Heartbreaking Triggers of Anxiety and PTSD Ep. 1:5

This episode follows Chapter 1, Section 5: The Heartbreaking Triggers. In this episode, 

  • We’re talking about how trauma triggers your amygdala and how to un-trigger it. 
  • You’ll get the script of what to say to your anxiety. 
  • We’ll practice the script together so you can feel what it’s like, to not be scared of it.
  • We’ll do a little review on how and why anxiety goes away. 
Heartbreaking triggers of PTSD

I explain where anxiety triggers come from and how you can un-trigger them. Intensely threatening events, called traumas, overwhelm your senses. They spike your adrenaline. They set off your fight or flight response, and they cause you to trigger that response easier the next time. When you identify triggers you no longer need, you can decide to un-trigger them. I’m here to help you do that.

I will give you a script of what to say to your anxiety that acknowledges it, doesn’t fear it, and reclaims your control over your emotions. Then you just repeat this script to override your reptilian brain. This is about you regaining control over your anxiety. 

“When you’re deciding to consciously do this as an exercise, you’ll expect that trigger coming and it won’t blindside you. You will have control over the whole situation.” – Dr. Jodi

Listen here:

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Episode Transcription

Hey, you’re here with Dr. Jodi, and this is “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You!” 

I am so excited about this podcast. It accompanies my book by the same name, “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You!” It’s a teen’s guide to ditching toxic stress and hardwiring your brain for happiness, because that is what we’re going to do in the series: We’re ditching that freaking toxic stress and hardwiring your brain to generate happiness every day. 

This is what you do: You read or listen to a section of the book. Then come on over here and listen to an episode where we’re going to go a little bit deeper, give more examples, and tell more stories. I want to provide you with everything you need to be sure that you find your way out of this horrible anxiety cycle so that you no longer have to suffer. Please leave me a five-star review on Apple podcasts. That’ll help me get in the ears of more people who need this series. Mental health problems are skyrocketing, especially among teenagers, and this series will change the tide.


Welcome To Chapter 1, Section 5: The Heartbreaking Triggers

I’m trying to jam-pack these episodes with so much good stuff to up-level your life, raising you out of the anxiety, chaos, and mystery where you will now have a place to stand so you can know and trust yourself, so you can engage in life again, looking forward to things and excited about your future.

In this episode, 

  • We’re talking about how trauma triggers your amygdala and how to un-trigger it. 
  • You’ll get the script of what to say to your anxiety. 
  • We’ll practice the script together so you can feel what it’s like, to not be scared of it.
  • We’ll do a little review on how and why anxiety goes away. 

Are you ready? Let’s go!

Trauma Triggers

Intensely threatening events are called traumas. When you experience a trauma, your senses are overwhelmed by feeling like you are in mortal danger. Your adrenaline increases, and besides all the fight-and-flight responses, your brain starts to lay down emotional memory in the amygdala. It also turns off the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of your brain that controls motivation and emotions and learning, and contextual memory.

Contextual memory means the story of the memory. This means when you’ve experienced trauma, emotional memory is laid down in the amygdala, but it’s not storied or integrated, or processed. That emotional memory is raw, and when it’s triggered, that is why it feels like it’s happening right now as if you’re living it again. Even if you’re safe, you feel like you’re not safe. Anything can trigger this emotional memory, a sound, a clink of a glass, somebody yelling, tomatoes, driving in a car.

In addition, a panic attack is also a trauma. It may not compare to big T trauma, but it affects you because when you have a really intense panic attack, your adrenaline causes your amygdala to lay down the emotional memory. If you remotely feel anything like a panic attack again, even if it’s slight, your amygdala says, “This is one of those times! We’re in danger!” and it releases a ton of adrenaline in your body. That’s why panic attacks feed other panic attacks. Plus, they’re scary, so you’re scared, which also feeds the anxiety.

If you don’t know what big T trauma is, it’s like the big intense experiences that could happen. You could be in an accident or be abused sexually, emotionally, or physically. You could be racially oppressed or live through war, or experience a natural disaster. While these are intense traumatic experiences, they don’t mean that anxiety is a life sentence. It doesn’t mean you have to be triggered constantly, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Once you identify your triggers, you can decide if it’s safe for you to get rid of them. If it is, you can get rid of them.

Un-trigger it

What do I mean by making sure it’s safe to un-trigger it? There are some things that would trigger our amygdala to set off the adrenaline in our body that we want to keep there. It keeps us safe, and some of these things are from our memory, from our ancestral memory, innate in our body, in our DNA, like don’t put your hand in a fire. You want to keep that trigger because you don’t want to put your hand in a fire.

