How to Be More Aware of Your Unhealthy or Negative Triggers

5 Things to Keep in Mind to Manage Your Emotions Better

As part of our ongoing mental health and growth, learning to identify our emotional triggers and manage them better, is really important.

The better we can manage our emotional triggers, the less reactive we’ll be, which means we’ll not let external events or conditions affect us in a negative way.

What is an Emotional Trigger?

An emotional trigger is something that brings up certain feelings within us. These feelings may be positive or negative.

We naturally prefer to experience positive rather than negative emotions, so it’s valuable to know what triggers us to have negative emotions. Examples of negative triggers include:

  • Being rejected by someone.
  • Having one of our personal values violated.
  • Being ignored by someone.
  • Someone blaming, shaming, criticising or judging us.
  • Being controlled or threatened by someone.
  • Not being included in a decision that affects us in some way.

There are many things that could be added to the list that can triggers us, which is why it’s important to learn to identify them and also be aware of them when they’re actually happening.

what triggers negative thinking

One of my triggers is being late. I hate being late for anything and I often get triggered in a negative way when someone is late for an appointment with me without giving a prior warning that they’re going to be late. As I’ve worked through this trigger, I’ve come to recognise that I associate being late as being disrespectful by not valuing my time.

It’s very likely there are some beliefs I’ve formed as a result of certain events and experiences that has led me to associate being late to being disrespectful, which is not necessarily true. As I have worked on letting this belief and negative trigger go, it has helped me be more relaxed and more open to experiencing all events for what they are.

Consequences of Not Managing Negative Emotional Triggers

If we don’t manage our negative emotional triggers, it will:

  • Affect our behaviour by causing us to be reactive all the time.
  • Make us live from the outside in, rather than from the inside out.
  • Affect our personal and professional relationships.
  • Reduce our self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Lead to other unhealthy habits or patterns of behaviour.

5 Ways to Become More Aware of Your Negative Emotional Triggers

  1. Observe what you’re feeling in your body. A negative emotional trigger will cause our bodies to react a certain way. It may be feeling knots in our stomachs, feeling tense or starting to breathe faster. As soon as we start to feel something different, we know we’re having a negative reaction.
  2. Determine if certain words or behaviours cause a reaction. Words have power and they can cause us to experience different emotions. Likewise, there may be things other people do that bring us certain thoughts, which then cause certain emotions. By paying more attention to these triggers, we can be proactive and take appropriate measures to deal with them beforehand.
  3. Identify activities that bring up negative responses. There are things we do that we may not necessarily enjoy, but we do them because we feel we have to. There are other activities, which we may have more control over, that may be generating certain responses. An example could be watching the news on television. If negative news triggers us, we have the choice to stop watching the news.
  4. Determine if certain people or conversations bring up negative emotions. As we become like the people we spend most of our time with, we have to be more conscious of the conversations we have with them. For example, if certain people prefer to talk about politics and that generates heated discussions, we can choose not to talk about politics with them.
  5. Identify if time is a trigger. Sometimes things may happen at a certain time that bring us negative emotions. For example, being in rush hour traffic may trigger a negative reaction so we can choose an alternative means of travel, or choose a different time to travel, or be better prepared mentally ahead of time to deal with rush hour traffic.

Awareness is often the first step to any lasting change. The more aware we are of our negative triggers, the better we can manage them and have the experiences we want. If we don’t develop a higher level of awareness, we’ll continue to be triggered by past or current events, and not behave in a way that will support us in being the best we can be.

Action Step: Identify a negative trigger you have and reflect on how you have dealt with it. Review the things mentioned above to become more aware of when and how you get triggered so that you can better manage them.

Question: What are other things that can help us be more aware of our negative triggers?

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