Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast

AMA: Triggers, Boundaries & Tough Conversations

September 19, 2023 Amanda Armstrong Season 1 Episode 31
Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast
AMA: Triggers, Boundaries & Tough Conversations
Show Notes Transcript

🗝️ In this special episode, I'm diving into questions submitted by our amazing listeners. I'll be sharing insights and offering thoughts on a variety of topics that you've been curious about. This format is something I'd love to do more of in the future, so keep those questions coming! Drop your questions or struggles in the form link below for future AMA episodes.⁠

⁠🔍 In this episode, I covered three key questions:

Question #1: How to communicate with our family/friends when something they say is triggering

Question #2: How to encourage a loved one who's struggling to take the first steps to heal & take care of themselves

Question #3: What to do when someone else's low energy/low mood is constantly pulling you down

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CLICK HERE to submit a question for me to answer on our next "AMA (Ask Me Anything)" episode.

CLICK HERE for full show notes + 3 takeaways!


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Welcome to regulate, and rewire and anxiety and depression podcast where we discuss the things I wish someone would have taught me earlier in my healing journey. I'm your host, Amanda Armstrong. And I'll be sharing my steps, my missteps, client experiences and tangible research based tools to help you regulate your nervous system, rewire your mind and reclaim your life. Thanks for being here. Now let's dive in. 

Welcome to another our second actually asked me anything episodes. For those of you who might be new at the bottom of your show notes. There is a Ask Me Anything form that you can fill out where you as a listener, let me know what you want to hear what questions you have about the topics. We're covering the unique struggles that you're experiencing that you want feedback on. And every now and then I will do a Ask Me Anything, podcast. In fact, our first one was called the Ask Amanda episode. And abbreviation was the AAA episodes, which got a little bit confusing. So ama asked me anything episodes are what we will be calling this from here on out. So today, I am going to touch on three questions. And I'm going to front load those questions so that you've got some context for our conversation today. 

Question number one is how to communicate with our friends and family when they say something that is triggering. Number two is how to encourage loved ones who are struggling to take the first steps to heal and take care of themselves. And question number three is what to do when somebody else's low energy or low mood is constantly pulling you down. So jumping right into that first question, and as always, thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing with me the questions you have the experiences you want some feedback on, I love being able to make these podcast episodes as personal to each and every one of your listeners as possible. So let's dive right in friends. 

Question number one, how to communicate with our friends and family when something they say is triggering. Okay, in answering this question, I want to touch on the difference between requests and boundaries. And how the goal here is not necessarily to get them to stop saying the things that are triggering. But the goal here is to get clear on your boundaries, how to honor those boundaries with your actions, okay, we can't change the actions or words of other people, and then how to build out your toolbox for navigating when you've been triggered. So the first part of this is that requests first boundaries. So a request is an ask of them. And they can or cannot honor that request, that's entirely up to them. And a boundary is the action that you will take in a certain situation. So if this is me to my kid, stop jumping on the couch is a request. Now, if I say if you can't stop jumping on the couch yourself, I will come over and help you put your feet to the floor. That's a boundary, what I will do something like don't comment on my body. That's a request. A boundary is when someone comments on my body, I will respond. Please don't comment on my body. Right? This is if somebody does this, I will have my back by responding in this way. 

Now maybe another layer to this particular situation could be if I have asked somebody not to comment on my body and they continue to do anyways. Well, then the boundary is I won't spend time around or in conversation with that, that person. This is what I need to do for me to get my needs met. Right. So don't yell, request. I don't stay in conversation with people who are yelling, boundary. And boundaries are not comfortable to make. They're really really hard. And sometimes they do cost us relationships with people who benefited from a less healed less boundaried version of ourselves. But it is your job to enforce the rules of engagement that work for being in relationship with you. 

So let's because I have no more context for answering these questions than you provide me in that survey. Let's say that the types of comments that are triggering for you are around body size. So let's say you have a family member who regularly comments on their own body, your body, stranger's body As people's bodies on TV saying things like, oh, did you notice that so and so gained weight? Or I wouldn't wear that if I looked like that. Or maybe they come to you, they say, Oh, you look like you've lost weight, you look really good. Whatever their comments are, you notice that when your friends or family make Body related comments, it feels really triggering for you. Okay, so your question was, how to communicate with them about this. So you might choose to start with the request. Hopefully, this is a person who wants to stay in relationship with you. Hopefully, this is a person who is willing to give you consideration and adjust behavior. Cool, that's amazing. So you might say, hey, it's triggering for me, or I'm not comfortable when comments are made about other people's bodies, or my own body around me. And we hope that they will respect that and adjust accordingly, because they have some consideration for our well being. But a lot of times, what we're instead met with is something like, don't be so sensitive, or like, you know, I don't mean it like that. And this is where we have to kind of step into the sobering truth that nobody necessarily owes us changed behavior, they can say what they want to say, and you get to decide whether that works for you or not, and you adjust accordingly. 

