Tips for Surviving Encounters with Your Personal Triggers

Ask Kendra is a blog feature where I will answer reader submitted questions about mental health, motherhood, creativity and more! (*please keep in mind I am not a doctor or medically trained professional). Have a question you want answered? Click here to submit.

Tips for Surviving Encounters with Your Personal  Triggers by Kendra Kantor |

I’ve read a lot of advice on how to identify my triggers but sometimes I can’t help but get in a situation that triggers me. What am I supposed to do? How do I deal when I’m in public and a topic or smell suddenly sends me into a panic attack?! Please help.

“A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.

Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback. She/he will react to this flashback, trigger with an emotional intensity similar to that at the time of the trauma. A person’s triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.” (source)

I’ve talked before about why it’s important to determine your personal triggers and even how to do so. But sometimes, even if we know our triggers, know how to react and even how to adapt our lives so we don’t encouter them…triggers still happen.

What do you do if you get triggered? How can you handle yourself in that moment when you come upon a trigger that send you straight into a panic attack (or depression, or flashback etc)?

4 Things to Do When You Encounter a Trigger

Remove yourself from the situation if possible

This is obviously not always a solution depending on what’s going on. But in most cases, you can walk away from the room, the event or whatever is going on for at least 5 minutes to re-center yourself.

If you can, leave the event or situation entirely until you have a better handle on coping with or moving past your triggers.

Practice acceptance of your emotions and the situation

“I feel anxious in this large group of people but I accept it.” The technique of acceptance is phenomenally helpful. It sounds easy but it is something that takes practice and it truly is something that can help.

The more you fight your anxiety or negative emotions, the worse they usually become. Practicing acceptance is all about learning that “negative” emotions have their place.

Be sure you are with someone safe who knows what is going on.

Depending on the situation, you might not be with someone you trust completely (if it’s a work event or similar). But have someone on text stand-by if you can. Your significant other, your parent or your friend. Let them know in advance that you might text them some day when you are in a hard situation just so you feel safe and less alone.

“Hey, I’m at this work event with tons of people and my anxiety is a little out of control.” “I’m just a text away,”

Re-focus on what is happening around you

This is a mindfulness practice you can do anytime and anywhere. Take a moment to pay attention to everything you are hearing, or smelling or even touching. Are you sitting in a chair in a busy restaurant? What do you hear? Laughter, the sizzle of a grill. What do you smell? Burgers and spices. What do you feel? The hard wooden chair and the ground beneath your feet.

Allowing yourself a moment to just re-focus on your senses can be benefical and help you see and feel more than just the anxiety that is happening.

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Header Photo Credit: Katie Tegtmeyer via Compfight cc

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  1. Posted October 29, 2015 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Great blog post! I have spent years learning to manage my trigger / response. The first trick is knowing we are triggered 🙂 Thanks for your great process for handling when we are.


  2. Posted October 29, 2015 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Great tips here. Once I realized what my triggers were — and there were many — I was able to tame many of them. I still fight with a few big ones. 🙂


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