as you work through the intense emotions that you are experiencing.

Soothe your body

Taking care of your physical body will send the message to your brain that you are safe and that everything is going to be okay. You may need to take different approaches depending on what symptoms you are experiencing. For example, you might run yourself a warm bath with calming Epsom salts and soak the anxiety out of your muscles. You might have an excessive amount of energy and need to expel this energy by going for a walk or a run. It’s up to you to listen to your body and determine what it needs at that moment. To find out what it is your body needs, sit with your eyes closed and do a body scan. Tune into your body’s natural rhythm, and sit patiently and curiously with yourself to determine what you need to feel better.


Our team of experienced counselors with specialized knowledge in arts and body-based therapies will guide you towards accessing your unique creative wisdom and unlocking your true potential. Call Integrative Counsel to work with one of our practitioners!

Alli Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts. Alli’s interests include painting, history, learning about other people, and wearing the color pink. She likens herself to a “mouse in a palm tree”, and she loves it that way.

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