So let's say that your request isn't honored, you may then move on to make a boundary. Now, this might be something that you explicitly say, or it might be something you just choose to set for yourself, for example, you know, when comments are made about my body, I walk away from the conversation, you don't necessarily have to articulate that. That's just the boundary you keep for yourself, is by removing yourself. And then there is the other part of this at play that is just getting better at moving through triggers of noticing, oh, that comment was triggering for me. And maybe, you know, hey, that person doesn't, doesn't know that this is triggering for me, that person isn't intentionally trying to trigger me. But based on some of my past lived experience, that particular comment is triggering for me. You can choose to make a request or a boundary. Or maybe you say, oh, okay, I'm going to honor that the intent here is good, and the truth of me being triggered, and I want to learn how to have my own back and to be able to somatically, reset, and recreate a felt sense of safety when I have been triggered. And I have a whole episode on this. I think it's episode 10. I'll link it in the show notes below. If you want to learn more about how to build out your toolkit of how to navigate resetting after you've been triggered. 

So kind of a quick summary for this question. I hope that you are in relationship with people who are safe, who you can openly express something like, Hey, when you say things like that, it's pretty triggering for me. And I am working on how to manage being triggered better. But in the meantime, I'd really appreciate it if we could talk about one of the 1000 other amazing and interesting things that are to talk about together. Because when X, Y or Z comments are made, I instinctively pull away. And I really like having a close relationship with you. But because our friends and our family circle often include other pesky humans, operating from their own dysregulation and their own wounded parts. That level of vulnerability may not always be safe to express or warmly received. So your job is to take ownership of the work that you need to do to keep your peace. boundary setting. And creating a toolkit to help you reset from being triggered are two really great places to start. And this is work we support clients in in our practice all the time. 

All right, moving on to question number two, which reads, how can I encourage a loved one who is struggling to take the first step to heal and take care of themselves? Okay, I've got a handful of thoughts here, where to start? First, I think I would say love and support them where they are right now. If they aren't ready to proactively step into their healing journey yet let that be okay. I think a lot of times in order to feel like you can take that first step, you need to feel supported and loved wholly where you are. So what this might look like is simply acknowledging that they're struggling with a slice of help. So this could sound something like I know you're struggling right now, it makes sense that you're struggling. I'm here for you. And I know that you are incredible and have what it takes to get through this. Just know that you don't have to do it alone. And you can piece this out, put it in your own words where it applies, but using language with them, that implies Hey, I know you're struggling and it makes sense that you are let's validate where they are. I'm here for you. And I know that you're incredible and have what it takes to get through this. Right looking at somebody that's struggling and not just magnifying their brokenness, not just magnifying their struggle, but also feeding and fueling what you know to be true, that they are incredible, that they are resilient, that they are strong, that they can and they will find their way through this. And that reassurance that they don't have to do that alone, that you're there. 

So that is what I think we can first offer those in our lives who are struggling is just to love and support them where they are, whether they are in a place to take active steps or not. And the next thing to note is the people in our lives who are struggling, they might not know where to start. Right? You've heard me say before, healing often feels like a 1000 piece puzzle. And sometimes just picking up that first piece feels like an impossible decision. They might not have the bandwidth to figure it out. So if this is a person that you have rapport with, who has been open with you about their struggles, you can always ask something like, you know, today, are you looking for feedback? Or do you just want me to listen? And then, if they are in a place where they have the capacity, and the desire to get feedback from you, offering a soft suggestion, like, Hey, I was listening to this podcast the other day and thought it might sound helpful based on what we talked about last week, can you find a resource that is specific to something they mentioned, they were struggling with before? Right? This tells them you were listening, you were thinking about them. And it's a resource that they can choose to consume or not consume. But this says, Hey, I was thinking about you. Here's this thing, if you want it. 

Another kind of example of what this could look like was someone close to me, has been in traditional talk therapy for a really long time. And although it has been immensely helpful for them, they are finding themselves in situations where they still don't have the tools to anchor in the way that they want to. And so in a conversation about their mental health, I mentioned that I thought a more body based or somatic approach could be really helpful to what they were going through, they were in a place where they were open to more suggestive feedback. And when I mentioned this, I could tell there was like a little bit of exasperation, there's a little bit of overwhelm. And so I followed it up with in, would it be helpful if I sourced or I found a couple somatic therapists in your area? And they said that it would, right, so shortcutting, the mental load can be something that we can offer when they've already opened up for that feedback, etc. 