Once, I had a client once who, tragically, had a grandfather die in a fire. All fire equipment would trigger her amygdala to go off, and she’d start to panic. For example, when she saw a fire extinguisher, a handle to pull down to set off the fire alarm, or even an exit sign, it would trigger her amygdala. This was understandable because of what she experienced, but it hurt her life. Those things aren’t dangerous for her, so it was okay for her to un-trigger them.

In this process of un-triggering your amygdala, you’re not going to be forcing yourself to do something uncomfortable. That would only increase anxiety. When you feel forced, even if you’re forcing yourself, anxiety’s going to spike because it feels like you’re trapped. You have to think about this differently. I’m inviting you to consciously decide that you want to do something about this. This puts the power role back in you instead of in anxiety, and this switch will make all of the difference to this process.

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What triggers you?

First, you have to identify what triggers you. I was talking to a client last night, and one of her triggers was her father’s sigh because it gave her the sense that he was disappointed in her. He’d huff, and every time she heard that she felt the feeling in her heart. She felt that adrenaline in her body giving her that extra like, “Ooh, this is something that is uncomfortable.” This is a perfect thing to pick because it’s relatively mild, and cognitively, she knew she was not in imminent physical danger. For her, this was a good, easy place to start.

You have to find something in your life that’s a good easy place to start because it’s really good to practice this practice with low stakes. Also, when you’re deciding to consciously do this as an exercise, you’ll expect that trigger to come, and it won’t blindside you. You will have control over the whole situation. What it looks like for her is that she expects to be triggered by this huff, and she imagines the huff anticipating that her amygdala is going to set off the adrenaline, and when it does, she uses her mammalian brain to override the amygdala and tell her that it’s okay, that everything is okay, and she is physically safe.

So, here’s the script: first, you’re a witness to the adrenaline, and in the witnessing state, you’re not as upset about it. The witnessing state gives you a distance from it. This could also be called zooming out or taking a psychic step back, or going above the battlefield. My client called it high on a tower this week. Whatever metaphor works for you, this is about getting yourself away and above this situation. You’ll hear me talk about this witnessing state over and over because, as you will see, it is a formidable tactic to get through this life easier.

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The Script

Okay, back to the script. “Hi, adrenaline, I feel you under my skin. I get why you’re here. Okay? Yep. That’s exactly what you feel like flowing through my body.” This might sound silly initially, but trust me, it’ll make a difference. Then, you speak directly to your amygdala. “Thanks, amygdala. If I needed this, it would be great, but I don’t need you right now.” This is you overriding your reptilian brain with your mammalian brain. “Thanks, amygdala. If I needed you, it would be great, but I don’t need you right now.” You could see in that script that 1) I’m not afraid of the feeling, and 2)

I’m actually grateful for the sympathetic nervous response. It flips the script. Usually, we’re terrified of it and we’re running away. But if you said, “This would be great; if I needed you, it’d be great.” You’re acknowledging and appreciating the process.

This totally changes how you experience it because the meaning that you’re making around it is different. And then, you are overriding it, “I don’t need you right now. I am physically safe. I don’t need you right now.” This script has everything you need: to acknowledge it, to not be afraid of it, and for you to reclaim control over your emotions instead of your emotions controlling you. You are overriding your reptilian brain with your mammalian brain. With repetition, every time this trigger sets off your amygdala and you override it, your amygdala is relearning how to relate to this trigger. It’s relearning that this trigger is not dangerous.


We got our dog right before the 4th of July, and I was really nervous because I had heard many dogs are really afraid of fireworks, so I looked up online what to do to get your dog not to be afraid of fireworks. This was his first day in our home on the 4th of July, and I read that every time the firework goes off, the dog’s going to look at you to see if it should be nervous. Make sure you’re in the room with it when the fireworks are going off, and you act as if nothing happened. When the sound goes off, and the little puppy starts to bark or looks at you and is afraid, you just act like nothing went wrong.

Now I have a dog that does not hide under the bed every 4th of July. I’m very grateful for this because we live near the town hall and the beach and there are fireworks several times a year around here. In a sense, I’m treating my amygdala like I treated the puppy. “Everything’s okay. You don’t need to be scared.”

