Using the SINCD tool to respond to your triggering thoughts and emotions
You have felt it.
Your heart is beating. You feel flushed. You may be frustrated, stressed or you just had a fight with your significant other or your kids. You crave relief of the tension because somewhere inside you something feels not right. You need something to take the edge off. Then the thought comes to mind: “Who cares, I might as well just…”
Then insert your drug of choice or your obsession: drink, do blow, smoke up, eat the chips, drive fast, binge watch, surf the internet…
Who cares, I might as well just (use, eat, surf, binge, get angry)… ?
Your answer to that question reveals the place where you experience the struggle to decide whether you will choose behaviors that enhance your life or continue with behaviors that erode your self-confidence, your energy and your sense of connection with yourself and the significant people in your life.
This question can reveal a subtle sense of giving yourself permission to use. It is a way to give yourself an out rather than work through your struggle. However, remember that relapse is not inevitable. If you are struggling with a trigger thought or emotion, this is proof that you have other values that are also important to you.
Who cares? You do, because this decision is important. To repeat, if you are struggling with a trigger, it means that you care about yourself and your decisions.
What I discuss below is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It is a tool that takes about 30-60 seconds with practice. This will help to change your relationship with your thoughts and your feelings about your trigger.
Using the SINCD tool to work through a trigger
Here are the steps of SINCD in more detail: This can be a tool that you will use to work through a trigger or to work through after you have used or after a slip. It will help to reorient you to what is most important in your life.
1. S – Slow down, close your eyes and take a breath. Breathe in through your nose and then out through your mouth. Feel your heart slow down a few beats. This will help you be more present, care for yourself and it will slow you down so that you can better consider your choices.
Once you take a few breaths, choose one of the following to help you to unhook from the emotion/thought. Unhooking is not avoidance. It is a way to step back and view your emotions and your thoughts as an experience rather than your entire identity:
- The goal is to consider what you can do to invest yourself more fully in this moment, rather than avoid or look for quick distraction.
3. N- Name all of the issues that are important to you right now. What are the issues that you are struggling with? Name out loud as many issues as you can without judging yourself or your issues:
a. you feel tension/stress/anxiety/unsettled
b. you are upset about, or you regret a verbal conflict that you just had
c. you desire to use
d. you want relief, a quick fix, you are impatient
e. you want to change your behavior
f. you aspire to be a better… friend, spouse, father, person…
h. you wonder if you can work through this trigger
4. C- Consider: What is most valuable to you? Name your values. Picture them.
5. D – Do one thing: Take a meaningful action. It might be going for a walk if you value fitness, or talking with your spouse or another person if you want connection, or closing your eyes and breathing if you are wanting to live more in the moment, or working on a project for your job or writing a few sentences of an article or book you are working on. It should not be big or overwhelming. Take a small, but important action. Then close your eyes, breathe and be present for a moment.
Once energy is created, it cannot be destroyed – only transformed into something else… When you occupy your time and energy in productive actions, it is no longer a battle of attrition. The focus has changed. Energy has been redirected. You are not spending your energy resisting something; you’re spending it doing something else altogether. Mike Mahler
Remember that the goal is not to distract, avoid or try to quickly change your behavior because that will make the trigger worse. By taking the steps of SINCD, rather than avoid your trigger and create more pressure, you will learn to gently lean into it. Over time, you will change your relationship with your trigger. Honestly exploring the question: Who cares? can be helpful a helpful question rather than a threat that could derail your recovery.
Many of the concepts from this article are taken from ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. You can learn more about this approach by following the links below.
The Happiness Trap by Dr. Russ Harris
For an article that discusses some of the research and theory, you can read the ABC’s of ACT
If you enjoyed this article, you may want to see some of my other writing on the subject:
I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain. Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you like what I have to say, please share my work with your friends.
Lastly, if you like my writing, you can click here to vote for my page on Psych Central’s list of mental health blogs.
Keep it Real
Photo by Jon Nichols