incredible-marketing Arrow

Sensory Activities for When Triggers Appear

Experiencing triggers can be stressful in recovery. However, learning about your specific sensory needs and techniques can help you prevent triggers from overwhelming you. No matter where you are at in your recovery journey, you will likely experience a trigger at least a time or two. During treatment, it was important to learn healthy coping skills, which likely included sensory activities. This blog will discuss triggers and offer suggestions on sensory activities that can help you as an alumni member in recovery. Understanding what works for you could be the difference between ongoing sobriety and relapse.

Triggers in Recovery

Facing triggers in recovery is difficult no matter how long you have been on this journey. Dealing with your triggers can be one of the most scary things in recovery. When you are in treatment, you may not have experienced triggers due to being in a secure place. However, when you are in your regular environment, triggers may appear out of the blue. This can lead you to feel out of control or scared of what may come next.

Triggers can be internal or external and create an intense feeling. These feelings can remind you of why you had a relationship with illicit substance use. Internal triggers are referred to as emotional triggers and can include but are not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Regret
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Grief

External triggers are people, places, and things. These can be anything that reminds you of or have a significant impact on your addiction. Some examples are:

  • Certain people
  • Your home environment or a friend’s house
  • A certain town
  • Movies
  • Social media

Experiencing internal and external triggers can affect your emotional state. Having extreme emotions associated with triggers could potentially cause a relapse. However, it helps if you can identify appropriate sensory activities to use when triggers occur.

How Do Triggers Affect My Sensory Body?

Everything that the body feels happens through the nervous system. Peripheral nerves send many types of sensory data to the central nervous system. This information can affect how your body feels when triggers arise.

A trigger can create an emotional reaction related to the event or what the brain remembers of the event. Often, triggers have a sensory connection that is linked to the habit. For example, a person could be recovering from alcohol use and associate the 4th of July with drinking. When this occurs, it is important to identify and explore sensory activities that can help you to cope with the triggers.

Sensory activities can decrease stress and help you calm and relax your body before a potential relapse occurs. At The Guest House, we use many sensory activities to decrease triggers. We specialize in meeting people right where they are in their journey and we can meet you where you are at. Whether you have been in recovery for an extended amount of time or you are just beginning, we can help you develop better strategies for avoiding relapse.

Decreasing Stress Through Sensory Activities

A sensory trigger is a stimulant that occurs in your environment and overstimulates one of your five senses. These can be loud sounds, bright lights and colors, textures, certain smells, and tastes. These triggers will vary based on your particular history. At times you may find yourself fidgeting due to being uncomfortable. However, you may not recognize what is causing you to feel this way.

Before you engage in sensory activities, it is helpful to identify your stressors and how they show up for you. For example, writing down stressors in your life accompanied by sensory activities is beneficial when triggers occur. That way, you will already have a “toolbox” of sensory activities to utilize.

There are many sensory activities you can utilize in your recovery. You are free to find your own or to explore these suggestions. Decreasing your stress through sensory activities can take many different forms. For example, you may experience a trigger and recognize that deep breathing helps calm you down. Taking five deep breaths with your eyes closed will relax your nervous system and decrease stress.

Self-Soothing Sensory Activities

Many people know that sensory activities are geared toward triggers and self-soothing while our bodies react to a stimulus. As an alumni member in recovery, it may be difficult to recognize that triggers still occur. Don’t worry, it happens no matter how far you are in your recovery. A variety of self-soothing sensory activities may be what you need to overcome these triggers. Several sensory activities to try are as follows:

  • Stretch your body: After receiving shocking news or stress, one’s body freezes, which blocks energy from flowing. Get up and stretch for at least five minutes to allow that energy to flow.
  • Take a warm shower or bath: Soothe your body and use a soft towel afterward.
  • Practice self-compassion: Speak to yourself out loud using words of encouragement and love.
  • Try a butterfly hug: Cross your hands over your chest with thumbs linked in a “butterfly” position. Breathe deeply while “flapping” the butterfly wings. (You can search for this technique online.)
  • Repeat “I AM” statements: Think of qualities or states of mind that you want to embody. Then put an “ I AM” in front of those qualities.
  • Find positive sensory input: This can include soothing music, imagery, food, and smell
  • Count backward from 50: This can help your system calm down.
  • Try meditation: Sit in silence for several minutes and focus on the safe and comfortable present moment.

No matter what you are going through in your recovery, The Guest House can help. We understand that no two journeys are the same and everyone experiences life differently. That is why we meet you where you are at, with no judgment.

Everyone has been overwhelmed with sensory information at one point or another. Exploring what triggers sensory overload for you is important. What’s more, finding soothing sensory activities to help you recover from sensory triggers can be the difference between sobriety and relapse. Learning how to overcome sensory triggers in the moment is important for your well-being and ongoing sobriety. You have come this far as an alumni. Do not be afraid to reach out for connection and support. At The Guest House, we put your recovery first. If you or someone you know is struggling with sensory overload in recovery and needs support, give us a call today at (855) 483-7800. We are here to help you.