How to stop being triggered

As the year is getting closer to the end, I already sense general tiredness and layers and layers of negative emotions. Especially at work, there are several moments a day where I feel it is almost a test done by different people, intentionally or not, to see who gets to push me over the edge.

When you are in a state of being mentally exhausted, yet always alert and anxious, it truly does not take a lot to trigger you into reacting, fighting, arguing or other negative behaviours and emotions. Every comment feels like criticism and personal attack, every suggestion feels like mockery and every disagreement feels as the intentional way to get to you. If you can relate, keep reading to learn ways of dealing with it before you react to stop the negative spiralling.

1. Before reacting, consider the context. What I mean is we should always consider the context in any situation. For example, if someone says something mean to you, the first reaction is to judge that person, think about how mean they are and act back to “show them”. What if we take a step back and think about the following: A. What is this person’s situation right now? Are they going through hard time in their personal life? Are they already stressed before they show up to the situation? B. Was there a history that led to this behaviour? Maybe you did something that seemed mean to them and now they are the ones actually reacting? If so, by responding negatively you can make the whole situation worse.

2. Think about the big picture. Is this a problem of the day, week, month or year? Will it matter in a few month or in a year? Are you about to react, ruin your day, your mental health, age faster and look worse for what? Is it worth it?

3. What are the actual common goals you may share with this person? Reminding them about that may bring people together. One thing I have learned over the years is that blaming each other does not get to any positive solution, it just ruins the relationship. Just today we had a meeting between 4 project managers of 3 organizations and 2 of them started blaming each other and going back into discussing previous months and who did what. Unless we have a time machine, arguing about the past is waste of everyone’s time that does not lead us to any kind of a solution. I had to remind them about the common goals and interests to bring them back into solution mode.

4. Focus on solutions, not problems. This one is also a daily occurence where meetings can go for hours once the discussion takes the turn towards all kinds of problems. But if we just complain for hours, we would not have anything solved, only time wasted and now less time to do something that actually adds value. I know it is extemely tempting, when triggered, to blame the other person or maybe someone/something else, but does it really contribute to something better beyond immediate emotional relief?

5. Find emotional relief that does not involve others. If you are already emotionally overwhelmed, even talking to others is not recommended because if they disagree with you durint that time, you might react now or feel unsupported and react later. If you find emotional relief that occupies you alone, you can actually grow as a person. It can be keeping a journal, meditating, maybe something creative but it has to be something that allows you to have the time and opportunity to face your thoughts, process them and deal with them by identifying the steps you will take to solve your problems. Speaking to others, unless they are the ones causing your problems, will not help you address the issue.

6. Focus on yourself. Think about your personal goals and aspirations that you had before “the event”. Put yourself first. Think about exciting things you want to do to get to your own goals and occupy yourself with these thoughts and activities.

7. Take a breather. Walk away. Take the time for a walk, cup of coffee or anything else. If you wait 20 minutes and come back to discussion, even if you still want to address the issue, your thoughts will be more organized then jumping “into the fire” the moment it happens.

8. Find something funny to mentally distract yourself. Take a deep breath.

9. Respond with a question. Ideally, a question that is not offensive or designed to illustrate to others how mean and stupid the person in question is. Instead, try to understand why they are saying what they are saying, why now and ideally, what really motivates them to say this.

10. If you get into conflicting (but not dangerous) situation with another person, try following up with them privately. Egos play a big role and no one wants to be vulnerable or look incompetent in front of others. If instead you talk to this person directly and privately, you may find that the person is not threatening and really nice. I have never experienced anyone in work settings being openly disrespectful or mean to me when talking privately, instead many people reveal what really drives them because people generally want to feel liked and accepted. If you are the only one in the room, their focus for getting accepted shifts to you.

11. Most conflicts are not personal. It is not about others not liking you, your personality, your style or how you do things. So tell yourself that before you react. Also, the moment you react you actually reveal what your pain points are, and if the person natually wishes bad for you, they will continue pushing these buttons because they now know how to control you or get you to react. Also, if it is actually personal, you should definitely not react because you do not need to lower yourself to their level. Be above this.

12. Remember: nothing is permanent. This too shall pass. Whatever it is, do not let it ruin your day or your health.

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