What’s the biggest, most overlooked trigger for CPTSD symptoms? It’s one that happens all the time, and is a trigger for a lot of people.

It’s hurrying. 

Hurrying is so normal. We all do it all the time.  But when you have CPTSD, hurrying very easily turns into overwhelm, and though you may have come to believe it’s not possible to live without hurrying (there’s always so much to do!), hurrying can trip you up and sabotage the most important things in your life. 

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Hurrying is a massive trigger for me, and I always wondered why no one talked about it. (I have it bad). it almost always sets off dysregulation, which (for me) feels like discombobulation, frustration, and a tendency to lose track of my keys and purse. It’s such a big trigger, that one whole day of my Dysregulation Bootcamp is devoted to hurrying. 

Here are some tips to help you notice what this trigger is doing to you, and how you can start to change that. 

Hurrying can be a trigger when you’re trying to get out the door in the morning, when you’re driving in a rushed way through traffic, or anytime you’re getting overwhelmed by a huge to-do list. 

Most hurrying is caused not by society, not bytechnology, but something much more ordinary than that. Are you ready? 

It’s procrastination. 

We all procrastinate sometimes — we don’t get out of bed after the alarm goes off, when we leave the house, we don’t leave enough time to get where we’re going. And what’s one huge reason we procrastinate? That’s right — dysregulation! 

So it’s a vicious circle — procrastinating, dysregulating, hurrying, dysregulating, procrastinating some more… 

Our minds LOVE a sense of spaciousness in time.. Taking your time is wonderfully regulating. 

When’s the last time you took a shower and stopped and just enjoyed the feeling of the water? Or brushed your teeth without a feeling of pressure to hurry up?  This pushing, pushing all the time can overwhelm us, and “overwhelm,”  all by itself, triggers dysregulation.

Our minds LOVE doing things with careful attention. But the PTSD in us feels scared of slow, mindful processes because the bad feelings might get in. 

There have been times when I stopped to think about why I was hurrying so much all the time, and the best I could come up with, was that I felt like I was being chased by emotions. I call it “the pack of wolves.” And funnily enough, when I sat in meditation and imagined the wolves came and got me, you know what happened?

Nothing. Not much anyway. Maybe a bit of a cry, and then it passed.

But for a long time, I was running from that. So I hurried and hurried. And in my kind of dysregulation, hurrying makes me start losing my belongings and spilling food down my shirt — so then I’m WAY late getting out the door. 

In one two-week period where I was intensely dysregulated I drove away from the gas station with the pump still in my car, and then rear-ended a truck. I know now that during dysregulation, our brain waves get irregular and jagged, like water rushing over rocks in a river. That’s exactly what my thinking feels like when it’s happening.

I’ll start bumping my head on open cabinet doors and shutting my fingers in the fridge. And worst of all, I can’t get anything done when I’m that dysregulated. So the irony is that all that hurrying just ends up making everything take longer. 

If you’re from the U.S., you will remember the kids’ show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I’ve been talking about him a lot lately because he’s one of the heroes in the pantheon of people who helped me survive my childhood with my spirit intact. There’s a beautiful documentary that came out about him called Won’t You Be My Neighbor (I highly recommend it). And I also recommend the dramatic movie where Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers, and that’s called It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  My grandmother who cared for me after preschool every afternoon when I was four years old used to let me watch the show, but no other TV shows (she said most shows were too frenetic and got me wound up). And definitely, when I was four, she knew that I was going through trauma at home. 

I was terrified of silly things like dripping faucets and being in a car driving over a hill — this was in San Francisco and I was always afraid there might be a cliff just beyond what I could see of the dashboard, from my position in the back seat. 

Mr. Rogers started each episode by walking in the door of his “home” (it was a set of course), and he’d unbutton his jacket and carefully hang it in the closet. He’d then take out his cardigan and put it on, and then sit and take off his leather shoes, putting on instead a pair of sneakers. He’d carefully tie his shoes, and we’d have this close-up view of each shoe while he tied it, and it was MESMERIZING. 

He made that show because he KNEW a lot of kids around him were going through trauma, and it was his ministry to hang out with us for half an hour each day and show us ordinary things, done in a slow and ordinary way. 

You may have people you loved during your own childhood whom you loved exactly because they helped you learn to move at the right pace for your brain. 

A lot of people use mindfulness meditation to tune in, drop back into their bodies and slowly, mindfully pay attention to what’s happening around them. This is really powerful for CPTSD, if you can manage it. But even if all you can do is just catch yourself hurrying, and drop down temporarily to half-speed, you can often pull yourself OUT of the dysregulation tailspin and back into a regulated state. If you can learn to do this — around hurrying or anything that’s got you dysregulated and frustrated, you can change the course of your whole life. 

As Mr. Rogers would say, I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for caring enough to heal yourself. 


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