4 Key Steps to Manage Emotional Triggers

Learn to use emotional triggers, as an opportunity to connect more deeply with your feelings and you’ll return to a calm state more quickly. The news. Family. Work. Stress. Life. Many things can trigger a response that knocks you out of being centered and calm and sends you tumbling into an unpleasant emotion like anger, jealousy, or even sadness.

It doesn’t matter how often you meditate or how long you can hold a headstand, we are all triggered by something, sometimes. It’s a part of life.

The question is, are you able to recognize when you feel triggered and then access tools for working with these emotions?

“Emotional triggering is, at root, a survival response,” writes life coach Martha Beck. “Our brains create powerful associations between things that hurt us, and whatever happened to be occurring when we got hurt. Once you’ve been hit by lightning, even though you know that the odds of it happening again are astronomically low, the touch of a single raindrop may send you running for cover.”

The first step to understand and deal with triggers is to simply notice them.

Do you feel anxious when you have a meeting with your boss? Does spending time with your parents elicit old feelings and patterns from childhood? When a certain person walks in the room do you tense up and avoid their gaze?

Once you see when you are being triggered, you can find ways to deal with it. You can choose to avoid certain situations if possible, or you can find ways to deal with the emotions when they arise.

By taking the time to notice and allow the feelings, you may find you can release yourself from the habitual responses and reactions you have to those feelings.
As you grow more practiced in noticing your triggers, offering yourself kindness, and remembering that the power to heal your life is always available in the present moment, the situations that once set you off lose their explosive potential. In fact, triggering situations may become as positive as they once were negative.

The 2nd step is to accept responsibility for your reactions.

Accept yourself as powerful instead of as victim to remove the veil of self-deception. When you seek to identify what is triggering how you feel in the moment, you give yourself the chance to feel differently if you want to. You will also have more clarity on what you need to do or what you need to ask for to change your circumstances.

What would your life look like if you were in control of your reactions? How free would you feel if you lived your life by choice? If these questions inspire you to diligently practice the steps for emotional freedom, read on.

Don’t judge or fear your emotions. No matter what you learned about the evils of emotions, if you don’t recognize your feelings, you can’t change them, negatively impacting your relationships, job performance, and overall happiness.

If the emotion is related to fear, anger, or sadness, the 3rd step is to determine what triggered the emotion.What do you think you lost or what did you not get that you expected or desired to have?

The strengths that have helped in life are also your greatest emotional triggers when you feel someone is not honoring one of them. When your brain perceives that someone has taken or plans to take one of these important things away from you, your emotions are triggered.The quicker you notice an emotion is triggered, the sooner you can discover if the threat is real or not.

The 3rd step is to choose what you want to feel and what you want to do.

With practice, the reaction to your emotional triggers could subside, but they may never go away. The best you can do is to quickly identify when an emotion is triggered and then choose what to say or do next.

Ask yourself: Are you really losing this need or not? Is the person actively denying your need or are you taking the situation too personally? If it’s true that someone is ignoring your need or blocking you from achieving it, can you either ask for what you need or, if it doesn’t really matter, can you let the need go for now?

Choose to ask for what you need, let it go if you honestly feel that asking for what you need will have no value, or do something else to get your need met.

The 4th step is to actively shift your emotional state.

You can practice this step at any time, even when you first notice a reaction to help you think through your triggers and responses. When you determine what you want to do next, shift into the emotion that will help you get the best results.

Relax – Breathe and release the tension in your body.
Detach – clear your mind of all thoughts.
Center – drop your awareness to the center of your body just below your navel.
Focus – choose one keyword that represents how you want to feel in this moment. Breathe in the word and allow yourself to feel the shift.

Whatever you choose, know that you have the power at any moment to feel the emotions that have been triggered and get yourself back to a centered place.