How To Manage Your Emotional Triggers: 5 Quick Tips That Saved My Energetic State For Life
I remember the days where chronic exhaustion was my default state. I would wake up feeling completely unrested, chug a shit ton of coffee and then struggle through my day with sugar and more caffeine. By the time I got home, I was ready for bed.....until my second wind kicked in.
I would get amped up and toss and turn until 3 or 4 am. I tried morning and evening routines, cutting out caffeine, meditation, and breathing exercises, and while I noticed some good results, it wasn't anywhere near optimal.
I then read 2 books that changed it all for me. One was Wisdom of The Enneagram by Riso-Hudson and the other was Atomic Habits by James Clear. While I didn't realize it at the time, these two books held the answer to my insomnia. Ironically, I stumbled across the solution quite accidentally. In the practice of understanding my personality, I started employing a drill where I traced my emotional triggers back to thoughts and then related them to my personality type's core motivations. I also tracked my coping mechanisms for these triggers......aka: Habits.
When I wanted to change a subconscious habitual response to a trigger, I called upon my pre frontal cortex to use the exercises in Atomic Habits like habit stacking, calling out the habit, making the old habit unattractive and the new one attractive. I'll be damned. It worked like a charm.
Guess what happened?
I began sleeping like a baby. I was under low grade chronic stress from my triggers and habitual responses. Impulses like binge eating, staying up to watch Netflix or TikTok disappeared. After about a month I didn't even have a trigger to trace. The energy used for resisting, giving in, and ultimately judging myself was not available for important things in my life like studying, intense training and eventually, clients.
Another thing that blew my mind was that the emotional past traumas that drove me to seek comfort in food has been dismantled, but the habits remained. Could it be possible that the habitual responses were just that? Habits? While I was meditating on healing inner child and father wounds that were getting more difficult to source as I healed, the whole problem may have just been neural patterning.
When we are triggered, we are being signaled to by our unconscious mind, the part that works on automatic. Then, we take action to relieve the stress imposed by the trigger. These actions temporarily soothe the stress, so we go back to them repeatedly. This forms neural circuitry that solidifies a habit into our unconscious mind. The brain literally responds to a trigger with "I know what to do here, let me handle this!" So many people use this science as an excuse to act like a child and assume you have to deal with their behavior. That's not the case at all. We're not victims to our emotions, we're much more evolved than that. If you know a toxic person who refuses to take accountable action for their behavior, you don't need them in your life, and they will drag you down.
The secret I've found actually lies in using our conscious mind, the pre frontal cortex to realize what's going on (trace the trigger), and this is exactly what James Clear's book Atomic Habits is teaching us to do. My mind didn't even connect the dots in Clear's formula: Cue, Craving, Response, Reward. Cue=Trigger!!!
This method of self discovery has worked wonders with my clients in every facet of their lives from back pain to complete emotional disintegration and weight gain. (Since my experience, I read a book "Binge Over Bulge", which was very good and quite similar to what I described above. If I'm being picky, I'd say that the author may had earlier success with Personality Work instead of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but I could certainly be wrong.
This is not medical advice, if you feel you have a clinically diagnosable condition, seek the help you need to thrive.
What are triggers?
As human beings, we often find ourselves being triggered by certain situations or events, leading to an emotional response. These triggers can range from hearing certain words, witnessing specific behaviors, or even experiencing flashbacks from a past traumatic event. Emotional triggers can be challenging to manage, and if not controlled, they can disrupt our daily lives, leading to increased stress and anxiety. People go their whole lives without ever learning how to use their triggers to develop discipline and an optimized self. We see triggers as a bad thing, but I see them as a huge spotlight on just where you can focus some attention to level up your life.
Here are some tips on how to manage emotional triggers and improve your emotional well-being.
1) Understand Your Triggers: The first step to managing your emotional triggers is to understand what they are. Identify what situations or events cause you to have an emotional response. This could be a specific person, place, or behavior. Once you know what triggers you, you can take steps to avoid those situations or prepare to deal with them if they do arise. If you know your base personality type and your core motivations, it makes this exercise exponentially more effective. Contact me if you'd like to get your type figured out.
