The Peaceful Home

Episode 90: Mastering Triggers: Tools for Navigating Parental Stress

May 10, 2024 Pamela Godbois
Episode 90: Mastering Triggers: Tools for Navigating Parental Stress
The Peaceful Home
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The Peaceful Home
Episode 90: Mastering Triggers: Tools for Navigating Parental Stress
May 10, 2024
Pamela Godbois

💫Grab Your Free Practice to Clear Out Mom Rage💫

Welcome back to the Peaceful Home Podcast with Pam. In today's episode, Pam dives into the topic of triggers: what they are, why they happen, and how to handle them.


Understanding Triggers:

  • Definition: Pam explains that triggers are our nervous system's reaction to events based on associated thoughts and emotions.
  • Thoughts and Emotions: She highlights the importance of recognizing automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and their role in triggering emotional responses.


Navigating Triggers:

  • Brain Function: Pam discusses how triggers activate the survival-focused limbic system, limiting access to rational thought.
  • Regulating the Nervous System: Pam shares simple breathwork techniques and methods for stimulating the vagus nerve to promote relaxation.


Empowering Change:

  • Rewiring Responses: Pam encourages engaging in practices that retrain the nervous system's response to stress for improved resilience.
  • Seeking Support: Listeners are invited to explore further resources and join the Align Mom Society for comprehensive guidance.


Conclusion:

Join Pam in the next episode as she continues to explore essential topics for creating harmony within the family. Take care until next time!


💫Grab Your Free Practice to Clear Out Mom Rage💫

Let’s Connect on Instagram: @parentingtherapistpam

FEEDBACK: 

If you’re like “I love the Peaceful Home Podcast.” Please consider rating and reviewing our show! This helps us support women, just like you, on their motherhood journey. Click here and scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode! 

 WORK WITH PAM 1:1 

Did you know that Pam has been a therapist & coach working with women and families for 20+ years? 

If you are looking for dialed-in coaching, to shift your relationships at home and beyond, and actually achieve your goals this year, book a consult to see how Pam can help you!

The best thing you can do for yourself and your kids is effectively regulate your nervous system. And a great place to start >> to wire the brain for gratitude. Research tells us that gratitude increases happiness and a peaceful mindset. Make the shift and watch how things in your life start to change. Sign up today! www.pamgodbois.com/gratitude

Show Notes Transcript

💫Grab Your Free Practice to Clear Out Mom Rage💫

Welcome back to the Peaceful Home Podcast with Pam. In today's episode, Pam dives into the topic of triggers: what they are, why they happen, and how to handle them.


Understanding Triggers:

  • Definition: Pam explains that triggers are our nervous system's reaction to events based on associated thoughts and emotions.
  • Thoughts and Emotions: She highlights the importance of recognizing automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and their role in triggering emotional responses.


Navigating Triggers:

  • Brain Function: Pam discusses how triggers activate the survival-focused limbic system, limiting access to rational thought.
  • Regulating the Nervous System: Pam shares simple breathwork techniques and methods for stimulating the vagus nerve to promote relaxation.


Empowering Change:

  • Rewiring Responses: Pam encourages engaging in practices that retrain the nervous system's response to stress for improved resilience.
  • Seeking Support: Listeners are invited to explore further resources and join the Align Mom Society for comprehensive guidance.


Conclusion:

Join Pam in the next episode as she continues to explore essential topics for creating harmony within the family. Take care until next time!


💫Grab Your Free Practice to Clear Out Mom Rage💫

Let’s Connect on Instagram: @parentingtherapistpam

FEEDBACK: 

If you’re like “I love the Peaceful Home Podcast.” Please consider rating and reviewing our show! This helps us support women, just like you, on their motherhood journey. Click here and scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode! 

 WORK WITH PAM 1:1 

Did you know that Pam has been a therapist & coach working with women and families for 20+ years? 

If you are looking for dialed-in coaching, to shift your relationships at home and beyond, and actually achieve your goals this year, book a consult to see how Pam can help you!

