In the realms of psychology, the word trigger refers to something that elicits a cognitive event. Or put in layman’s terms, something that has an affect on the way you look at the world.
Triggers can be anything, and depend on the individual in question. They can be a social circumstance (shit, I said something dumb and now I’m going to be chucked out of the tribe!), a smell, something the person has consumed like alcohol or a certain drug.
The list goes on.
A fellow student at my old University had a fairly unusual trigger. Every time she saw an image of Rolf Harris, she’d have a nightmare. Okay so we didn’t know at the time, but her subconscious thoughts were scarily on the money.
Personally, if I drink too much beer after a heavy work week (which in advertising was pretty much an occupational hazard on a Friday night) I wake up very anxious the next day. For me, alcohol and work-related fatigue don’t mix well, but that’s not necessarily a rule of thumb for anyone else.
When it comes to being aware of your own ‘triggers’, the ones that cause you anxiety or otherwise, you have to be your own detective. A good detective sticks to the facts, and tries not to be too emotionally-led (difficult when you’re actually in the throws of an anxiety attack), by analytically and systematically compiling evidence. I know this because I’ve watched shitloads of detective programmes.
Think about the days that surround your most anxiety-ridden moments.
Was there a specific type of stressor? Work deadline? Did you eat before you went out drinking? Did someone say something that pushed specific kind of buttons? Did you get a sense of deja vu? Did you compound several things together (eg. being naked + on a busy bus + in the middle of Trafalgar Square)?
In the end, you’ll hopefully work out your triggers then adjust your lifestyle to avoid them.
Failing that, remember these sage words….