Difficult People

Back to my client with her father’s huff, at first, she would do it gently. She’d try to be present with that huff and allow the adrenaline to come and then override it and repeat it. Imagine it coming. Let the adrenaline come. Override it. With that repetition, before it actually happens in real life, your body is learning a new way to think about that huff. The next step could be having somebody do that huff and her trying to calm herself and stay calm when somebody else does that huff. Let me reiterate that this was somebody who had a safe relationship with her father. This could be totally different if the father was abusive or narcissistic or didn’t put her first.

When you’re in that situation and a person triggers you because they have been abusive, you don’t want to un-trigger the amygdala for that person if you’re still around them. First, you want to get away from that situation, get out of that situation, and I understand that sometimes it takes a while to get out of a situation like that. What I don’t want you to do is take responsibility by un-triggering your amygdala when somebody is abusing you. That is not only devastating to your psyche, but it could also be quite dangerous for you.

I’m also aware that when your adrenaline goes off, it is very scary, and I’m asking you not to be scared in these situations where you’re trying to un-trigger your amygdala. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it, but you’re not faking it. A lot of people who have anxiety try to fake it so people don’t know that they have anxiety, and this doesn’t help anxiety too much, right? Because you’re holding it in, and you’re really scared that somebody’s going to find out, and it actually increases your anxiety.

You consciously choose to un-trigger

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about you consciously deciding that you don’t have to be afraid of this trigger anymore. This is you in the power role doing this experiment. You’re prepped for it, you know it’s coming, and you’re ready not to be afraid of it. That is a more straightforward scenario to “fake until you make it.”

This process of un-triggering your amygdala needs repetition. You can wait until you are triggered IRL (in real life) and then practice this, or you can practice it ahead of time, honing your skills so that it is not as bad when it unexpectedly happens.

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The un-triggering process

Let me give you an example of another client of mine. This is a young man who wants to date. But once he starts to talk to somebody online and gets excited that this person feels safe and kind of cool, and he decides to make a date. Every time he comes to the day of the date, he thinks, “I can’t. I can’t do this, I can’t do this,” and he cancels.

Not only is he disappointed that he can’t do it, but he also feels guilty that he is letting the other person down. He’s a good kid with a good conscience. So, he feels bad about the other person, and this makes him feel worse. Because this has happened over and over again, when he begins to panic the day of the date, he puts meaning around that, which means he can’t. He wasn’t looking at it, as his amygdala was triggered when it didn’t need to be triggered.

I explained to him the un-trigger process.

Now that he understood the process and what was happening, he could decide to override it with his mammalian brain and say to himself, “Thanks, amygdala, If I needed you, that would be great, but I am not physically in danger going on this date.” What are the risks? There could be risks that the person wasn’t interested in him or that they are a little bit nutty and it wouldn’t be a great date, or they could be boring. None of these things is something he was worried about.

He just heard, “I can’t,” and decided that he couldn’t. His amygdala was trying really, really hard to keep him from danger, but he wasn’t really in danger in the first place. You may be wondering why he had that trigger and why I wasn’t trying to figure that out. Of course, we did. In the therapeutic conversations, of course, we addressed where it came from and why it started in the first place. We made meaning around that past, but that wasn’t what I was illustrating in this example.

Once you acknowledge your adrenaline and the amygdala, thank it, and tell it that you don’t need it anymore, you have to distract yourself with some action. You want to engage your mind and body in something else so that anxiety does not have all of your attention anymore. You could walk, you could talk to somebody, you could watch something, you could organize a drawer, you could clean out a closet, go run an errand, anything. Any action will do.

GABA Hormone

Remember the last episode when we talked about increasing your GABA hormone? Two things, you want to not be bothered by the anxiety, and you want to take some kind of action. When people are recovering from their anxiety, I see a pattern. It gets less and less often, less and less intense and shorter episodes until it’s gone. You overriding it, telling it that you don’t really need it, not being afraid of it, is going to make it get less and less and less and less until it’s gone.


How are you doing? I dispensed a lot on you in this episode. If you have any questions for me, you could come on over to my live coaching calls every Monday on Facebook and YouTube. In that live stream, you could ask me any questions. Also, comment on any of my social media posts or blog posts, and I will answer your question.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for giving yourself this time to hang out with me today. This episode discussed how trauma triggers your amygdala and how to un-trigger it. I gave you a script of what to say to your anxiety and how to act when it comes back, so it is less and less and less and less and gone. 

Thank you so much for subscribing, commenting, and rating me five stars on Apple podcasts. In the next episode, I’ll cover your basic fears, so read Chapter one, Section six, and I’ll see you there.

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