spot the trigger

Triggers come in all shapes and sizes, and I have a big, juicy trigger looming up this Tuesday: election night.

Ugh.

It’s not just the presidential race (though I know that’s a big contributor to stress for a lot of us), but also a couple of state and local contests & ballot issues that have me chewing my fingernails. I have many vivid memories of election nights spent compulsively hitting “refresh” on my browser, sweating over each incremental shift in the returns. It’s not a great way to spend an evening, but it feels impossible to avoid the anxious cycle.

Spotting triggers is a great start, but not actually a brand-new skill. I used to spot triggers all the time, I just usually prepared by making sure I was fully stocked up on booze ahead of time! For awhile, it felt like my only alternative was to sit tight, do nothing, and sweat through a miserable night…but I’m finally starting to realize that there are often better options out there.

One part of this involves realizing that I am going to be anxious no matter what. I’ll be anxious if I stay home, and I’ll be anxious if I go out. As a general rule, I cannot think my way out of anxiety, or force myself to feel a different way. But I can sometimes manage the anxiety a bit. I can’t change how I feel, but I can control what I do, which might help. I don’t need to spend all of Tuesday evening locked in an addictive loop of constantly refreshing to get returns in 1% increments. I can carve out some time to do something else, and cross my fingers that that may alleviate just a bit of the unpleasant feelings.

The plan: by mutual agreement, on Tuesday night my partner and I are going out for dinner (in a restaurant with no television, radio, phones, or internet-ready devices!), then we’re going out to a movie. No sitting at home following unnecessary “live updates.” Following that plan, we shouldn’t even get home until about 9:30 or 10pm. By which point, many races should already be called, and we can check out the state of the world, celebrate or agonize together, and go to bed.

My hope is that this will diminish some of the feelings of inescapable anxiety, lack of control, and the lure of escape that alcohol promises. Not to mention, give us the chance to enjoy some good food and a promising-looking film.

Well, that’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how it goes, and be glad when it’s finally over.

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