I am writing this because I feel like someone out there could use a little help.
A few years ago while I was a bishop, a wise young man shared this list of triggers with me. He had been seeing a counselor who told him there were seven basic triggers that can lead us to repeat bad habits or fall back into addiction or transgression.
I’ve listed them here.
Each one is surrounded by a negative—and usually hidden—emotion. If you are wrestling with overcoming habits or an addiction, these triggers can be a “yellow zone.” What a I mean by “yellow zone” is that you know you need to slow down or stop but you are having a hard time doing so. If you have difficulty with a bad habit, you’ll find that one of these triggers may precede slipping back and losing ground.
I am adding seven counter measures that can help you avoid situations or thought patterns that lead to doing something you will later regret. Each numbered item is an antidote to one in the previous list. Each one is associated with creating a positive emotion.
- If you are lonely, spend time with someone else who is lonely and could use your attention.
- If you are tired, you are likely not going to bed early (see D&C 88:124). Try not to stay up so late; in fact, go to bed earlier than usual.
- If you find yourself getting bored, plan activities with friends well in advance and go and have some fun.
- If you are stressed, eat better, exercise more regularly and breathe deeply.
- If you are depressed, it usually helps to talk about your feelings. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings regularly.
- If you are anxious, write down what you are anxious about, then take it to the Lord with precise faith. Pray in faith as well as at length and then listen patiently for the comfort that will come.
- If you are angry, you are likely blaming a person for hurting you or someone you love. Seek to forgive, not correct, that person. Leave that to the Lord. Also, forgive yourself. People who forgive themselves find it easier to forgive others.
If you diligently apply the solutions in the second list—which all involve reaching beyond yourself—you have an excellent chance of overcoming the yellow zone of old habits.
Reach out to other people. If you feel you have no friends, reach out to the friendless and become a friend. Get yourself plenty of rest and good nutrition. Seek the advice of a leader or a trusted friend or counselor to discuss any feelings of depression you may have and seek further help if needed. Be patient and persistent in your prayers, and seek and freely offer your forgiveness—nothing is more freeing.
Apply the brakes just when the light turns yellow, not when the light has already turned red.