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  • Writer's pictureMaja Arnadottir

How to deal with your triggers?


A trigger is a stimulus that elicits a reaction. When it comes to mental health a trigger can be anything that causes an adverse effect or brings on or worsens symptoms. We do not necessarily have to have serious addiction or mental health issues in order to get triggered.

As someone who has dealt with CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) I know how triggers can come on fast and intensely. A trigger can show up as immediate resistance or reactive feelings, thoughts, words and actions in relation to someone or something. A trigger is often based in ingrained beliefs and past (sometimes traumatic) experiences. A trigger can bring out fight, flight, freeze or fawn responses in people who have prior trauma reminiscent of triggering circumstances and situations. The body's fight, flight, freeze response gets triggered by psychological fears. Do you know what triggers you? Are you well aware of your fears and prior traumas? Understanding our triggers can help us with emotional control and also learn to better relate to others.


What do your triggers mean?

Anger may tell us when a fundamental need is being ignored or dismissed.

Shame invites us to practice giving ourselves acceptance and love.

Jealousy shows us what we want for ourselves and where we are feeling less than.

Judgment or criticism of others shows us where we are judging ourselves.

Depression shows us when our Soul is not being nourished and we are not living life fully.

Overwhelm invites us to pause and release the things we no longer need to do.

Exhaustion invites us to put boundaries in to stop us from over-functioning.

Dissociation tells us we're feeling unsafe and invites us to return to our body and our ground.

And, on it goes...


What triggers YOU?

Understanding and accepting our triggers can be very empowering although it may not get rid of our triggers in an instance. Many mannerisms and behaviours were once easy to overlook and hum away but in my present time I find myself wanting to leave when people annoy me! Flight mode! And, "I" who thought I had grown and evolved but do not have a better response than that?! But, is fleeing it the worst response?


Our triggers point us to all the unhealed parts of ourselves and show us where we need to protect ourselves and create stronger limits and boundaries. Rather than fight with another's limited perception or fixed mindset I usually choose to remove my attention from such people

and disengage emotionally, and preferably physically. Removing your Self from "negativity" is a natural response as we are meant to lean towards "what feels good". Being "triggered" does not feel good.


Flight is a more natural and authentic response to me nowadays than getting into Fight mode or having to Freeze in another's vibration of powerlessness, which consequently would make me feel even more powerless. I am also not one to fawn as in people-please my way out of a conflict. No more. Misery does love company but it does not have to be my company nor does it have to be your company.


Removing oneself from triggering people and situations is healthy but flight mode is only good as a temporary response. Just like an animal runs from danger it will also stop and shake off the physical feelings of danger in order to keep moving on to discover greener pastures. Flight can help one get enough time and space to process and realign and decide how to proceed, if at all.


Know Your Responses

Fawning never results in anything other than being "used" for your kindness. The fawn response is based in developing people-pleasing behaviours to avoid conflict and establish safety. Today, to be fully honest... "checking out" is a far greater response to me that fighting or fawning although this response definitely does relate to the freeze and flight responses.

By now, I am far too old to tolerate BS. Pardon my french.


Freezing is common when we get shocked to the core! Have you ever been shocked to the core!? If you have; you know what this means. But, we can not stay in that state for too long or we will have to fight for our very own survival riddled with anxiety and depression. Our freeze response shows up in anxiety and overwhelm, major indecisiveness and procrastination. Sometimes we do not realise that by choosing to do nothing we are still making a choice.


Fighting often takes a trigger to the next level but in some instances it may be good for our Spirits and our nervous systems to put up a bit of a fight! Stand your ground when you need to but fighting for the sake of fighting with no healing goal in mind is usually a huge waste of time and energy.


What are we to do when something does not even feel worth fighting for or fighting against?

Stop, tone down your aggression and / or your people pleasing ways, and get out of the situation! When you do not like something the best thing you can do is simply "remove your attention" away from it. What are your go to responses? Fight, flight, freeze or fawning?


So how does knowing what triggers me and how I may possibly respond help me deal with those triggers when they inevitably show up? Hmmm.... yes, some triggering situations are impossible for us to avoid, all together. How to deal with your triggers? The methods to soothe madness will be entirely up to YOU but keep reading for some ideas on actions that may help.


Do not engage!

In general, choose to not engage too deeply with people who feel negative nor try to fix them or rescue them or rescue their situation. The “old”, co-dependent verison of me might have done just this but nowadays I choose to remove myself from negative communication as quickly as possible rather than let it trigger adverse responses in me. It rarely pays off to be fighting another's madness for we will go mad! It is entirely our choice to not engage or participate in fighting with another’s negativity or selfish agenda. Who people are is their choice and how they show up in the world is also their choice. There is an art of surrender in accepting this to be true. Do not engage with what does not align with YOU.


YOU do YOU!

I have learned that I do not have to get triggered by another's negativity nor do I have to get sucked into "the darkness" as I always have a choice in whether or not to engage. So do you.

If someone wants to be a negative person, complaining, whining or otherwise... than that is completely on them! Having people in my life who developed a trait for negative thinking and victim mentality triggered a rebellion within me to learn to do the opposite. At the same time, I know and feel the script within all too well. Man, we get to be brainwashed!


Being YOU can be complex. Most of our triggers point us to our old Self and to who you used to be, yet may no longer want to be. I tend to realise where my triggers come from by inquiring into what is going on within my mind and body. This helps me get to know who I am, understand my humanity and invites me to give myself grace.


