All of us have different emotional triggers—things that provoke our anger, sadness, fear, or anxiety. Triggers cause us to be reactive and can make us feel out of control over our emotional responses.
Instead of being triggered and reacting in a way, we might regret, there are ways to manage them. It’s possible to build self-awareness around your triggers and learn strategies to manage them in the moment. It takes some practice, but the pay-off is worth it!
Types of Triggers
Everyone has unique triggers based on your experiences, circumstances, or personality type. There are, however, some common triggers that come up for many people. Examples include:
- Negative or destructive comments
- Sarcasm and personal jokes
- Being talked over during a conversation
- Being left out of the loop
- An angry boss or colleague
- Circumstances or events like budget cuts
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Triggers can be anything that sets off an emotional response and causes you to escalate. Understanding the different types of triggers, and what triggers you on a personal level, is the first step to manage them.
Five Steps to Manage You Emotional Triggers
Instead of reacting to triggers and escalating to the point of being out of control, there are techniques you can learn to stay calm.
Here are five steps to manage your emotional triggers:
Know your triggers:
We all have a unique “trigger print,” that is as individual as our fingerprints! Your triggers are unique to you and based on your own history, experiences, or circumstances. So, self-awareness is the starting point, and learning your triggers helps you begin to manage them. Start by analyzing when you get triggered and ask yourself, why did I respond like that? Where have I seen this pattern before?
Know the physical signs of being triggered:
Often, our bodies know what’s going on before our brains do. It’s important to pay attention to what our body is doing, such as an increased heart rate, tension, or an inability to make eye contact. Take note of how your body is reacting through a body scan—take a few minutes each day to go through each body part and analyze how you’re feeling in the moment.
Visualization has incredible power and can impact our behavior in a positive way. Practice visualizing an appropriate and calm response—something different than your normal reaction to a trigger. This helps you deal with a trigger in the moment and prepare in advance for situations that might trigger you.
“Get on the balcony.”
We live our life on the dance floor—busy, crowded, in the middle of a bunch of people. When we’re triggered, we need to move up to the balcony and get a birds-eye view of what’s happening on the dance floor. This helps gain perspective on a situation and see it clearly.
Use the 7-second reset:
Start by putting your feet on the ground for one second, to ground yourself in the physicality of the moment. Seconds 2-4, breathe in and see where you are holding tension. Seconds 5-7, breathe out the negative emotions and reset yourself in the moment to respond with calm.
We’ve all got triggers—it’s part of being a human!
The important piece is to learn what your triggers are and develop healthy strategies to manage them in the moment. This will allow you to be less reactive and more proactive and calmer through potentially challenging and triggering events.
Today’s EQ Workout
Take some time to reflect on some of your emotional triggers.
Can you name 5 situations that are the emotional triggers for you?
What physical signs do you notice in your body when you are triggered?
What behaviors do you notice in you when you are emotionally triggered?
You may also like this YouTube video I recently recorded which explores today’s topic in more depth.