6 ways to cope with emotional triggers and triggering events

We’ve all experienced the stomach-dropping feeling and waves of emotions during an emotional trigger. It comes on suddenly and unexpectedly — leaving us feeling unsure of what to do next. News, events, or information that causes an emotional trigger can cause an intense emotional reaction that’s difficult to bounce back from. But the more we become familiar with our emotional triggers, the better equipped we are to cope when they arise. Everyone responds to triggers differently, but there are things we can do to calm our nervous systems and cope in healthy ways. Keep reading for 5 healthy ways to cope with an emotional trigger. 

1. Take some time away

Emotional triggers can make us temporarily lose our critical thinking skills. This is a good time to take moments for yourself to better understand how you feel.

2. Tune into your body

Our body is always speaking to us and it’s up to us to tune in and listen. Listening to your body is the first step to recognizing and responding to an emotional trigger. Look out for these signs: 

  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Feeling light headed 
  • Catastrophic thinking
  • Dry mouth 
  • Muscle tension

Tuning into your body will ground you and bring you into the present moment and de-escalate those big feelings rather than intensify. 

3. Name the emotion

It sounds simple, but naming your emotion makes it easier to process. When you know what you’re dealing with, it gives you a clearer path to move forward. Are you unsure which emotion you’re feeling? Check out the feelings wheel — start inward with the high-level feeling and move outward to get specific. 

4. Trace back the feeling

Emotional triggers are often an old feeling that’s coming up from childhood or adolescence. Think back on your experiences.

  • Which other situations have made you feel like this before? 
  • How old were you when the feeling first came up?

Emotional triggers are like a time machine transporting us back to an earlier age, and a familiar emotion. Know that this is normal, and almost everyone experiences this at some time in their lives. This isn’t a bad thing — though these feelings can be uncomfortable, they also allow a fresh opportunity to self-soothe and process what you weren’t able to at an earlier time. This practice builds resilience, and self-compassion. 

5. Reach out to your support system

Speaking to your network can be a huge support when processing emotional triggers. While you may need some time away to collect your thoughts and tune into your feelings, it’s important to come back to your friends and family. Picking up the phone or sending a text is a great reminder of how loved and connected you are during this difficult time. 

6. Seek professional help

A mental health professional can guide you through the difficult feelings that arise when processing emotional triggers. They can equip you with tools to recognize a trigger when it happens, check-in with yourself to self-soothe, and process what’s coming up. With these strategies in your toolbelt, you’ll be better equipped to deal with emotional triggers in the long-run. Wellin5’s team of clinical counsellors are here to help. With the flexibility of online counselling, you can book meetings whenever they’re convenient for you and your schedule. Get matched and begin your first session in just 1-3 business days. Get started.