Are there specific techniques or strategies to cope with triggers?

Triggers are powerful emotional reactions that can leave us feeling overwhelmed and out of control. Whether it’s a word, a person, an event, or a past experience, triggers have the ability to stir up intense emotions and make us feel like we’re reliving a painful moment. But the good news is that we have the power to respond to triggers instead of reacting to them. By developing coping skills and inner resources, we can navigate through our triggers and regain control of our emotional well-being.

What is a Trigger?

A trigger is any stimulus, internal or external, that sets off an immediate emotional reaction. It can be a word, a sound, a smell, or a situation that evokes a strong emotional response. Triggers can be positive, such as a joyful memory, or negative, such as feelings of anger, sadness, or fear. When we’re triggered, our bodies engage the survival response, activating the sympathetic nervous system to protect us from perceived harm. However, our reactions to triggers are often excessive and longer-lasting than necessary.

The Origins of Triggers

Not all strong emotional responses are trigger reactions. Sometimes, a trigger can be a reminder of a past trauma or an unresolved issue. Trauma is a shocking and injurious event that leaves us feeling powerless. During a traumatic experience, we often dissociate from the pain, making it difficult to retrieve the memory. Triggers disregard our timing and hurl us into the bodily memory of trauma before we’re ready to face it consciously. As a result, triggers can make us feel helpless and powerless, reliving the pain of the past.

Strategies to Cope with Triggers

When we’re triggered, it’s important to have tools and coping strategies in place to help us respond rather than react. Here are 13 strategies that can help us navigate through our triggers and regain control of our emotions:

1. Name it

One effective way to cope with triggers is to identify and name them. Keep a written list of your familiar triggers, whether they’re particular people, words, places, or behaviors. Being aware of your triggers allows you to be prepared and respond consciously instead of reacting reflexively. By naming your triggers, you take away some of their power.

2. Seek the source

To free ourselves from our triggers, it’s essential to identify the source of our reactions. Triggers are often rooted in past events or traumas that have invaded our present. By pinpointing the specific event or trauma that triggers us, we can gain insight into ourselves and reduce the intensity of our reactions. Understanding the source of our triggers is a crucial step toward healing.

3. Be aware of projection

Triggers are often about projection, where we attribute our past experiences and emotions onto others. For example, if you had an abusive parent, you might be triggered by anger in others, even if the anger isn’t directed at you. Recognizing when we’re projecting our past onto the present helps us take ownership of our reactions and empowers us to heal from our past wounds.

4. Notice hyperarousal signs

When we’re triggered, our bodies go into hyperarousal mode, releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. We may experience physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, or feeling disoriented. To cope with hyperarousal, it’s important to focus on calming ourselves down. Deep breathing, taking a walk, or splashing cold water on our faces can help bring us back to the present moment.

5. Don’t fight the inner voice

When our inner critic is triggered, it’s important not to engage in an argument with it. Instead, use the inner critic’s voice as a signal to practice self-care. Deploy affirmations that reinforce self-trust and remind yourself that you can handle whatever comes your way. By treating your inner critic as a reminder to take care of yourself, you can diffuse its power over you.

6. Practice knowing and showing your emotions

Emotions are like muscles that need to be used appropriately to develop in healthy ways. If we’ve hidden certain emotions like anger or sadness for most of our lives, our ability to cope with these feelings can become stunted. By practicing recognizing and expressing our emotions, we become less likely to react inappropriately when triggered. Emotionally agile individuals can navigate their triggers with greater ease.

7. Take a breather

When triggered, it’s common to lose objectivity and feel overwhelmed. Taking a step back and giving yourself a moment to breathe can help regain control. Stepping away from the situation allows you to calm down and approach it with a clearer mind. This pause can also help you communicate your feelings nonjudgmentally and effectively.

8. Try an echo response

If someone is shaming or insulting you, try an echo response. Repeat their words back to them slowly and calmly. This technique creates a pause that prevents you from being overwhelmed or feeling victimized. By redirecting the energy back to its source, you regain a sense of control and prevent the trigger from overpowering you.

9. Be ready for family

Family members often know how to push our buttons, making us more reactive around them. If you know that a particular family member is a challenge for you, be prepared. Stay present and aware, and if the situation becomes too intense, give yourself permission to leave. Setting boundaries while maintaining a loving relationship is important for your emotional well-being.

10. Find the humor

When possible, find humor in triggering situations. Laughter can help diffuse the stress response and provide a fresh perspective. Finding humor in a triggering moment allows you to lighten the emotional load and regain a sense of control.

11. Know you’re not alone

Remember that everyone has triggers, and you’re not alone in experiencing them. It’s easy to believe that others have more control over their triggers, but the reality is that triggers affect everyone. Knowing that even people you trust and admire are also triggered can help reduce the shame and power that triggers hold over you.

12. Seek therapy

If a particular trigger is causing unmanageable stress, seeking professional help can be beneficial. Therapies like somatic therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) can help integrate bodily memories into present awareness. A trained therapist can guide you through the process of healing and provide the support you need to cope with your triggers effectively.

13. Practice acceptance

As challenging as triggers can be, it’s important to accept that they are a part of life. People will say and do things that set us off, and disappointment is an inevitable part of human interaction. By accepting this reality and knowing that triggers are common experiences, we can reduce their power over us. Developing an attitude of acceptance allows us to navigate triggers with greater resilience and calmness.

Remember, coping with triggers is a journey, and it takes time and practice to develop effective strategies. Be patient with yourself and seek support from loved ones or professionals when needed. With the right tools and resources, you can learn to respond to triggers in a way that promotes healing and emotional well-being. Call us today at 833-820-2922.