The best thing you can do for yourself and your kids is effectively regulate your nervous system. And a great place to start >> to wire the brain for gratitude. Research tells us that gratitude increases happiness and a peaceful mindset. Make the shift and watch how things in your life start to change. Sign up today! www.pamgodbois.com/gratitude

Pamela:

Hey there and welcome back to the peaceful home podcast. My name is Pam and I am your host. And today we're talking about triggers, what they are, why you have them. What to do about them. So if you are a parent who struggles with your kid's behavior, who struggles being triggered by your kid's behaviors or attitudes or actions or words or presence, you know, sometimes your kid's like laying on you and you're like, Oh my God, get off me. If you feel triggered at any time during your parenting journey, you're going to want to listen to this cause we're going to unpack that. Let's dive in. I often have parents ask me, Pam, what is a trigger and why is it so damn pesky? What is it doing to me? And why do I feel completely out of control when a trigger occurs? Well, let me just first say that triggers are your nervous system's reaction to an event, any event, based on the thoughts that that event initiate. And the feelings that come from that thought. Let me give you an example. Let's say you have a 10 year old and you've asked your 10 year old to empty the dishwasher and clean up their room. And they're mad about it because they were doing something else. They were playing a video game. They were on their phone or watching TV or doing something that they enjoyed. And now you've asked them to do something that they don't enjoy. And so what you get is an attitude. Maybe you get some slamming of the dishes, right? Maybe you get uh, this has happened in our house where, you know, you take a coffee mug and you slam it on the counter and guess what? It breaks. We've had that happen here, right? So let's say your kid's slamming things around and something breaks and something inside you snaps, right? You're like, are you kidding me? And so. The event is your kid slams a, let's say a coffee mug down and it breaks and you have a thought. Maybe that thought is who the hell does this kid think they are? Maybe that thought is, you know, God forbid, I asked them to do anything. Maybe that thought is I do everything around here. I can't even get someone to help me out a little bit without an attitude and breaking something and causing more of a problem for me. You see where we're going in any of these thoughts, situations, chances are you're not going to feel real good after it. So this happens, a cup gets slammed down. Your thought is, Oh my God, I can't ask anybody for any help. What is wrong with these people? What is wrong with my kid? I'm a terrible parent. This is ridiculous. And then that fuels an emotional response. You have an emotional reaction based on that. Maybe it's anger. Maybe it's frustration. Maybe it's sadness. But here's the thing. When we take this out of context and we talk about it from this place of like a cup gets slammed, I think, God, can't anybody help me out? What is wrong with these people? And then I feel angry. You're like, okay, do you currently feel angry when I say that? Now, if this does happen in your house, you might be like, yeah, actually my blood's boiling a little bit. I can say this and my blood's not boiling. I'm not upset about it because it's not a trigger for me. It's an event. A cup broke. Is it annoying that now we have to clean up the cup? Yeah, it's annoying. But is that like, Is that enough to trigger my nervous system? Which when I say trigger my nervous system, I'm really talking about triggering the sympathetic nervous system into the fight flight freeze response. And maybe your child also gets triggered in this environment, right? And they freeze. So they slam the cup down, it breaks, they just stand there and they just look at it or they scream and you're come running and you're like, what? And so now you're heightened because they're heightened and now something irritating has happened. Now you're angry about this thought that you're having. Now your nervous system goes, Oh my God, there's a threat. Your amygdala is like, smoke alarm. There's a threat. And you get kicked into the fight or flight response. Now this event is a trigger, right? So it went from being an event. That it was annoying to being a trigger. So now when your kid empties the dishwasher, maybe this happened last week, last month, last year, three years ago. Now your kid, you ask your kid to empty the dishwasher. They give you an attitude and you go, forget it. I'll just do it myself. Because in your, Mind in the triggering center of your brain the amygdala goes we've been here before your kid had an attitude before Shit broke you had to clean it up And you felt awful and here's all the story that says Nobody's gonna help you. Anyway, nobody cares about you. You're not important. By the way, these stories live in our past They don't live in our present. They live in our Usually in our childhood, honestly And so, you know, Daniel Amen, who is like brain science guy, he does brain scans and looks at how to heal the brain and all that kind of stuff. He talks about ants, automatic negative thoughts, and he talks about them as a condition of brain health. And so in these situations where your kid slams down the coffee mug while they're, because they're irritated and they can't find a spot for it, or your kid storms up the stairs because you asked them to go clean their room. And you have a story that arises. That story is a thought. A story is a thought that you've thought a bunch of times. So like I always have to do it myself. Nobody's willing to help me out. It's my job. And if I don't do it myself, I'm a bad mother. See how this story evolves over time. So maybe it started out as a little, Frustration, uh, an event that kind of had some emotional power, and then it repeated over and over and over. And now you're like five years later, uh, I asked my