Knowing Your Triggers in a Digital Age
Written by: Thiviya Subramaniam, Placement Student, B.Sc.
We receive information through many modes of communication, whether that be television, the radio, billboard advertisements or regular conversations. In the digital age we live in, it is inevitable to come across media that triggers you or makes you uncomfortable. Taking care of your mind and your mental health is an important form of self-care, and this can be done by being aware of the content that may trigger you. For survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), consuming content that will not re-trigger them can be an important form of self-care.
Triggers are defined as sensory reminders that can cause painful memories or symptoms to resurface (Saripalli, 2022). Triggers are unique to an individual and there is a wide range of stimuli that can trigger them (Saripalli, 2022). Therefore, it is important to know what may trigger you, and whether you would like to consume media that may lead to certain emotions and thoughts. Maybe television shows depicting certain family dynamics make you uncomfortable or seeing physical affection makes you feel uneasy. Being aware of these triggers can help you navigate your trauma at your own pace. It can allow you to work through your trauma, whether that’s through therapy, journaling, etc., and possibly re-visit the media you originally avoided at a more comfortable time.
If you come across media that triggers you, it is helpful to develop techniques that help you manage the symptoms that may emerge. For example, grounding can help an individual to focus on the present moment (Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre, n.d.). Finding techniques that work for you allows you to be well-equipped and can be beneficial for your overall wellbeing.
5-4-3-2-1 Technique for helping you to ground yourself when feeling triggered
5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a painting, a design on the carpet, a tree
4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a blanket, or the ground.
3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. Focus on things you can hear outside of your body, for example a car driving by, people laughing or talking
2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your bedroom and smell your perfume, or maybe you are in your kitchen and smell coffee brewing. You can also go outside and smell fresh cut grass or flowers.
1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. E.g. remnants of coffee or food that you ate (University of Rochester, 2023)
Saripalli, V. (2022, April 28). What Are Triggers, and How Do They Form? PsychCentral. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-a-trigger
Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre. (n.d.). Triggers: What Are They? Retrieved from https://ssaic.ca/learning-resources/triggers-what-are-they/
University of Rochester (2023). 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx