Unfortunately, real life doesn’t come with a trigger warning.
We all have those days when we feel awesome and totally on fire.
You’re making moves, taking names, and feeling unstoppable. You feel certain you’re no longer walking on the earth, but rather that you are floating above it. The trees look prettier and the birds sound happier.
Then you walk into what should be a mundane situation and POOF ... that exceptional mood evaporates.
It could be that your partner looked at you funny. It could be that your boss called you “hun.” It could be that one of those happy sounding birds took a crap on your new jacket.
It doesn’t really matter what the trigger was because it already flipped your switch from totally awesome to completely losing it!
Triggers are those experiences, statements, and emotions that spring your natural mental health responses.
In theory, trigger warnings are there to alert you to danger. They are like there is a code embedded in your system that says when X happens, you must do Y. So, for example, when someone gets angry, you might respond with anger.
The tricky part is that your triggered responses are subconscious and the danger they alert you to is sometimes imagined. Hence, that flip-of-a-switch feeling you experience when you fall from on-top-of-the-world bliss to complete and utter disappointment at an inexplicably fast rate.
So how do you tame these inborn responses that make you react before you have time to choose how best to act?
Here are 6 things you can do to help you master your mental health and tame your triggers.
1. Know your triggers.
Which situations make you lose your cool? It can be way too easy to miss what actually set you off in the first place because your emotions get riled up in the aftermath.
Spending some time thinking about what really made you sad, mad, and/or afraid will help you recognize your personal trigger pattern so you can find ways to both avoid problematic situations and find better ways of handling them when they do arise.
2. Be preventative.
The stronger and happier you are on a regular basis, the easier it is to stay in the clear.
I like to think of this as your emotional immune system. The happier you are, the more easily you will find your inner calm. The more you keep your inner calm, the more likely you are to resist impulses to react. When you can skip the knee-jerk reaction, you can make a conscious decision to take actions that will work for you.
Doing more of what you love and truly makes you happy will impact how you show up to each and every life event.
3. Find out why.
Even though you might feel like you’re reacting to something, it is important to realize you are also reacting from inside of yourself. You are the one in charge of your reaction.
Your previous experiences set the stage for present reactions. Finding the root cause behind your triggered reaction will help you distinguish what is happening in the current situation from what happened in the past.
Ask yourself questions like these:
- “When have I experienced something like this before?”
- “What did I come to believe based on this type of experience?”
4. Learn new skills.
Many of us only experience life in a reactive state and don’t have a sense of what it would be like otherwise. Learning how to get centered, let go of emotion, and give yourself direction will help immeasurably to keep you on track.
There are great books and programs out there to help you work on being more skillful when you are activated by something someone does or says. All you need to do is Google any issue you are facing and you will be presented with a myriad of resources. Pick one up and start learning about your options.
5. Know how to stop yourself.
The classic recommendation that never goes out of style is to count to 10 before you do or say anything when you can feel your emotions are high.
There is a reason this advice comes up time and again. The faster you notice that you have been triggered and take action to stop yourself, the faster you will be on your way to creating a different and more productive end result.
6. Know what really matters.
Sure, it might seem like telling so-and-so off is the most important thing to do in the moment when you are triggered, and yes, it can be rewarding — for about 5 seconds. But you soon learn that some things can never be undone or unsaid.
What makes you feel OK in the short-term may not be what makes you feel OK in the long term. Knowing who you want to be and what kind of impact you want to have on the world around you helps you figure out better ways to respond in the moment.
One of the most important things to remember is that you do not have to be reactive.
It doesn't matter how dire the situation seems or how easily you get triggered.
When you become more aware of what sets you off and take action to learn different ways of being, you will notice yourself experiencing a smoother and far more enjoyable life.
Dr. Kate Siner is a teacher, mentor, and author who helps clients create lives of meaning, fulfillment, and purpose. She helps gifted, dedicated, and caring people to live fiercely, love fully, and care more. LifeWork Community Personal Transformation Training is starting soon. Click here to find out more and to apply!