kid to empty the dishwasher. They push back. And instead of just being like, it's fine, they're allowed to have their emotions, which is the goal, by the way, we're all allowed to have our emotions. You get triggered. You get triggered and then you react based on that trigger, not based on the present experience. So for instance, you had a 10 year old that broke a mug. Now you have a 15 year old that you say, Hey, can you empty the dishwasher? And they go, Oh, why do you always ask me to do everything? And you're like, you have to do everything. Are you kidding me? What the, and you just kind of go, you just explode. And they're like, all I was doing is expressing how I'm feeling. Now this is not what they're saying to you. They're not saying like, Mom, I was just trying to express that this is frustrating to me. They push back and, you know, add fuel to the fire cause their brain's not fully developed. Cause like, what can we expect from somebody whose brain is only half cooked? I mean, truthfully, if we're saying that the brain develops fully between 25 and 29 then a 15 year old brain is half cooked, right? It's literally, it'd be like putting in a cake in the oven. And, uh, it calls for a 30 minute big time and you bake it for 15 minutes. And then you're pissed that the, that the cake's not done. Like of course the cake's not done. You only baked it for 15 minutes. Right. Okay, so that's kind of what I'm saying here that like there are reasons why they react the way they do the other thing Is that if you are reacting? If you've been triggered if your nervous system gets triggered and I want you to think about it as your nervous system getting Activated not as you be there's something being wrong with you your nervous system gets activated your nervous system your fight or flight response activates You respond based on a perceived threat And then they, you're, when you respond that way, you're teaching them, this is how you respond when, uh, you don't like something. So guess what? They're going to push back with the exact same energy, the exact, they're going to show up with the exact same stuff. That's probably the reason why in the first place they said nobody ever does. How come I'm all, I always have to do everything. Nobody ever does anything around here. Like, right. How about mimicking what you are experiencing? So this is what triggers are, right? They're triggers. Don't make you good or bad being triggered. Isn't like a, you know, there's something so horribly wrong with you. It's a condition that occurs. When we experience an event and have a thought, or as Daniel Amen says, an automatic negative thought associated with that event, which then fuels the emotion because you can't have a thought. Who the hell do these people think they are? I have to do everything. They do nothing. Nobody appreciates you being around here. Nobody cares about me. And then have a positive emotional experience. That doesn't work. That's not how we're wired. So you have an automatic negative thought, automatic negative thought creates a negative emotion. Negative emotion gives power back to the event. The nervous system says, Oh crap, this event is actually more than just an event. It's more than just a day to day thing. That's normal. You know, we walk around in the world and lots of things happen. This is a problem. It starts to highlight it. It starts to go, Oh my gosh, this is a problem. Highlight it, highlight it, highlight it, highlight it. Eventually. When the event occurs, you, it, it feels like the event occurs and all of a sudden you're in this, in this space of reactivity, right? Your kid says, Oh God, why do I have to, why do I always have to empty the dishwasher? And instead of just being, letting them do their thing, right? Cause oftentimes when they say that They're moving, right? They're like, Oh, this is so stupid. I was doing something else. Right. And they have like, they've got all the words that spew out of them. My husband used to be like wanting, wanting to stop our daughter using her words as she was moving her way to do whatever she was doing. And I was like, just let her have her emotional experience. She's just, This is how she's processing her emotions. We all process emotions differently. Now for the benefit for her is that I am also a verbal processor. So I am, I was the kid that bitched about doing whatever the thing was that I was asked on my way to do it. I am the adult that when somebody does or says something ridiculous in my life to me, I'm like, what the, what is wrong with these people? And, and I go through this, I go through a process, right? And then I come to the other side of that process. I call it venting. We often call it venting. I have a safe space to do that in, in and I'm able to kind of ground myself very, very quickly. So, I also am now at a place cause I've been doing this work for so long that when these events that maybe would have been triggers in the past occur, I go, wow, that used to be a trigger. It is frustrating. I am annoyed about it. But like, it doesn't have to hold emotional power over me. I don't have to lose myself in this experience. Right. Cause the amygdala or the limbic system is like the, the lower brain. It's like, if you think about your brain, like a head of cabbage, let's just say a head of cabbage, those, that middle core that you like, cut out of a head of cabbage, if you've ever, you know, or a head of lettuce, if you've ever like kind of pulled out that, that stem. That's like the limbic system lives, you know, right above there. So it's real kind of inner brain. This is where our survival lives. This is the purpose of this is so that we can survive. That's it. On top of that is our our hemispheres, right? This is like where our temporal lobe and our prefrontal cortex is, is where like our thinking and our experiencing of the world is. And we have a right hemisphere that is rooted in creativity and emotion left hemisphere logic and analytical thinking. We need both of those things to have language and communicate, but here's the thing. They're