This past week has been tough. I’ve felt triggered in more ways than I have in a long time, and it’s not so much work related. It’s personal.
A few things causing my triggers: All the violence happening left and right and a good friend going through a difficult time. I’m feeling really sensitive.
If you’re asking how this is connected to work, well it is.
Our personal and work lives are so intertwined. Who I am at work is who I am at home and with friends. So when I’m feeling off in my personal life my work is impacted. I’m distracted, I’m sad, I don’t feel like doing the work.
I’m sharing this with you because I think when we feel triggered we rarely tune into it. Sometimes we ignore it until it festers. It can impact our lives without us even realizing it. And before you know it you’re talking about this one incident in therapy five years from now.
So here’s what I want to talk about this week.
- How can you tell when you’re feeling triggered?
- What can you do about your emotional triggers so that you can stop feeling like shit and continue making progress with your work and life.
How to know when you’re triggered
You might be thinking – well duh, I’ll be upset.
But not necessarily. Sometimes you may just feel slightly off and it’s not enough to make you pause and reflect.
The best way to tune into what’s getting you worked up is consistently taking inventory of your emotions.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, author of Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain, says we can identify patterns in our body that signify emotional triggers: our rate of breathing changes, we feel tension in our muscles, or our gut constricts.
If you’re conditioned to ignore your triggers, you may need to put in some extra work and attention to identify if something’s bugging you.
Nevertheless, take note. Rather than ignoring your emotional responses, ask yourself why you’re feeling off. Sit with it. What shows up?
What can you do it about it?
Let it out:
We give our issues so much power when we bottle them up.
And why do we keep these emotional reactions to ourselves anyway?
Admittedly, I feel some sort of shame around my triggers: F*ck! I guess this means I’m not perfect?
Or, maybe I’m hoping it will just go away and that I won’t have to deal with it.
However, the more we ignore our triggers, the more power we give them.
Ways to let it out?
Here are some tactics that always work for me:
- Journaling is a great start. Get your thoughts out of your head and down on paper. How do you feel?
- You may need to have an actual conversation with another human. You’ll need to share the shame and the embarrassment no matter how awkward it feels.
- Confront your trigger head on by addressing the issue directly – especially if it’s a person or a work situation that’s causing your problem.
The most important thing you can do though is detach yourself from the trigger:
Earlier I talked about the shame we can feel when something triggers us. Maybe you feel embarrassed that this THING is bugging you so you don’t want to talk about it. Fear of judgement creeps in and prevents you from facing our issues head on.
But you’re a human being. You’re complex with many issues.
Two statements that always bring me back to reality are:
(1) No one is thinking about you as much as you’re thinking about you. That’s right! We’re not that important.
And (2) You are more than your “mistakes.” Our emotional responses don’t define us. They’re an experience and an opportunity, showing us an area that we need to work through.
When you’re really sensitive, condition yourself to elicit a positive response. What are your positive triggers?
Your mindset is a product of your environment – where you were raised, how you grew up, what you were exposed to.
I grew up with parents who spent everyday in survival mode. They grew up in a poor, communist country and had close relatives imprisoned or persecuted. (That’s another story for another day.) They survived. It’s the reason I’m here today and able to do this work.
However, “reaching your full potential” wasn’t on the agenda. Again, survival was. Our upbringing and backgrounds can have a great impact on our outlook. Some of us may be more sensitive than others due to our experiences.
It’s important that if you find yourself feeling really sensitive and/or triggered that you develop a practice that keeps you afloat.
What content are you consuming? And who do you associate with? Create an environment that fosters your growth and positive thinking. It will help you better manage the triggers in your life.