Triggers: they’re uncomfortable and nobody likes them. But unfortunately, they’re a part of life.
I used to think that the proper way to respond to triggered feelings was to avoid anything that would trigger me. Meaning, blocking people on social media, muting friends to not see certain things: literally any measure necessary as a precaution so I could avoid feeling anything slightly negative, that reminded me in any way of the hard times in my life.
But as time goes on and I continue learning and growing, a major revelation that I’ve made are that honestly, triggers are unavoidable. You can’t exactly outrun them or hide from them forever. There’s always the possibility that you can still run into that person/place/object that triggers you at some point later in life.
Let me be clear: I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t block certain people who have truly negatively impacted you to the point of needing to block them. I am not saying to not take precautions needed. But rather, this is my way of saying that all “precaution” is only step one in one’s journey to healing. Even after your done blocking everyone you need to in order to avoid being reminded of someone/something, you can STILL end up somehow someday being face to face with the trigger at some point. It’s inevitable.
And obviously, nobody likes feeling triggered. But it happens. And when you do feel triggered, just like everything else in life, you have a choice: you can either respond emotionally, crying, getting angry, letting that trigger overpower your mind entirely. Or, you can work through it, to take baby steps into giving that trigger less and less power in your life altogether.
Identify the Trigger + WHY it triggers you
I’m an extremely emotional person, and when it comes to triggers I do feel that most people — even ones who aren’t normally as emotional — go into high-emotion, defensive, frantic mode. Or, they silently suffer. Either way, a trigger is a trigger and it will take some sort of toll on you.
I’ve found a lot that in the past year, every time I had felt triggered I would find myself crying and overworking myself without even thinking much into it. It was basically like a “I feel negative and intense”, and therefore there was my release.
Although crying definitely is a coping mechanism, crying and being outward emotional without thinking deeply into what you’re crying about, will never help you truly improve with dealing with triggers.
In order to effectively deal with triggers, the key is tons of awareness. Which brings us to the first step — take a moment to breathe. Control your thoughts, and ask yourself “okay: so what is it that happened that makes me feel triggered? And WHY is it that I feel this way?”
Maybe it’s that you feel guilty about something you did (oh, also: read more about self forgiveness here). Maybe you feel hurt all over again about something that somebody else did. Maybe your remembering a time in your life that was traumatic. Take a moment to think and identify just what it is, so at the very least you know why you feel the way you do.
Identify What It Is That You Feel
After understanding why you feel a certain way, it’s important to identify just what emotions it is that you feel. And obviously, this will vary depending on the situation and yourself as an individual.
Maybe you feel angry. Maybe sad, maybe hurt.
Think long and hard into it. Come to terms that even though it may feel like an overbearing whirlwind of emotions all at once, you can take this big pool of emotion and divide it down into simpler emotions to understand. That way, it helps bring clarity on how to deal with it.
Emotions are complex, abstract things, and we all have them. You are not weak or for feeling how you do about a situation.
Give yourself permission to feel how you feel without judging yourself, and be honest with yourself in realizing what emotion you are feeling.
There is no time limit on healing: no matter how much time has passed, don’t ever feel as if you’re behind. There is no such thing as “behind”.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel how you do, and that you’re allowed to feel however you do. Have compassion for yourself as you would with another person who went through the same as you. The same care you would give them, should be the same care you give to yourself.
Put Your Energy Elsewhere
Triggers tend to send us into a spiral, dragging us more and more into just feeling negative with overthinking and overreacting. But it does not have to be that way. Once you know what happened, why it makes you feel a way, what you feel and that it’s okay that you felt a reaction, that’s usually where the trigger-response can stop.
The great thing about awareness is that with it, you can bring about change.
Being a people person, I find that calling my friends to talk about positive things as well as making each other laugh, is a great way to then take my mind off the trigger entirely and move on. Other examples of distracting from the negativity after the awareness could be watching TV, writing, making art — literally anything that makes you happy. Refocus your energy onto the things you have in your life that make you feel whole, and remember all that you have to be grateful. Just because one thing in a day comes along that makes you feel uncomfortable, does not mean you have to dig deeper into that.
Triggers are hard. I know for the past year and half, I’ve had more enough of my fair share to deal with, and they can really affect you mentally, emotionally and spiritually. But life does not need to stop that the hand of a trigger. With awareness and openness, you will find yourself dealing with triggers better and better, taking back your power and making you a stronger, more positive person in the end.