Positivity Plan Point 5 – Recognise Your Triggers

[Recorded on Instagram 09/11/20 – Read the transcript below. Apologies for the out of sync audio after 7mins 50 seconds, the technology sometimes fails us!]

Hi, I’m Dr. Courtney Raspin from Altum Health, and welcome to week five of our viral positivity plan. And while we are still locked down, there are some good things that have happened in this week. Some things to feel positive about, and there is a sign that change is coming. And we can’t know for sure, but it looks like there’s potentially a vaccine on the way. That’s our first step to bringing an end to this pandemic. So that’s fantastic news.

In the meantime, we continue to do our best to get through lockdown 2.0, and that’s precisely what this plan is all about. It’s designed to give you advice and strategies based on proven psychological methods to help support you, help support your mental health and boost your positivity.

Oh, we’ve got some people joining us here. So I’m going to say hello. Hello, Lexi. Hello, Pip. Thank you. Hello, Emma. Thank you for joining us. Fantastic. Hi, thanks for your support and thanks for showing up. Oh, and there’s Vicki. Hi, Vicki. How are you? And Manila. Hello. Fantastic. Thank you again for joining us and I hope that you’re enjoying the plan so far.

Now, each week we’ll be covering a different area, but if you want to download the entire plan now, get your hands on all 10 tips, you can go ahead and download the whole thing from the link in the bio, or go to AltumHealth.co.uk/positivityplan.

Now, last week we talked about the psychological benefits of trying something new. We talked about how doing new things builds new neural pathways through a process called neuroplasticity, helps us feel more creative, helps us learn more quickly and helps give us a mental boost.

So I am wondering how you guys got on last week with trying something new? Please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear everything that you’re doing. I’m just going to say hello here. Hello, hello. Hi.

So yeah, how did you do with trying something new? I don’t know if you’ve been following our stories, but we’ve been posting about how my team and I have been trying some new things and maybe you may have missed it. So let me show you what we’ve been up to if I can get in here. Give me just a second. So one of our followers taught her cat to catch, definitely a new thing

And Dr. Josie Nicholson, Josie, she’s a fantastic psychologist on our team. She was trying some watercolor, which is great. She wasn’t very happy with her results, but she’s working on it. So great, Josie, thank you for sharing. I know that Emma went and explored Cambridge with the kids before the big lockdown came, which is fantastic. And this might be one of my favourite ones. We’ve got Misty the beagle. Yeah. Trying something different and behaving because Misty doesn’t really behave very much. So that’s Amy, Dr. Amy Crossley-Lewis. Another one of our fantastic psychologists trying something new.

Now, my big trying something new was I fed a fox. It was amazing. It was a beautiful Fox. It actually took a little chicken wing right out of my hand. It was a very, very sweet. So I’m sure some new neural pathways were developed when I did that. Now, let me see if I can turn this off now. Yeah, it was a great idea, Sean. Definitely. Yeah, it was pretty cool. So please do share with me as we continue to chat what new things you may have tried.

Now this week we are moving on to … Oh, didn’t my dog go crazy. Well, I did send a picture. I was at a friend’s house and I got a little text from my husband back saying that Luna would be jealous and so I should not show her the picture. So it wasn’t at my house, but she would not be happy, I’m sure.

All right. This week, week five, the theme is recognizing your triggers, and with Christmas around the corner, I think this one is spot on. Yeah. Because for those of us, for those of you struggling with depression and anxiety or eating disorders, I mean, what could be more triggering than Christmas? It brings up all sorts of feelings for people with food and family and relationships. So it’s a really normal time to feel that things are hard, to feel overwhelmed.

But before we actually go into my actual tips, I want to talk to you about what it really means to be triggered. Okay. Being triggered is more than being uncomfortable. I think we hear a lot in common vernacular. “Oh, I was so triggered or I was so triggered this, triggered that.” And while I am glad that that kind of language is becoming more common and we can talk about that, I do worry that people confuse being triggered with just being uncomfortable.

Being uncomfortable is normal. It’s a normal part of life. It makes us do things differently. It tells us that something needs to change, and when we are uncomfortable, we feel like we are able to make those changes. We feel like we can cope, that we have a choice in how we respond.

Now, when you’re triggered, when we talk about being triggered, we traditionally talk about this when we talk about things like post-traumatic stress disorder. Yeah. And what we mean here is that when somebody is psychologically triggered with PTSD or complex PTSD, it could be that a sight or a smell or a person or a situation can make them feel like they are experiencing the original trauma all over again. So people get either hyper aroused a lot of the time, yeah, or they can shut down.

Now, tonight what I’m going to be talking about here will not only cover those types of triggers, but we’re also going to be talking about what I’m saying is an emotional trigger as well is anything that prompts an increase or return of your symptoms. Anything that prompts an increase or return of your symptoms of depression, of anxiety or depression, or eating disorders rather, those are going to be your emotional triggers. Okay. So not just uncomfortable. Yeah. But to a point where you feel like you’re unable to cope, unable to make choices, unable to do things that feel right to you. Yeah.

Now, one thing that we need to remember is that when we get triggered, when you get triggered, you go outside of what psychologists would call your window of tolerance. Okay. Now what is our window of tolerance?

Now, I am going to show you a little illustration that I posted on Instagram early this week by the wonderful Lindsay Braman. She is a Seattle-based therapist and she does all of these amazing mental health illustrations, which I wish I could do. I cannot draw. You can ask any of my clients. But Lindsay, thank you for this. I am going to … Hold on. Let me see if I can’t find it. One second. Almost there, there we are.