Another really powerful thing that we can offer to those that are struggling is CO regulation and example setting. So for CO regulation, a lot of times what I see in situations like this is that a really really well meaning friend or family member wants someone that they love to get better to heal to get the help and the support that they need. And a lot of times as that well meaning friend or family member, we think that trying to problem solve their anxiety, or depression is helping them but often what's happening is that we ourselves are having a hard time managing our own discomfort or heartbreak around the fact that they're struggling. And so us trying to manage their healing is actually in some way is an act of helping ourself manage our discomfort by trying to get them to change. 

So, okay, I know that might have sounded a bit confusing. Let me try to clear that up, because I think this is really, really important. Another personal example, someone very close to me has been struggling for a long time. And I used to get off the phone with this person. And when they were really struggling, I would immediately like I said, Get off the phone with them and go into problem solving mode. And I would think things like, well, if I just like, flew out there with them, maybe if I could text her every day, or maybe if I got her in with that really great coach, or that therapist or, you know, paid for this thing for them, or like, I know, then she could feel better. But when I could get really quiet and honest about this, the energy behind this was I need her to feel better, so that I can feel better. Now, fast forward, same person today, still struggling, still often calls me when they are spiraling out, or having a hard time with something. Except now, because of my own healing work. I am so much more equipped to hold space. Listen, when that's what they need, offer feedback when they're open to it. And I can get off the phone. And instead of immediately going into problem solving mode, HyperFlex hating etc. Now I hang up the phone and I noticed how much it hurts me to see them hurting. I noticed the grief that I experience because somebody that I love is hurting, I'm able to take some deep breaths, and sometimes even need to go on a walk. But then I am able to move on with my day. Because of the healing work that I have done. I know where they end, and I begin, I let their work and their healing be theirs. And that continues to allow me to have the capacity to hold space for them when they need that space held and it allows me to stay regulated. And that in and of itself is healing, you being that anchor for them is healing, their nervous system will be able to source for regulation and safety just by being in proximity or in relationship with you. And so you stepping into your own work also sets an example that we all need support, and that's okay. 

So what you can do is your own healing so that you can be a calm and regulating anger for them in a way that doesn't pull you down. Whether they are ready to do anything different to facilitate their own healing or not. I think sometimes if we put too much emphasis on trying to problem solve somebody else's healing. It also can make them feel like they're broken and need fixing. And no one wants to be the broken person who needs fixing. And the reality is, we have all felt like that person, we have likely all been that person at some point. Because we all have heart. And so what would it look like to be maybe a little bit more vulnerable with that heart and the ways that we navigate and get our own support. And the final thought, I think that's coming up for me here because especially in the role that I find myself and professionally, I'm all so often a support person for people in my life personally. And one thing I really try to do is to seek out moments to remind them just how much I believe in them, just how proud I am of them. And the way that they are showing up in their heart circumstances. I intentionally source for the good. And I remind them that I may not know what they're going through. I may not have the answers for them. But I support them. And I believe again in their ability to make the right choices for their healing in their life. And sometimes that's all we need to help us take those first steps is just knowing that somebody else believes that we can and that might just be their first step in healing is turning to you turning to somebody who believes that they can heal. 

Alright, question number three for today. What to do when someone else's low energy or low mood is constantly pulling you down? And I am going to keep the answer to this one a little bit more brief because I think I've already made a lot of my points for this question by answering the last two questions. 

So number one, do your own work to make it so that you know where they end. And you begin, if somebody else's low mood is constantly pulling you down, it is because at least to some extent, you are allowing it to boundaries are not in place. And or there's work for you to do. So that you are I mean, for lack of my brain figuring out a better way to say this, do your own work so that you are less pulled down double. A boundary I have that helps me to do this is that I don't answer the phone. Unless I have the capacity for whatever the person who's calling me might be bringing to me on the other end. And sometimes this means I just don't have time. Other times it means I'm emotionally drained, my bandwidth is tapped. And quick sidenote, for my friends and family who are listening to this, also, sometimes I don't answer your call, because I literally spend at least half of the day every day not sure where my phone is. So it could be that too. And it's not something for anyone to take personally. And people in your life might if they find out like oh, you don't take my phone calls. And sometimes I've even not been in my best self. It's like, yeah, because anytime you call me, you're just so negative and I don't have the bandwidth. I have I have spoken from places of dysregulation and I have caused some hurt. And it's okay. 