2) Trace The Trigger: When you feel your trigger hit, don't react, instead take 3 deep breaths and find a thought and emotion that you can tie into the trigger. I like to "feel" the energy go from the middle of my brain to the front, and imagine circuits firing in this region of the brain. Say to yourself "this thought and emotion are a habitual response. There is no threat to survival here." or you can choose a personal mantra that best suits your personality type, i.e.: "I am supported" "I am loved" "I am safe" "I am not vulnerable" "unworthy doesn't exist"...whatever works for you, but i recommend adding the tag line "this thought or emotion is a habitual response" and the final line can be your personal mantra. Take 3 more deep breaths and imagine the energy (labeled as a trigger, and then labeled as a thought and/or emotion) disappearing into the thin air.
3) Practice Mindfulness Mindfulness involves being present in the moment, focusing on your thoughts and feelings without judgment. When you feel triggered, take a moment to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Mindfulness can help you to regulate your emotions and prevent negative thought patterns from taking over. This ties directly in with items #1 and #2. The secret to dismantling your triggers lies in attunement and intentional actions. If you cannot be attuned and intentional, you will remain a slave to your triggers, and you will have less say over your social circle, and ultimately, your energy and happiness in life.
4) Develop A Deep Sense of Gratitude and Reverence For Your Existence: So many see their day as a prison sentence. I HAVE TO work 8 hours today. I HAVE TO go buy groceries. I HAVE TO...do this until the weekend, then I'm free. Can you see how the hyper focus on the day to day can pull us away from reality. The reality is: life is a gift, and we are blessed to be alive. We're not interested in ourselves enough to really get to know what makes us tick, and consequently, the self apathy pulls us away from self love. This all results in a reactionary approach to life, a defensive game plan. It's not hard to see how a defensive stance brings a lot of surprises and triggers to our day. Finding reverence for your ability and talents as a homo sapien is a great start. Be grateful for anything and everything that makes your life better. The person who made your socks, the person who stocked the shelves or cooked for you so you could eat, the fact that you have a job to hate means you can survive, the fact that you have a choice to stay at that job you hate, or get a new one.....those are all things we can be grateful for every day. But....we don't, instead we look at what is missing, what has happened to us, or what we don't have. Again, your brain is wired to do this, the only problem is that we live in an environment where basic survival needs are hardly a consideration for most, so we have to find something to hunt and gather (desire). Taking care of yourself is an expression of gratitude and self love, so make sure you're eating real whole foods, exercising and getting good sleep.
5) Understand the Pre Frontal Cortex The prefrontal cortex is responsible for regulating our emotions and decision-making abilities. When we are triggered, the prefrontal cortex can become overwhelmed, making it difficult for us to control our emotional responses. Understanding the role of the prefrontal cortex can help us to be more aware of our emotional triggers and take measures to regulate our behavior. Mindfulness, self love, gratitude, exercise and sleep can all help to train the brain to be less impulsive by integrating the PFC and making it stronger. This is where discipline is nurtured, and at the end of the day, it really boils down to awareness and discipline, so long as you value and love yourself enough to care to make a change.
In conclusion, managing emotional triggers can help us to improve our emotional well-being and reduce stress and anxiety in our daily lives. By understanding our triggers, reframing our thoughts, practicing mindfulness, developing positive habits, and understanding the role of the prefrontal cortex, we can take measures to manage our emotions effectively. With time and practice, we can create a healthy emotional balance, leading to a happier and more fulfilling life. Side effects include: Faster habit implementation, more discipline, more wins, and increased belief in your ability to make lasting changes. I hope these tips help you in managing your emotional triggers. If you want to fast track your transformation, and don't want to waste anymore time, I don't blame you. Click the link below to schedule your complimentary 1:1 personal strategy session with me.
Peace, Much Love, Live Well!