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Identifying Triggers

Identifying what triggers your anxiety can be tricky. There are many, many common triggers out there, but it’s unlikely you’ll be affected by each and every one of them. Moreover, you might have triggers that are unique to you and your experiences or personal traumas. And there isn’t one perfect cover-all way to test for these triggers. It’s not as if you can perform genetic testing for that sort of thing unfortunately. But here are three ways to help yourself better understand your own condition so you can begin to cope with it.

1) Download a trigger worksheet online or ask your therapist if they have one they can give you. It should list most or all of the common anxiety triggers; go through and circle, highlight, or check off each one you find that your sensitive to. There should also be a space to add your own. Good worksheets will also have a brief questionnaire section for you to fill out which ones are your foremost issues, how often they affect you, how strongly they do so, and when your last triggered episode was.

2) Journaling works much the same way, but it gives you the opportunity to give more detail and be more accurate in your assessment. Each day or week, or even better in the moment if possible, record what triggered your anxiety, how you reacted, how long the attack/episode lasted, what helped you come out of it, and how you cared for yourself after. This gives you a better idea of the frequency and severity of the triggers, and what tools have worked to help calm you. Using charts would be most effective and organized, but if that is too involved, just make sure to write it down.

3) A good therapist should encourage and aid you in doing either one or both of these things, or at least very similar activities. They might do it verbally throughout your session, but having it written down provides better depth and accuracy for you both to work with. They’ll be able to take it one step further and help you work through each of the triggers, or at least the major players that affect you the most, coming up with a game plan to remedy and/or avoid them.

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