It is easier for some of us to get caught up in worrying, overthinking, and overprocessing (which I kindly abbreviated as W.O. O.).
When I’m exceptionally tired, my state of woo-ness influences and amplifies nearly every nuance from the minute the sun taps the sky, with its colors, until nighttime deepens the queries. Lately, my insomnia has been triggering my sensitive woo trilogy, into overdrive.
Dr. Elain Aron, researcher, and psychologist for highly sensitive people (HSPs), refers to this as D.O.E.S.
D: Depth of processing. Highly sensitive people, go deep and do so naturally with just about everything.
O: Overstimulation. Too much of a good or not-so-good situation can really create havoc on sensitive souls.
E: Emotional reactivity and empathy. We feel others' emotions as well as our own. Therefore, we need daily doses of extra quiet.
S: Sensing the subtle. Sensitive people live inside the sensing world of the subtle. Every flicker, undertone, overreaction, every critical, or not critical word, (said or unsaid) is felt. Nature is part of our being.
When I’m triggered, it’s usually because I’m already exhausted and my boundaries are overstretched. And then BOOM — there’s a trigger! It can be almost anything like someone raised their voice at me, or I watched a movie with a disturbing scene, and then I spin out, over and under, and into a messy crash landing, wondering what just happened to me.
Triggers provoke former traumatic or hurtful memories. Triggers can also be a warning sign to alert you when your boundaries feel crossed.
According to PsychCentral, an online mental health publication:
“Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. A person’s triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. A combination of the senses is identified especially in situations that strongly resemble the original trauma.”
Triggers are like a taproot into the center of traumatic memories. We store memories not only in our minds but also somatically. Therefore, our bodies will react. We might feel sweaty, can’t breathe, get a wicked headache, stomachache, or any number of physical symptoms.
How can we cope?
When triggers happen, give yourself time to reorient, regroup, and reconnect. Calming yourself may take time because a trigger can send a person into a dissociative state.
A dissociative state is where you may feel disoriented. Nothing feels real. You might also feel overly distraught, teary, angry, withdrawn, overwhelmed, paranoid, or panicked. Allow yourself space to regroup and to feel safe.
Lately, I’ve been swamped and feeling the stress. First thing, each morning, I usually write in my journal. For weeks now, I start with, I’m tired. And then stare out my kitchen window. I manage to get a few more words out.
The rest of my thoughts feel paralyzed and static. I’m baked, fried, roasted. Just roll me down a hill and let me stay there — preferably a hill that leads to a quiet beach and a cove insulated from any demands.
For months now, there’s been a steady inner voice telling me to do more. For transparency’s sake, I am the CEO of my private counseling practice, as well as a single mom, poet, cook, bookkeeper, and administrator of everything. Sometimes, it gets to be too much, and I forget to take care of myself.
“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” ~ Bette Midler
Yesterday was an unusually clear, bright sunny day here in the Pacific Northwest. The temps reached almost 50F.
After an incredibly long, rainy, windy, and exhausting week, I promised myself to do less, putter more and to rest this weekend. This translated into raking leaves, then stringing some early holiday lights on the front bushes.
What I didn’t expect was a few neighbors to come over and chat from an exceptionally safe distance.
It was delightful to laugh, share and listen to each other as we described our personal at-home-craziness and how we were coping.
We joked about how many people were decorating early for the upcoming holidays.
I added, “this is the first year I’ve ever put lights up so soon and yet I really needed to get outside and do something special.”
Neighbor A: “Everything is different but one thing I’ve been doing is treating myself to a weekly latte.” She shared as if confessing. “Sometimes the drive thru takes forever, but I need to get out of the house!”
Neighbor B: “I’ve finally had time to catch-up on movies and read more books, but I also love working from home. It’s easier than dealing with traffic.”
We kept volleying our comments back and forth, nodding and understanding each other.
How do we regroup psychologically and emotionally during political times where the chaos feels endless? For example, after watching the first US presidential debate, I was emotionally triggered and exhausted.
Our daily news is full, real, and intense.
Here are some strategies to help you regroup. Tryout a few and adjust these suggestions to fit your needs.
Ultimately, taking care of yourself is extremely important.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ― Audre Lorde
#1. Acknowledge you have been triggered. Don’t let anyone tell you what you are feeling is wrong, silly, childish and to ‘get over it.’ Quick fixes and denial of your emotions are shaming.
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."