Can you all see that? I hope so. Lindsay’s given us this illustration saying what the window of tolerance is, and the way she describes it is she says that our window of tolerance refers to how much we can handle emotionally before shutting down or blowing up. Okay. Before shutting down or blowing up. And what she says is that it’s normal to have a smaller window of tolerance during really stressful times, and this is a very stressful time.

So basically smaller things are going to throw you over the edge. Smaller things are going to make you blow up or shut down because we are more stressed right now. So it’s more important than ever to learn to recognize your triggers and learn how to deal with them.

Now, I’ll just take that away. Hello, I’m back. Now, there may be certain scenarios or people that you know will trigger an uncomfortable situation, and if you know these situations or interactions are likely to come up, be fantastic to plan for them. All right. Knowing that you have a strategy in place for managing these things will help you stay more positive during these tricky times.

So what are my positive actions to take? The first one is to make a list of the situations that you know are likely to trigger you. Now, sometimes triggers will just come upon you and you won’t be sure as to what it is, and we can’t always plan for those things, although we can plan for what we do when it happens. But when you can, we all know there are those situations and those people that just always trigger us. Yeah. Make a list. And sometimes the compassionate thing is to just avoid them, is to just avoid them. It might be that it is more compassionate for you to spend Christmas somewhere else this year. Why put yourself through that again and again and again when you just know how it’s going to end? Okay.

Now when you cannot avoid your triggers, try and plan a number of ways that you can choose to deal with them. Now, when you’re triggered, your body is telling you that you are not safe, that there’s danger around, and as we said, you can either blow up or shut down. And I think we’ve all been in situations where we’ve kind of felt so hyper aroused where things don’t make sense and we don’t feel we have choices or kind of just shut down, like everything is too much. And if you can find a way to take yourself away from the situation, yeah, use some breathing techniques. Go for a walk, divert or distract. Then you can bring yourself back into your window of tolerance and then decide what you’re going to do to manage the situation.

Now prevention is always best. So if there is a particular topic of conversation or a person that just is likely to trigger you, it’s important to plan out how that conversation might go. Okay. Don’t just jump into it without preparing carefully. A script is a great idea. Think about what they might say and what you might say. And if you can talk to somebody ahead of time, that is the best. For example, you might explain to your parents how you feel when they treat you like a child. Or maybe you might speak with your flatmates about how uncomfortable it makes you feel when they break lockdown rules and spend time with lots of friends, that it really makes you feel uncomfortable.

The important thing is to stay away from accusing them of things. Instead, focus on the effects that their behaviours have on you. Remember this year there’s going to be a lot that could be triggering, let’s say at the Christmas table or at the Hanukkah table. All right. Now politics is one that might come up. And I would just speak to your family ahead of time and you might be surprised to learn that they would rather not discuss those things too, that they would rather just keep those topics off the table. Maybe there are some ways that you can work together to make the situation better for all of you.

I’m just going to say hello here. Hello, hello Life Ever After and Mrs. Mack. Thank you for joining us tonight. Now I am wondering what your triggers are? Anybody be happy to share with us what their triggers might be? What they’re worried about over the Christmas period or over the next few months? Anything at all? I’m happy to help in any way I can to help you recognize and manage these.

I know that for me, I think one topic that is triggering is politics, and that is one I think is best just kept off the table. I know that for many of my clients, especially those struggling with eating disorders, the issue of what they’re going to eat at the table and what’s expected of them is hugely pressuring them, it’s hugely pressuring. And we spend a lot of time talking to them about the types of conversations that might come up at the table, body talk, food talk, and responses they might have when people comment on their food. Yeah.

Oh, we’ve got a couple of comments here. Let’s see. So Pip says, “Setting off on a journey that includes motorway driving triggers my OCD.”

Yeah. I can understand that. And maybe, Pip, it’s about saying, “Okay, well I accept that this is going to happen and I’m not going to be too hard on myself about it. That this is just what happens to me sometimes.” Because I think that if you get anxious about being anxious, then that makes all of those symptoms so much worse.

Again, I can’t speak to you one-to-one but I’d be curious to know the OCD, is it manageable or does it prevent you from actually getting to your destination? Because if it is so difficult for you that you can’t get to your destination, I’d certainly recommend getting some help. But if it’s something that you can carve out some extra time for, pull over, use some grounding exercises. Think about how you’re going to manage along the way and be compassionate with yourself, and that might be one way of handling this.

Ooh, I’ve got another one here from Kimberly. “Hi, Courtney. If you know a situation is going to be a trigger, is it okay to continually avoid or should you try to deal with it?”

Well, it’s a tricky one because when I work with people, I certainly want them to go towards connection. I want them to meet with people that they love and care about. And I don’t want them avoiding this all of the time, because then they don’t get the love and connection they need. So I think it’s a balance. If I were working with you, Kimberly, I would want to teach your nervous system to come back into that window of tolerance, and there are lots of things you can do in order to do that. So that if you’re feeling like you’re … If your body’s telling you that you’re in danger, we would teach you ways of regulating so that you don’t have to avoid.

But sometimes situations are just abusive. Sometimes situations don’t mean coming into connection and we force ourselves into situations that will be triggering because we’re being very hard on ourselves. And I would say if that is the scenario that you’re talking about, it’s more compassionate to just not go, to just avoid.

So I think that is it for tonight. And remember we have news of change. We have news of a vaccine. There are some positive things out there right now. So keep your eyes peeled for the things that make you feel positive. And if you want to share them, use the #positivityplan or tag me @drcourtneyraspin so that I can see them too. That’s all for me tonight, and I wish you guys a wonderful week. See you next week for week six. Bye.



Have you downloaded your copy of the Altum Health Viral Positivity Plan yet?  Visit www.altumhealth.co.uk/positivityplan to get your copy.

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