Better Mental Health: 3 Steps to Deactivate a Trigger

When you notice that initial trigger of fear, anger or disappointment how do you respond to it? Oftentimes, through no fault of our own, we react from a conditioned, knee jerk state that is most likely, an ineffective coping strategy.

Unfortunately, most of us have not grown up with adults who knew how to  modeled the skill of self awareness,nor have we witnessed the empowering outcomes that it facilitates. 

Here are 3 steps I use to greatly reduced my suffering when triggered:

  1. Cultivate body awareness: Bring your attention to your body, where is your body feeling triggered? Are you holding your breath? …If so, pause and respond by taking a few deep breaths to settle and recenter yourself…Are you tightening your jaw, shoulders, back? Yes? Then take a moment to soften and relax your tense body parts. Here are some more ways to sotthe a tense body quickly:

           A.  Imagining breathing energy and calm into the effected parts is often helpful. 

 Also placing a hand to heart and a hand to belly while breathing is soothing.

           B. Give yourself a hug. Casually cross your arms. Squeeze your shoulders and/or arms. This quick act is highly regulating to the nervous system.   

           C. If you are in a safe place, home, bathroom massage the tense area for a few seconds. Apply oil or cream for additional soothing effect:-) if possible.

           D. Stretch: tune into the body, where and how does it want to stretch. You can stretch the hips out by alternating crossing your legs while sitting at your desk(hips are huge storage containers for stress), stretch arms out wide and/or up(this is so great to open the chest/heart center) Trust that your body will inform you how it wants to stretch and listen.

           E. Earthing: Walk or sit with your bare feet on soft grassy ground (I am earthing  right now as I write this) You can visualize the healing energy of the earth being absorbed into the body from your feet, but honestly, I have also experienced the calming effects of this practice without this added step as well.

           F .Accupressure: notice the point of tension in your body and just press at this point. If you want you can also massage in a circular motion at the tension  point. You will experience a desire to release a deep breath as it begins to work.

When your body is experiencing a little less charge after you tended to the tension, you can move on to the next step, which is…

  1. Change the Lens of Perception: The Lens of Perception is the way we see and understand any given situation.  When we are feeling offended, we are usually operating from  the perception of our Inner Child.

Realize that most things people do or say that are offensive, have absolutely nothing to do with your worth, or ANYTHING about you. Once you truly EMBODY this belief…this truth… life becomes ALOT simpler.

When people offend you, it is often only a reflection of their own experience of unhealed, unresolved trauma.(This phrase has served as my mantra for several months with great success)When you remind yourseslf not to take it personally, it is easier to access feelings of compassion towards the person behaving in unkind ways. 

This is not to say you shouldnt establish a boundary if it is called for, I am only suggesting it is possible to offer compassion AS WELL AS set a boundary if needed.

Always keep in mind hurt people hurt people, and compassion comes with minimal effort.  

I believe compassion and empathy are super powers.  Once I began to understand  that people who act unkind are really in discomfort and/or pain, it made it much easier to access and offer compassion. Since I started this practice, my sense of ease has greatly accelerated. (Just an fyi though, compassion is a practice and it DEFINATELY does not happen overnight…at least not from my experience…Life definitely gives us ample opportunities to master this lesson though:)

I found that utilizing curiosity to cultivate compassion was helpful. I would often ponder, “I wonder what happened to make her so OCD…so controlling…so angry…etc”  When you really consider the many things that could have happened to someone to influence their behavior, it helps you more easily access a bit of compassion towards them.

  1. Self Talk(Access the Inner Parent): I’m sure you can think of a number of times your parents said(or didn’t say) something comforting or supportive to you when you were suffering.  Their reactions DIRECTLY influence the way we NOW speak to ourselves.

They didn’t know how to do it, so they couldn’t teach us. Most likely they didn’t have the communication skills nor the capacity to handle challenging emotion. It is all good. It is nobody’s fault.  

So now, we have the opportunity to develop our Inner Parent.  We do this by becoming clearer about what we need when we are suffering and then offering it to ourselves when our Inner Child is being triggered. 

Often times we are triggered as adults because we didn’t have the tools to process and move through the feelings from the initial experience as children. The trigger reminds us that this feeling/experience needs more attention.

It is incredibly healing when YOU are able to support YOURSELF during a trigger, by working with your Inner Parent. Again, this process takes time to learn, so give yourself alot of compassion and patience as you develop greater mastery.   

One of the ways I began to discover and develop my Inner Parent was to ask myself some questions when I was feeling triggered. For example:

….”What comfort do I WISH someone would tell  me right now?”——>Whatever it is, offer it to yourself. (EX: “It’s ok…I SEE you are hurting…I’ve got you…You are worthy…this is just a little bump, you’ve got this…I’m sorry you are sad, angry,frustrated,”( whatever). Really offer yourself deep self com-

Passion for your suffering.

Basically, Acknowledge the feeling you are having as totally valid and express it to yourself. I like to say, “I see you, I know, this is hard…I know you are hurting…this feels heavy…I feel you…I’m sorry you’re sad/tired/hurt/disappointed”  .

Allow your Inner Parent to witness and give the child permission to feel what he/she is experiencing, no censoring. 

…Next, you can ask, ”What do I wish someone would DO for me right now to soothe/comfort me right now?—>Whatever the Inner Child says, let your Inner Adult offer that comfort. (That might look like a self embrace, permission to have a good cry or punch a pillow, it might be holding space for yourself, by taking a soothing bath or stretching, maybe it looks like permission to take a nap or take a break…honor the request that the Inner Child asks for as best as you can.  If it isn’t convenient in the moment, commit to giving yourself space/self care when you get home)Permission for me was often what my Inner Child wanted…permission to take a break, do something fun. We often force ourselves to do so many things we THINK we have to do, but really this is not true. 

The more we normalize meeting our own needs, the easier it becomes to respond to. Please know, that you NEVER have to wait for someone else to comfort you. When you develop your Inner Parent, it is truly empowering  to meet your needs/desires on your own terms.  Yes, it is nice when others offer comfort, but you dont have to depend on THEM and wait in suffering.

I hope you find these suggestions useful.  If you would like to go deeper into strategies and tools to cope with Triggers, check out my workshop on Processing and contact Jenn at

Published by jlbrou

I am all about self exploration and healing. The discoveries which I have made while searching my soul have enlivened me as well as have generated excitement and empowerment. I am eager to share tools and strategies that I have implemented which have made my sailing on the sometimes stormy seas of self discovery and healing a little less threatening.

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