What you need to know about triggers and mental illness.
With the ferocity of a distracted driver running into the back of your car, your thoughts have turned dark. In a flash, everything feels pointless and your motivation has disappeared like morning fog. What happened? It’s possible you were triggered.
Talking about triggers is hard for some people, so if today is a rough day, you may want to wait to read this post until later. You need to be in a good mindset to get the most from this story.
Do you know what your triggers are? If you don’t, it’s time to start paying attention.
Triggers can vary from person to person, and can be anything from a fragrance to an argument with a loved one. This post will discuss what triggers are, list some of the most common ones, and offer tips for conquering them.
What is a trigger?
Let’s start with a definition. What is a trigger? A trigger is anything that can set off a bipolar episode.
Triggers can be internal, like stress, or external, like an argument. They can be positive (getting a promotion), or negative (losing a loved one). Triggers can be tiny things, such as seeing someone from your past, or big events, like moving to a new city or losing a job.
Triggers can pop up when you least expect them. They can show up from a scene in a movie, a song on the radio, or a smell that drifts your way while shopping. When a trigger induces a panic attack, it can take time to identify what exactly served as the trigger.
What are common triggers?
Now that we know a little about triggers, let’s talk about some of the most common ones.
One of the biggest triggers for bipolar disorder is stress. Stress can come from anywhere: our jobs, our families, our relationships, etc. It’s important to learn how to manage stress in a healthy way, so that it doesn’t become a trigger for bipolar episodes.
Another common trigger is changes in routine. This could be something as small as taking a different route to work, or as big as changing jobs altogether.
Physical activity can trigger mania, especially if it’s strenuous. People and places can also trigger you. So can noise.
One of my surprise triggers was the scent of pipe tobacco. One sniff, and I’m instantly transported to a place of dense darkness.
To protect yourself, you must be aware of your triggers, but how do you identify them?
How can you identify your triggers?
Now that you know what some common triggers are, it’s time to start paying attention to your own triggers. The best way to do this is to keep a mood journal.
Every day, write down how you’re feeling and what might have triggered those feelings. Be sure to include the things you ate, the people you saw, and the activities you performed. It may also help to list the movies you watched or music you listened to.
Over time, you’ll start to see patterns emerge. When you see how an activity often causes a feeling, you can start working on conquering your triggers.
A best practice is to journal as soon as possible after you feel triggered. Answer the following questions in your entry.
- Where were you?
- What were you doing?
- Who was with you?
- Was it day or night?
- What did you see?
- Did you smell anything?
- What did you hear?
- What were you feeling before the trigger?
- What were you talking about?
- What were you thinking?
- Did you sleep well the night before?
- Had you eaten recently?
- Were you drinking or using drugs?
Look for similarities between actions and emotions. Even if you don’t think a trigger started the episode, answer the questions. There may be a trigger you’re not seeing.
How can you conquer your triggers?
There are many ways to conquer your bipolar disorder triggers. One way is to avoid them altogether. If there’s an activity that you know sets off a bipolar episode, try your best to avoid it. This might mean changing up your routine or avoiding certain people or places.
For me, I can’t go to bars or gyms. Both trigger harmful bipolar episodes. I know I need to avoid these places. If my friends refuse to understand, I stop spending time with them. It may sound harsh, but it’s essential to protect you and your mental health. When someone consistently has a negative impact on your stability, it may be time to walk away.
Another way to conquer bipolar disorder triggers is to face them head-on. If you’re feeling a trigger coming on, take some deep breaths and try to relax. This takes practice, but the more you do it, the easier it will be. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to re-center and can stop some episodes and anger.
You can also talk to your doctor about your triggers. A medical professional can help you develop a plan to conquer your worst offenders. Some plans include medication or talk therapy.
Stress and You
If stress is a trigger for you, look for ways to manage it in a healthy way. Some people find that mild-to-moderate exercise helps to reduce stress levels. Others find that meditation or relaxation techniques are helpful. Still others find relief through journaling or talking to a therapist.
When changes in routine trigger you, try to stick to a consistent routine as much as possible. This might mean having a set schedule for your days, or always taking the same route to work. Whatever it is, try to be as consistent as possible with your routine.
If you find that exercise triggers you, try lower impact activities such as walking or swimming. Experiment with different types of exercise until you find one that doesn’t trigger you.
Conquering triggers is not always easy, but it is possible. By being aware of your triggers and learning how to manage them in a healthy way. You can prevent bipolar episodes and live a happy, healthy life.
Until next time, keep fighting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is a bipolar trigger?
A trigger in the context of bipolar disorder is anything that could initiate a bipolar episode. Triggers could be internal like stress, or external like an argument. They could also be positive, negative, or even seemingly insignificant things.
Q2. What are some common triggers for bipolar episodes?
Stress, changes in routine, and physical activity are all common triggers for bipolar episodes. Even certain people, places, or smells could trigger a bipolar episode.
Q3. How can I identify my own triggers?
A practical way to identify your triggers is by keeping a ‘mood journal’. Write down how you’re feeling each day and what might have triggered those feelings. Over time, you will start to see patterns emerge and identify your triggers.
Q4. How can I conquer my bipolar triggers?
There are several strategies to manage bipolar triggers. These include avoiding triggers, confronting them head-on, practicing mindfulness, and seeking professional help. Healthy stress management, maintaining a consistent routine, or adjusting your exercise regimen are also effective methods.
Q5. Can exercise be a trigger for bipolar disorder?
Yes, strenuous physical activity can trigger mania. However, mild-to-moderate exercise can also be a helpful way to manage stress and avoid bipolar episodes. Finding the right balance is key.
Q6. If someone is negatively impacting my mental stability, should I stop spending time with them?
It’s important to prioritize your mental health. If someone consistently triggers harmful bipolar episodes, it may be necessary to limit or cease contact with them. It is crucial to surround yourself with understanding and supportive individuals.
Q7. Does conquering my triggers guarantee that I’ll never have another bipolar episode?
While managing and avoiding triggers can greatly reduce the frequency and intensity of bipolar episodes, it does not guarantee that you will never have another episode. However, it does equip you with the tools to better manage and navigate your bipolar disorder.