We cannot entirely avoid experiencing or witnessing drama and negative outlooks on life and get impacted by moments of poor life choices but are we going to get triggered by it?

Do you have to get triggered? Do I have to jump of the deep end?


It may seem inevitable to experience triggering situations but today I know that I can choose how I respond... or not. I guess this is what they call growing up. When something feels triggering it points us to connect with our Spirit and choose whether or not we allow another’s words or actions to “trigger us" further into states of fight, flight, freeze or fawn.


Remind your Self regularly that you always have a choice and how you respond is also your choice!


How can you deal with your triGgers?

Removing oneself from “triggering” communication patterns and circumstances is healthy and YOU are 100% allowed to! Lingering in unhealthy dynamics, wishing and hoping for change is not a healthy choice to be made if you are intent on honouring your Self and your Spirit. Assess your Life to see where you may be out of alignment with your true nature. What are your triggers? How do they show up? Why does it trigger you? What do you need to let go of?


How to deal with your triggers when they arrive?

Here are some ideas...

When you experience triggers and triggering circumstances, choose to create a place of safety for you (and others), whether it means physically "leaving" the situation or mentally "checking out" of it so you can begin to observe it from afar.

Notice how "the trigger" feels in your body. It may be strongly felt in your stomach or chest, and elsewhere. Sigh and release the tension you may feel. Focus on your breathing.

Come back to Self and breathe deeply.

Try holding one hand on your heart and the other on your belly as you breathe.

Try tapping rhythmically with one hand and one finger at a time just below your collar bones as you focus on your breathing.

Try splashing some cold water onto your face and/or on the back and front of your neck.

Go on a mindful walk. Notice your thoughts. Notice your surroundings.

Notice things to be grateful for.

Listen to something that calms you and brings you "back home to YOU".

Journal your thoughts. Accept your feelings.

However far you make it in performing calming actions just make sure to lean into whatever works for you and feels good for you, and above all accept your humanness and your human feelings.


How to communicate boundaries when feeling triggered?

Sometimes we can't check out entirely and may need to say something before we remove ourselves from triggering situation. Instead of just running out the door communicating our limits beforehand gives us power to come back to a situation at a later time. You can tell people that you are feeling triggered... it may not take too many words.

Statements such as;

"I want to listen to you but I am beginning to take your feedback personally. This discussion will be much more effective if I get a chance to calm myself first."

"I am feeling a bit overwhelmed in this moment and it would help me if you could hear my side of the story."

"It is hard for me to understand you-statements and my brain starts to feel as if I am being attacked... Can you try to use I-statements when giving me feedback?"

"I am noticing that I am becoming defensive. Can we restart the conversation. I will try to be more mindful of my words this time".

"I am starting to feel angry and am going to take some space so I will not say anything hurtful. I would like to come back in 20 minutes and continue on a nicer note".


Create MANTRAS

There are many ways in which we can learn to self-soothe and "come back home to Self".

A mantra I have used to calm my co-dependent triggers (which show up in wanting to fix a person or a situation) is this;


I am not YOU.

You are not ME.

We are separate yet parts of ONE and the same.

I accept YOU as YOU.

I accept ME as ME.

YOU are YOU.

I am ME.

I accept ME for ME.

I am WHOLE.

I am FREE.


Healing the parts of yourself that got used to allowing negativity and poor behaviour from the people in your life is even more important than removing oneself from such situations. When you “befriend your triggers” and start to notice them you will see how those triggers point you to your own healing and guiding system. What used to be tolerable is no longer tolerable. Whatever you once allowed in your Life by living in or with enduring negativity or narcissism is obviously no longer "for you"! Your triggers are here to remind us that we are done bing who we used to be. Your triggers are here to tell you that YOU will take NO more! Or that something really needs to change. YOU need to change. For YOU. Your triggers are here to tell you that there are limits!


When you start to sense that you are no longer able to respond in the calmest or most logical manner and start feeling “out of alignment” with your Self it may mean your triggers are starting to take over. Removing one Self from intensity of triggers is a healthy response.

But, then what? Aside from leaning into "what feels good" in the moment mantras can help us maintain our intent and focus. Louise Hay used to affirm to her mind in times of inner duress the following mantra:


All is well.

Everything is working out for my highest good.

Out of this situation only good will come.

I am SAFE.


Move Your Body and You move your Spirit

There is genuine proof to the fact that alongside from breath-work and physical movement, affirmations and mantras can truly work wonders. Do you have anything to lose by trying out some breathing and mantras? Or walking meditations? The fastest way to calm one's nervous system is to go outside in nature.

Getting triggered is a perfectly normal human response to some situations and quite common for many. When triggering situations occur make sure to choose to come back home to your Self.

Another's happiness or misery does not define you nor need your response. Your own feelings of reactivity need not take over your entire being. Removing oneself from unhealthy circumstances is often the easiest and healthiest response. We are meant to lean towards what feels good.

Continually feeling triggered definitely does not feel good!


A mantra to remember... All is well. Everything is working out for my highet good. Out of this situation only good will come. I am safe.

Warning: Louise Hay's mantra may have the power to calm the most hectic of minds.


Remind yourself that a trigger is only a temporary response to beliefs and experiences. Choose to get curious about your triggers as you get curious about all of you and choose to come back into alignment with your true Self. Remind your Self of the distinction between Self and others in triggering situations; YOU ARE YOU & YOU ARE SAFE.

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