Managing emotional triggers through yoga
Feeling 'triggered' is an expression that is used and often misused quite regularly.
A trigger can be defined as the experience of having an emotional response to a non-threatening stimuli... a sound, a smell, physical sensation even words or conversations.
We can be triggered by other peoples challenging stories, reminders perhaps of something traumatic that has happened to us.
A triggering experience is not to be confused with feeling uncomfortable or something ruffling your feathers.
It is often associated with a painful memory, in some cases the individual might not even remember or know what is causing this response.
Your nervous system is responding to this stimuli in the same way that it would respond to a physical threat, it goes into protection mode. This can show up as 'fight or flight', freeze or fawn.
Fight or flight- this is the bodies physiological response to threat, it prepares the body to fight or to escape danger. This might feel like increased heart rate and breathing, trembling, a feeling of the blood flushing from the face, dry mouth and tense muscles.
Freeze- A feeling of immobilisation, as though you can not move, or speak, tension in the muscles, although the person is alert they are unable to take action
Fawn- This is an appeasement technique, the person will attempt to calm or negotiate with the threatening stimuli.
Learning to recognise the felt experience of a triggering experience in your body can begin the process of supporting you to manage them. Over time you will become more attuned to the ways in which your body responds, this will allow you to develop more compassion towards yourself and to feel more empowered to help to guide yourself through the experience.
It is not always an appropriate or safe time to begin to explore the bodily experience of a trigger. Remember if you feel triggered, it is okay to step away from the situation or conversation that has brought about these challenging emotions. If you are with a safe person you can let them know that you are experiencing strong and challenging emotions.
4 things you can try today:
Finding a safe space: If possible, try to go somewhere that feels less threatening or overwhelming. This could mean going outside, finding somewhere quiet, or less crowded. If you are a visual person it may be helpful to develop a visualisation practice which can help you imagine a safe place you can return to whenever you need.
Slow breathing: Triggering experiences cause fast, shallow breathing. You can learn breathing techniques which help you to slow down and deepen your breath. For example, diaphragmatic breathing can help you to calm your nervous system.
Movement: For example, if someone feels triggered, they might benefit from going for a walk or a run or shaking to release the tension from their muscles. Yoga can also help by allowing the person to notice the parts of the body which feel tense and places which feel more open and to slow down the breath.
Seeking support: If possible, ask for help from trusted friends, family, or a qualified professional.
Yoga for healing is a 5 week carefully curated journey where we explore topics such as managing emotional triggers.
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