like the outer layers of a head of cabbage or lettuce. They are not connected to that inner layer. They're not connected to that middle limbic area of the brain. They're just not. So that area of the brain, the limbic system, which is where the fight or flight response lives, which is when you become triggered and your nervous system is reacting. That is the space where your nervous system is reacting from. You don't have access to language other than repetition, other than like, you don't have the, the language centers of the brain. You're not like going, huh. Okay. So I'm feeling triggered right now. Here's the thought that my kid is like, who do they think they are? Now what do I do with it? That's not what's happening. So we have to rewire the triggered response first. And we don't do that with talking. We don't do that with like talking it out. Have you ever had a kid that's like in that like, hysterical crying and you're trying to get them to communicate what happened. So maybe they're like outside playing and they, okay. Someone brings them in, uh, your t shirt could be like on the playground, your parent out in the backyard and they're like, come in, they're like, and you can't get anything out of them. You're like, what happened? What happened? And they can't communicate. They can't communicate because they are in the limbic system. They are not in the executive functioning areas of the brain where they can go, well, I fell out of a tree and hurt my back. Right? Eventually they get there. But what do we do first? We help them breathe. We give them a hug. All of those are tools to regulate the nervous system, but we don't do that to ourselves. We beat ourselves up because we have an emotional reaction and we don't know what to do with that emotional reaction. And we think because we're an adult, we should be able to talk it out, but that's bullshit. It doesn't work that way. That's not the way our brain is wired. So stop beating yourself up for that shit. Your brain is not wired that way. Your brain is wired for survival first. Then from there you have the ability to regulate your nervous system, shift your thinking change how you communicate. Right. But you need tools to do this. And so when I talk about, what do you do when you're triggered? A couple of my favorite things, and you know, I will, I understand. I was a therapist for 25 years and about halfway through my career, before I became a yoga teacher, I would have people come into my office and they would say, Oh, I saw this other therapist and they told me to like, Take 10 deep breaths when I was anxious or stressed or overwhelmed because this works for anxiety too. It's the same exact science It's just rooted in fear Instead of anger same response same thing is happening in the brain So, you know, I'm feeling anxious. I'm feeling angry. I'm feeling stressed. I'm feeling overwhelmed. They told me to take 10 deep breaths But they didn't actually tell me how to take, they didn't teach me how. It would be like telling your kid, your first grader to go tie their shoes. If nobody's ever taught them, it doesn't work that way. You're not going to regulate the nervous system. If you don't actually know how. to do the breathing. So now I talked about the right hemisphere of the brain and the left hemisphere of the brain and what that, you know, right hemisphere, emotions, creativity, left hemisphere, analytical. This is also linked to our nervous system and our breath. So the right hemisphere of the brain, the emotional side of the brain, when we talk about like, uh, energy from like sun versus moon energy, the right side of the brain is moon energy. The right side of the brain is linked or ruled by our exhale when we're breathing, and it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the rest and digest side of the nervous system. The other side of the brain, the left hemisphere, logical analytical, it controls the right side of the body, by the way, but it's the left hemisphere of the brain. And it is the sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight or flight response, but not just the fight or flight response. It's activation. It's motivation. It's like, I got to clean this house and I dig in and I scrub the whole place from top to bottom. That lives in the sympathetic nervous system. Now you understand why you can't just live in the parasympathetic nervous system. You get nothing done, nothing. Now we don't want to be triggered into the fight or flight response, obviously, but we do need to keep the nervous system active sometimes. And the goal really is balance. So left hemisphere of the brain, sympathetic nervous system. This is linked to the inhale in your breathing practice and it is the sun energy. So it's like fire. It's like fiery keeping you going, right? So here's the thing to understand is that we're looking for balance and balance is going to look differently for me than it's going to look for you and anybody else on the planet because it's rooted in where am I right now? And where do I want to be? So when we talk about breath, there's different ways. So I'm going to teach you a little bit of, about yogic breathing. So, meditation, breathing, all that stuff. So when we talk about breath, We have an inhale part of the breath and we have an exhale part of the breath. We breathe in and that activates the brain and the body. We breathe out and that calms the brain and the body. So if you are somebody that is feeling real, real anxious or angry or activated, right? You're on like the higher end. Your fight or flight response has been kicked. You are active. You want to get yourself into that slower state. moving side of the body as quickly as possible. So that means from a breath practice, you would look at using an extended exhale breathing, meaning you exhale for longer than you inhale. Now this might be inhale for a count of two, exhale for a count of four. And the count is like one, two, it's like seconds, right? It's not like a two minutes. And it's not like one, two, it's really like one, two, like you're counting