It's okay for family members or friends to be annoyed with you that you don't answer the call. It's okay. This is I think the basis of boundary setting like it is getting comfortable with other people being annoyed with you sometimes. Because you're uncomfortable either way, either somebody is encroaching on your sense of self and safety. They're taking more bandwidth than you have to offer or you're uncomfortable because you're setting a boundary and protecting your peace. And one of those uncomfortableness serves you in the long run by again, protecting your sense of self and safety and your peace. While the other one kind of that people pleaser in us, is always going to kind of run us into the ground. And so I have these small boundaries that I enforce. And they're not spoken a lot of these boundaries aren't things that I explicitly tell other people in my life. They're just actions I take to protect my peace, to protect my regulation to protect my bandwidth. And some of you with this specific like not answering the phone, some of you people pleasers again, I've been there might be thinking like, but what if they just have a quick question, right, that compulsiveness to answer the phone to like be at that person's beck and call because maybe it's something small? And that might be true. But I have no way of knowing sometimes, if they have a simple question, or if I am about to get trauma dumped on. So if I don't have the capacity for the later option, I am going to let that call go unanswered. And if it's really just a quick question, they can text me. So if somebody's low energy pulls me down, it is because I am not holding an energetic or literal boundary for myself. Because like I've said before, we cannot control the words, the actions, the energy of other people. We simply can do the work and it is work to learn how to set boundaries to actually set those boundaries. It takes a lot of self exploration and parts work healing to do that, but that is the work that's ours to do. 

Now, maybe there is one of you out there who's like but wait, like, what if that person lives in my house? Those are hard boundaries to set. What if it's one of my kids or my spouse? All right, that's a little more, that's more murky to navigate because you can't just not pick up the phone. But the work remains yours to do. It would be amazing if this person could just get it together and be less of a downer. But the reality is they are probably struggling. They also probably love to not be so low energy or low mood all the time, even if it doesn't seem like that. So if you are being pulled Hold down boundaries. And boundaries are a lot easier to set when you know how to regulate your own nervous system and source for this internal sense of self and safety. And there are a lot of really amazing resources and practitioners out there who would love to help you in that work? 

Okay, friends, that time is up for our conversation today. But I do want to put a quick plug in for next week's episode, there were three other AMA submissions around parenting and navigating mental health and nervous system regulation in that role. So if you are one of my listeners, who was like, I know, I submitted something, and I haven't heard her answer yet. And if it has to do with kind of mental health regulation in the role of parenting, I am going to do kind of a hybrid episode next week on some education, and then integrating those really vulnerable and beautiful shares, and hopefully get you some support in that episode. 

So for today, though, today's three tangible takeaways, number one, boundaries, boundaries, boundaries, boundaries are an essential skill to cultivate on your healing journey. And the further down your healing journey you get, the more connected you get to your sense of authentic self, the more tools you have for nervous system regulation, the easier it becomes to source for the things that do or do not work for you. In relation to other people. I came across a post that said something like, you know, we don't talk enough about the grief or the intense sadness that can come when you begin to heal and lose people in your life who benefited from your brokenness. And I was just like, oh, there are people in your life right now, who are benefiting from the fact that you lack boundaries, that you are people pleasing, that you are self sacrificing. And when you start to put some boundaries in place, when you take responsibility for the role that you are going to take to provide yourself with safety with care. And that that might mean putting some distance between you and some people in your life. Again, where some of that nervous system regulation work comes in is being able to manage them not being happy with you, relationships may need to change. And just because setting boundaries is hard. Just because setting boundaries sometimes hurts or comes with some grief as relationships change doesn't mean that it's not the right thing for you. So tangible takeaway, number one is boundaries. Remember, boundaries are a skill, it is a skill that is essential to cultivate for your healing journey. 

Number two, you don't choose to be triggered. And you cannot control whether somebody is or is not willing to change their behavior so that you are less triggered. So essentially, you being triggered is not anybody else's fault. It's not anybody else's problem. I hope you're in relationship with people that you can have vulnerable communication with and who care about you enough and have the capacity themselves to change behavior to facilitate a safer space, safer conversations with you. But just remember that you don't choose to be triggered. So let's take away some of that shame and guilt when somebody tells you to not be so sensitive or to just get over it. They're wrong. They're wrong in saying that you're not choosing to be triggered. And it is your job to set boundaries, and to build out your own toolkit for navigating triggers. And again, I'll link episode 10 That covers how to navigate being triggered in the show notes below. If that's something you feel like you'd benefit from listening to. 

Number three. If you have people in your life who are struggling, and you would love to see them take their first steps in healing. Hold them compassionately, where they are first. Lead by example. Be an anchor of CO regulation for them. Do your own work to be able to have space for their heart without it totally dysregulated you and as often as possible, point out their good and reassure them in your belief in them to make the right choices for their life and their healing journey. 

All right, until next time, friends, keep getting your morning sunlight take those deep breaths and give yourself so much compassion as you navigate these hard parts of being human. I am sending you so much hope and healing and I'll see you again next week. 

Thanks for listening to another episode of The regulate and rewire podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe and leave a five star review to help us get these powerful tools out to even more people who need them. And if you yourself are looking for more personalized support and applying what you've learned today, consider joining me inside Rise, my monthly mental health membership and nervous system healing space or apply for our one on one anxiety and depression coaching program restore. I've shared a link for more information to both in the show notes. Again, thanks so much for being here. And I'll see you next time.

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