*This blog post is not intended to be a replacement or alternative for mental health care from a licensed professional. Please connect with a licensed mental health professional for support for your mental health needs.*
Everybody has stuff.
And when I say stuff, I mean stuff.
Each adult person has a collection of stuff that shapes who they are and how they show up in the world. We can call this stuff our invisible luggage.
Usually, we are all doing our very best to manage the invisible luggage that we carry with us. But sometimes, we are faced with interactions that put us in uncomfortable, frustrating and sometimes even triggering positions.
Being triggered, sometimes referred to as having a trauma reaction, is being reminded of a past memory, event or experience that caused us to feel a heavy emotion such as sadness, grief, anger, fear, etc.
Sometimes when we are triggered, we may have a flashback of a past event or we may get into a ‘fight or flight’ position, where we prepare to battle or become defensive to protect ourselves from danger.
That’s the tricky thing about our invisible luggage though: in many interactions where we feel triggered, we are actually physically safe and not in danger. We are instead reacting to something from our invisible luggage and we do not feel emotionally safe; we are reacting to something from our past that we are reminded of in our present.
There’s a distinction between managing triggers and experiencing symptoms of a possible mental health disorder. If you notice that you are experiencing severe flashbacks from past traumas that impact your daily-life functioning that are connected with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental health conditions, please seek professional care and services.
When we think of our self-care practice, self-love and building a healthy relationship with ourselves, we may sometimes struggle with managing triggers. We may feel like our past is taking up a lot of space in our present. We may feel over or hyper-sensitive and possibly even frustrated with ourselves for the reactions that we have. It may be hard for us to manage our personal and professional relationships and difficult for us to move forward in our lives.
What helps with managing these difficult feelings is getting connected to our self-awareness.
Being self-aware means strengthening your understanding of yourself and becoming a student of your feelings, reactions and thoughts. Think of how you can become an expert on understanding your triggers. For some, that may mean unpacking your invisible luggage and safely exploring what’s inside with some emotional supports in place, like counseling or therapy. Others may be in a place to organize their invisible luggage, by finding coping skills and emotional strategies to manage the feelings that come up from us. Begin to reflect on what you need to do to become more aware of what triggers you.
It’s fair to say that we will have moments where we do react strongly and feel our emotions. There will also be times where we still have trouble managing our reactions when triggered. Practice, self-reflection, access self-care resources and getting emotional support will help in this journey of becoming the best versions of ourselves. Remember to have patience for yourself, you are doing the best you can.
How do you manage your triggers?