Emotional triggers come in a variety of forms. They can include words, people, situations, smells, or other environmental cues that cause us to feel an extremely negative reaction.
Some people react with rage or sadness, while other people can experience panic attacks or an overwhelming sense of fear. These emotional triggers are often tied to past trauma and can leave you feeling shaken up for days after.
Knowing your triggers can help you avoid them or help you maintain a healthy response when you encounter them. Keep reading to identify some common symptoms you may experience when you have have been emotionally triggered — and how you can limit their effects.
#1) Notice When Your Body Begins to React Negatively
You may not notice that your body is reacting to a particular trigger until it is too late. You may experience a racing heart rate, hot or cold sweats, clenching of the fists, or even nausea. This is your brain triggering a fight-or-flight instinct within the situation.
For example, if someone brings up an upsetting topic, your body may react in order to make you get up and leave.
Start to learn the symptoms that you experience in a triggering event and the topics of discussion or actions that were taken before these feelings occurred. The goal is to take control of your symptoms. You can acknowledge that your body is panicking when you feel the symptoms and practice deep breathing exercises to prevent them from getting out of hand. And, you can also identify what is upsetting you so you can work on dealing with or avoiding those issues or elements.
Recommended Reading: Using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) To Relieve Stress & Anxiety
#2) Pay Attention To When Your Thoughts Become Polarized
When you are in a calm, rational state, you can consider both sides of an argument or better understand another person’s actions or emotions. However, in an emotionally triggered state, these calm thoughts are often ignored. It’s not uncommon to take more extreme, polarized thoughts while ignoring the other people around you.
For example, you may take a side on an issue and stick with it even if you know it’s wrong. You may also demonize certain people and ideas, or reduce people to extremes of good and bad or nice and mean.
It is nearly impossible to identify these thoughts and change your way of thinking when you are upset. However, if you can feel your ideas growing more extreme, you can take steps to think rationally and control your overwhelming emotions.
#3) Notice Outside Factors That Built Up Your Stress
There are times when one action or statement is enough to cause an emotional trigger. However, it is common for an emotional trigger to be the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.” You may have multiple factors causing stress in your life only to have one event send you over the edge.
If you reacted surprisingly to a minor event or had an unusually strong reaction to something, consider the other factors in your life that could be wearing you down.
Are you having problems with a friend or significant other? Are you stressed at work? Has your health been suffering over the past few weeks? These bigger problems could make you less capable of dealing with smaller issues in your life.
#4) Notice If Certain Emotional Needs Aren’t Being Met
Emotional triggers often occur when a small comment hits a nerve of a bigger problem. If you want to identify your emotional triggers, then you need to know which raw nerve is causing your pain. There are several emotional needs that we all have in order to maintain good mental health.
These range from needing to be accepted to needing safety or feeling valued by others. If you are lacking one of these emotional needs, then you may have a stronger response than expected to certain stimuli.
#5) See If Your Situation Is Making You More Sensitive
Certain words or experiences may not cause emotional triggers in normal life, but they can be dangerous if you are in a high-stress situation. A strong example of this is the stress of the holiday season. Being around family can be stressful for some people and can bring up painful experiences. This compiled with the stress of preparing food, getting gifts, and attending social gatherings can wear someone down.
Even a single person can be triggering. Something that person says can cause a negative reaction while the same comment from a different friend wouldn’t. Sometimes even seeing that person can cause an emotional trigger.
Identifying high-stress situations can help you prepare for emotional triggers. You can also identify when your emotional reactions start ahead of a stressful even in order to tie them to a primary source.
If there is an upcoming event that causes stress, you may need to set aside more time for self-care or work to improve your coping techniques beforehand.
Work With a Professional to Identify Your Emotional Triggers
It is incredibly challenging to identify your own emotional triggers. Your body and mind work faster than you might think, which means you could experience symptoms of anxiety or dangerous thoughts before you have time to control them.
If this sounds familiar, consider reaching out to a professional who specializes in identifying and healing emotional triggers. They can work with you to develop coping mechanisms so you can react with a calm, sound mind when under stress. Schedule an appointment with one of the counselors or therapists at Loving Life Today or learn more about what goes into the therapy and counseling process by downloading our therapy and counseling info packet.