seconds on a clock. Right? Breathing in for a count of two, breathing out for a count of four. The other thing I like to do when I'm breathing out is I like to imagine that the, any tension that I have in my neck or shoulders is just kind of melting away. Any tension I have in my jaw is starting to melt away. So with each breath, I'm like, I might breathe in for a count of two out for a count of four. And the first breath I'm like, soften my eyebrows. Let my eye sockets be soft. Let my cheeks be soft on the next one. I might like focus on letting my jaw soften. It's hard to talk with a soft jaw, so I'm not going to do that right now, but I let the jaw soften. And then maybe I let my throat soften and then my shoulders. And like, so I'm taking 10 breaths with each breath. I'm just allowing things. Remember that game that we used to play as kids were like, put your hand on your head and somebody would like. Or they put their hand on their head and they were like, hit, hit the hand and like, crack an egg over the top of your head. Right. It's I like to use that imagery and imagine that each exhale is creating that is creating like a softening of egg yolk All over you right like just kind of whoo Softening the stress response. This is going to push you into the parasympathetic nervous system now if you are on the other end, you're feeling really depressed and low key, you can't motivate, can't get yourself can't get out of your own way, then you're going to work to match your inhale and your exhale. So you might, and you might keep the breath kind of in the rib cage versus the first one where we're doing extended exhale, really bringing the breath down into the belly, really pulling the diaphragm down and expanding into the belly, right? Like, so these are different, there's science behind this. Breath practice is one of the most effective ways to move us towards the relaxation response or to change our mental state. So use breath. There's a ton of breath practices. I will link some up in the show notes. I have a couple of practices that I will share with you. They're just audio recordings that you can listen to in practice. So that's number one. The other thing that I really like to use is stimulation of the vagus nerve. Now the vagus nerve is this large nerve in the body. It runs through the ear, behind the ear, down the side of the throat, into the center of the chest, into the abdomen and out to all the organs. I'll like the major organs. So the vagus nerve is responsible. for 75 percent of the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. I'm going to say that again. The vagus nerve is responsible for about 75 percent of the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Meaning when you tone or activate the vagus nerve. You are pushing yourself into rest and digest. Now there's lots of different ways to do this. And the one that I'm going to talk about today, I know we're on a podcast. You can't necessarily hear me, but we're going to take our finger and we're just going to stick it in our ear. So you're not going to stick way back in your ear, but just kind of like. It's if you're moving the cartilage and getting to that bottom part of your ear, let your finger just kind of come just inside the ear and then we're going to push it back just a tiny smidge, like you're pushing back in the skull. And then just bend the finger, let the elbow hang down and just Pull down slightly. If you've ever had swimmer's ear and you're like, I need to get the water out of my ear. You put hydrogen peroxide in your ear and you like kind of pull down. That's kind of what you're doing here. So you want to make sure that you're kind of pressing back and down just a little, and you're just going to breathe here and let the vagus nerve get activated. And then you don't have to stay there for very long. It could be like 10 seconds. It can be 20 seconds, 30 seconds. You might stick your finger in your nail, like in your ear, like I just didn't have a long nail and be like, Oh, maybe I should trim that. Totally fine. Move your finger around so that you're not stabbing yourself. And you can also kind of do small circles there. These are all the strategies we do to like soothe our kids when they have ear infections. Interestingly enough, what we're actually doing is we're It's activating the vagus nerve, which brings them into a relaxation, lower experience of pain. Right? So these are practices that you can do to start shifting your nervous system in the moment. So fight or flight response happens. You go into a breath practice or you stick your finger into your ear and pull down. You can also another way to do that is to grab the earlobe and just tug on the earlobe. So if like you're in a place where you're like, yeah, sticking my finger in my ear, is is not working here. Or if you're like, I'm not sticking my finger in my ear. You can grab onto your earlobe, do the exact same thing. So we pull down slightly and push back slightly does the same sort of activation just in it. It just activates it in a different way. So give those a try and let me know your thoughts. And if you're like, man, I want to clear out triggers all together. And you're a mom I offer some free trainings on you know, this process of clearing out triggers. And this is what we do inside the Align Mom Society. This is what we do, by the way, in all of the content I teach, whether you're a mom, whether you're uh, a therapist, whether you're, you know, somebody, somebody else that wants to do some of this work. This is what we do. We retrain the nervous system to respond differently to stress so that you don't feel triggered so that you can show up as the human being you want to be so that you can have the connected relationships. You desire and you can feel good about all that stuff that you can feel strong physically and emotionally and spiritually because you're doing this work. So that is what a trigger is, what to do about it, why we have them. Give it a try. Let me know what you think. And I will see you guys again in the next episode. Take care.