Understanding Your Emotional Triggers — and How to Cope

The world can be a big, bad, scary place. Almost everyone goes through hardships or experiences traumatic events. Past experiences or childhood trauma can affect the way we respond to events in the present. These emotional triggers can cause us to experience painful thoughts and behaviors.

What is an Emotional Trigger?

An emotional trigger is anything that stimulates a strong emotional response, such as anger, sadness, or fear. These emotions can have their roots in the negative experiences and traumatic events of the past, which can then be triggered by events or situations in the present.

Commonly Triggering Situations Can Include:

  • being rejected, like after a breakup
  • being treated unfairly
  • feeling unwanted or smothered
  • confrontation

Coping Mechanisms

  • Accept your feelings.
  • Communicate your feelings.
  • Take a step back (and get some perspective).
  • Try some breathing techniques.
  • Give mindfulness a go.
  • Write your thoughts down in a journal.

Remember, your experiences are personal to you. Find what works for you best, and don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it. Understanding your own triggers — and how to deal with them — can help you cope long term.

How to Identify Your Emotional Triggers

When you know what triggers you, you can take action to protect your mental health. It can be a critical part of that whole self-care thing you might have been neglecting. Be patient with yourself though. It’s not always easy to recognize, and your heightened emotions can make it difficult to pinpoint specific triggers. Try thinking back to when you first experienced these feelings. Was there a specific event from your childhood that stirred up similar emotions? Or maybe it’s a more recent event, like a really bad argument with a friend or loved one.

Your triggers will be easier to spot as you become more self-aware. And once you’ve noticed, you can take steps to change or regulate your reactions.

Symptoms of Emotional Triggers

Emotional triggers can produce physical effects on the body. They may resemble symptoms of anxiety disorders, which include:

  • increased heart rate
  • upset stomach
  • feeling dizzy or sick
  • trembling or shaking
  • sweating
  • muscle tension

If you experience any of these symptoms (or any others), try to take a step back and assess the situation. You can use these physical effects as a warning sign that something’s not quite right.

Coping When You Feel Triggered

OK, so you now know what your triggers are and when they happen. You can just avoid those situations altogether, right? Unfortunately, life just isn’t that simple. Sooner or later, you’re going to find yourself in a triggering situation. So you’re going to have to learn how to deal with them when they occur.

How to Defuse an Emotional Trigger:

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to defusing an emotional trigger. Your experiences are personal to you, and it might take a bit of experimenting to see what works. Here are a few ideas. Try them out and see what works best for you:

  • Accept your feelings. Your feelings are valid. It’s OK to feel, angry, upset, or scared. The trick is to accept these feelings and not let them overtake you. You might not be in control of all your feelings, but you do have control of your actions.
  • Take a step back. When you’re triggered, you lose your objectivity. It’s almost impossible to have any perspective when you’re overcome with emotion. If you can, take a step back from the situation so you can see things more clearly. Highly emotional thinking doesn’t produce clear solutions.
  • Communicate. Heightened emotions make it more difficult to communicate. But effective communication skills are the key to any good relationship. If a friend, colleague, or loved one has triggered you, take a moment to gather your thoughts. Communicate clearly what has happened so they can understand how you’re feeling.
  • Breathing techniques. You read earlier about how emotional triggers can produce physical symptoms of anxiety. Breathing techniques can help calm you down and stop things from getting worse. Here are 6 exercises that can help you relax in 10 minutes or less.

How to Recover Long Term

So you’ve worked out the best way to deescalate your triggers when they’re fired. Now it’s time to look at long-term strategies. Self-care takes work. Identifying your mental health needs and finding activities that support good mental health are super important. Addressing the root cause of your emotional triggers can help lessen their impact over time.

Below are some ideas to help build your resilience:

1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness exercises are a great way to slow down and focus on the present moment. Working on mindfulness can help you become more aware of your feelings and emotions. This can help you to notice emotional triggers when they fire.

2. Journaling

Journaling is a great way to bring some order to all those thoughts rushing around in your head. Keeping track of when you were triggered and how you felt can help you identify certain patterns. Try writing down your top three emotional triggers which knock you off balance. Are there any similarities between them? Can you identify a common root cause, or are they all different? As you saw earlier, identifying where your triggers come from gives you more insight. Ultimately, insight is knowledge, and knowledge is power.

Takeaway

Learning to recognize your emotional triggers is a process, and it certainly won’t happen overnight. But becoming more aware of your triggers — and what to do when they appear — can improve your overall well-being. It will help foster good mental health in the long term. Remember, you might not be able to control your feelings at the moment, but you can control how you respond to them. It just takes patience and practice.

Article Credit: https://greatist.com/happiness/emotional-triggers#Takeaway

Published by SULV Foundation

Build and Repeat is our Mission and Purpose, we strive to make the world a better place while creating inter-generational wealth.

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