Maybe you wonder what’s really going on when you feel like certain events push your buttons. Take control of your emotional triggers by increasing your awareness and developing new ways of responding.
Understanding Your Emotional Triggers
- Learn the definition of triggers. A trigger is an experience that draws us back into the past and causes old feelings and behaviors to arise. An ice cream sandwich may remind you of summer vacations or gossiping co-workers could bring back images of high school cliques.
- Spot external prompts. Some triggers are situational and social. Many people tend to eat more at holiday gatherings. If your spouse is tense, it may affect your own mood.
- Identify internal causes. Over time, anything can be internalized. Even when you’re surrounded by loved ones, you may be carrying around old conflicts that interfere with your ability to live in the present moment.
- Realize we all have triggers. Much of the literature about triggers focuses on addictions. It’s important to remember that memory plays a powerful role in all our lives.
- Accept individual differences. If you’re startled by loud noises that your spouse fails to notice, you’ve seen how differently people react to the same stimulus. Taking such variety into account improves communications and relationships.
Managing Your Emotional Triggers
- Keep a journal. Tracking your triggers is often the first step in mastering them. It might be helpful to keep a log of occasions when you experience intense emotions or engage in behavior you want to change. Note what’s going on in your head and in your surroundings at the time.
- Challenge yourself. The key to change is placing yourself in difficult positions and being open to doing something new and more constructive. If worrying about money is keeping you up at night, call your creditors to arrange payment plans.
- Know your capacity. Proceed at your own pace. Start out by being more assertive with your spouse and friends if you need to practice before talking with your boss.
- Come up with alternatives. Take advantage of quiet times to brainstorm new strategies you can use when you are under pressure. List productive and enjoyable activities you can substitute for gambling or other habits you want to break.
- Make time to relax. Reducing daily stress will make it easier to handle intense emotions. Begin a daily meditation practice or start out the day by listening to instrumental music during your drive to the office.
- Consider therapy. If you’re having trouble making progress on your own, professional help could make a big difference. Ask your physician or people you trust for references or call the psychology department at your local universities.
- Live healthy. One simple way to make yourself more resilient is to take good care of your body and mind. Eat right, sleep well and exercise regularly. You’ll be better prepared to bounce back from any obstacles that may arise.
- Develop a strong support network. Close family and friends are vital to feeling validated and nurtured. When you’re dealing with stubborn issues, it’s good to know you have people who care about you and want to help.
- Show compassion. The more you know about your own triggers, the more insight you can develop into what the people around you may be struggling with. Strive to be a little more patient and forgiving and people will be more likely to do the same for you.
We all have our own unique emotional triggers. Learning to handle them constructively enables us to fix the issues that get in our way and move ahead in life.