A vital part of recovery is adopting new coping techniques, which takes practice, repetition, and integration. Your response to the world around you can make the difference between health and wellness and destructive or harmful behavior, that is why it is so important to take time to develop new strategies when you get stressed or triggered.
But How Can These Techniques Be Developed, Especially in the Middle of Feeling Triggered?
- Track the situations, interactions, and experiences that tend to trigger you. Take time in the morning to reflect on what they are, or what you think they could be, so you can be mindful throughout the day. Be patient with this process.
– Maybe traffic or distracted driving irritates you, so you chain-smoked in the car.
– Maybe your family is frustrating, and when you speak with your mom, you get upset and want to drink right after.
– Maybe your partner doesn’t show up for you in the way that you need. So, you cope by not talking to them for a week, or by talking with somebody else, because of the hurt.
-Maybe the responsibilities of work and life are too much, so you check out by consistently binge-watching TV or binge eating, which always leaves you feeling worse.
- Notice how you used to cope throughout the day, and what techniques were really a cry for self-care. Recognize the patterns and behaviors that aren’t serving you.
- Next time you get that feeling in your gut, or maybe your heart starts racing, and you feel anxious, sweaty, or sick, and that impulse comes to use or check out, take a deep breath and try to hold on, even if every part of you is saying go have a drink, go smoke this away, go get high, go numb the pain. This is the critical point in developing new coping strategies, where you can practice a new response and see if it feels right or works for you.
- It’s okay if you don’t know what you are going to do yet. But some strategies for handling triggering moments include:
Take time for deep breaths, or go for a walk around the block.
Listen to your favorite music.
Sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes for five or 10 minutes.
Call or text a friend, sponsor, or family member.
Write, read, paint, or draw.
Take a bath or a nap.
Stretch, do yoga or another form of exercise.
Watch a funny video.
Go to a meeting (or plan on attending one later in the day).
Remind yourself to not take it personally, or let it impact your self-esteem.
Repeat affirmations that validate your emotions, but empower you to take care of you.
Keep making a different choice, over and over until it becomes ingrained in your muscle
memory and these new strategies are your new coping techniques.
- Remember that when we respond to those immediate feelings by immediately distracting ourselves, we bypass the possibility that in five or 10 minutes, we could have calmed down a lot. Instead of responding impulsively or compulsively to pain, discomfort, or frustration, say to yourself “I’m going to take five to 10 minutes, and do these other activities, and then I will check in with myself about how I’m doing and what I need.”
- If your old coping strategies keep popping up in your mind, start by asking yourself, what can I do that is a less harmful or less destructive option? If that means, only smoking three cigarettes instead of seven, that’s progress! If that means, only watching two hours of television instead of five, that’s progress! Do those things until you are ready to try a new activity or adopt a new response altogether.
- Try not to let the trigger take over your whole day. Rightsize the feeling by acknowledging it, and by making a plan to address and process it later when you have the time and space to do so. This can be especially helpful if we just clocked into work, or just got to class, and are unable to practice a coping technique.
Rightsizing isn’t about invalidating or minimizing the experience. It is about remembering that there is a whole day ahead of us, with unlimited possibilities for other feelings or experiences. It is about our commitment to staying present and open to what the rest of the day has to offer.
It means accepting that something really frustrating and upsetting happened and that you want to give it the full attention it deserves when there is time to do so. But for now, you are choosing to focus on other things that are happening or will look to what is working.
You may even reach out to a coworker, friend, peer, or sponsor for support to get through the day.
You have the power to respond differently.
You have the ability to transform how you react to triggers.
Are you wanting to discover different ways to respond to the frustrations of life? Are you tired of turning to substances to cope with stress? If so, contact us at Ashley Addiction Treatment, a residential treatment facility located in Northern Maryland. Our committed staff is here to help you find and implement healthy and healing coping strategies and techniques. We are committed to walking the path of recovery by your side and will provide comprehensive and therapeutic support every step of the way. We offer life skills training, individual, family, and recreational therapy among many other holistic modalities. You deserve to feel like you have the tools and resources to manage the challenges life brings without having to check out, numb, or hide. You deserve to live a confident and fully empowered life. For more information, or to take the next steps, contact us at 800-799-4673.