Day 5 of 21 lockdown
What triggers you, controls you .... I wish I knew who to credit with this statement. I have used it so many times over the last weeks but unfortunately I am not sure who originally coined my new favourite phrase.
A trigger is something (a person, place, thing, phrase or even smell) that causes a negative emotional response. This response is often anger but can also be emotions like sadness, anxiety, fear. We all have triggers. Stop and think about your triggers. For me ... a big trigger is when someone tells me to calm down or lower my voice! Never in the history of well, ever has someone calmed down when they were told to calm down. This phrase often triggers anger in me and more often than not can escalate the situation.
Most rational, mature, well adjusted adults have the ability to control their triggers. If I’m honest there are lots of things that are triggers for me but to co-exist peaceably in the world with others, I often take a deep breath and let it go. Then COVID-19 happened and for many of us it has rocked our worlds.
During this time of lockdown, what is triggering you? It is helpful to pay attention to this because what triggers you controls you. These are common triggers that I am seeing in myself, my fellow lockdown inmates and also in general online:
The lockdown itself - Take some time to reflect on what exactly about the lockdown is triggering you. Be honest with yourself, even if you feel childish or ungrateful. Honest reflection helps you to work through the negative emotions.
The actions of others during this time – In life there are things you can control and things (unfortunately) you cannot control. The behaviour and actions of others are out of your control. You will drive yourself crazy if you watch every car or person that goes past your house and wonder if they are on their way to work or for a joyride or inspect every shopper to see if they are sanitising correctly or keeping to the 6 tin limit at the checkout. If the actions of others during this time are repeatedly triggering negative emotions, it might be time to prioritise your own mental health and let it go ...
Authority figures – This is a biggie. Many of us South Africans DO NOT like being told what to do. Unfortunately at this time, losing it at a roadblock or if stopped and questioned by the police or army, can land you into some very hot water. Resist the urge to react, even if the person you’re dealing with is not making it easy. Keep calm, answer the questions, show your pass or ID and move on.
Fear and anxiety – Again reflect on what exactly is triggering these emotions. Watch out for feelings of depression, loneliness and hopelessness etc. Don’t allow any of these emotions to settle for too long. Speak to someone, a family member, friend, counsellor or one of the help lines from organisations such as SADAG or Lifeline.
Your lockdown inmates – For many of us we have never been in this position of spending so much time with our families. It is normal to get under each other’s skin during long periods together, particularly if you are not used to so much time together. It is helpful to set some ground rules and keep some type of schedule so that the day has some predictability.
Both my daughter and I have celebrated our birthdays during this strange and unprecedented time. I will never forget my 41st and her 16th birthday. I will also never forget so much else about this time. How we had to jockey for position on the WiFi, negotiating what movies or series to watch, my husband doing laps around the house on a work call or when boredom really set in, how my kids could turn 2 whiteboards into a silent game of Pictionary (silent because Dad was on one side of the house on a conference call and Mom on the other in an on-line session).
I am not sure how long we can maintain the peace and relative harmony but it is a priority for me to try. We are going to remember the first half of 2020 for years to come, what can you do to make them pleasant and positive memories? A good place to start is by examining your triggers because ... what triggers you controls you.
Thanks for reading, please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions. I would love to hear from you.
On a more serious note ...
I am a counsellor based on the East Rand of Johannesburg. Life can be hard sometimes but I encourage you to contact me should you feel that you are not coping. I offer individual, couples and family counselling as well as parent coaching. There is no shame in reaching out for help; in fact to me there is no stronger person than one who is willing to accept help.