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How To Know When You Have Been Triggered

So how on earth do you know you're being triggered? It may sound like a silly thing to even mention but being triggered isn’t always as obvious as you think it is. Society has largely encouraged us to focus on suppressing our emotions so most of us are pretty good at disassociating out of habit. The truth is that being triggered isn’t always as obvious as a fit of rage, panic attack or a nervous breakdown.

So how do you know when you are being triggered in non-obvious ways?

It's actually very easy. You don't have to figure it out or analyse anything.

All you have to do is look at your body. Your body tells you exactly how you're feeling.

If you notice any of these and especially more than one at the same time then you are likely being triggered:

You feel “shaky”

Your breathing is shallower than when you are relaxed

Your heart rate has increased

You are struggling to focus or concentrate on what you are doing

Your thoughts become scattered

You start making silly mistakes

You suddenly forget something obvious like your pin or password

You feel “awkward”

Your self talk becomes negative

All of the above are signs that you have been triggered. Unfortunately we are so used to being stressed that we may not even realize that this is actually not a very healthy state to be in.

If you do one thing at the very least just start to notice your body. You know I’ve actually been in situations where I was so used to stuffing down my true feelings that my mind was in one state and my body was in another. I was in the presence of someone who made me feel really intimidated. I was still in a state of shock and although I knew I had found it uncomfortable I didn’t really appreciate how traumatized I was.

It was only a few days later when I was within close physical proximity of this person that I woke up to just how bad it was. I noticed that my hands were shaking and my body was tense. I was holding in my energy and not really wanting to talk.

In my mind though I thought I was OK. Everything felt “normal”. I felt like I was on the outside looking in on myself seeing my hands shake and noticing that in reality I wasn’t relaxed at all.

It was a really strange experience but a good one as it helped me decide on what action to take without being overwhelmed.

In all honesty, meditating on a regular basis has taught me how to do this…how to notice without being overwhelmed.

Being triggered is similar to a fire being ignited. There are three different aspects involved similar to the fire triangle that needs all three elements of oxygen, fuel and heat to be present. Taking just one of these away will put out the fire.

When it comes to being triggered the three main aspects are




You’ll find that a trigger comes mainly from one of these three angles and sparks off the rest! Put them all together and you have an inner battle.

Similarly, tackle the inner battle from just one of these three angles and you’ll find peace.

It really is that simple. No matter what the trigger point is ( be it mental, emotional or physical ) …within moments you’ll have signs in all three aspects of yourself.

The physical is the most obvious and easiest angle to tackle it from and to notice it from.

Your body is something tangible, real and obvious. Heart-rate, breathing and “shakiness” ( or lack thereof ) are all simple things to work with.

This also links to changing your physical environment i.e. just moving away from the person, place or thing that is triggering you.

I know it’s a very obvious thing to say, but we just don’t do this enough. Depending on the situation we may assume that it’s not appropriate and fear even further consequences.

For example, you may be in a meeting and someone in that meeting starts speaking to you really badly but you know that if you get up and leave you’ll have a shit load of explaining to do. In situations like this, you need to get creative. You could smile and say “Apologies but I really need to go to the toilet. May I be excused?” Sounds ridiculous, but this is what emotional regulation is all about.

Can you imagine if you either stormed out of the meeting in a huff OR remained in that situation only to be subjected to prolonged humiliation and stress? Doing either of those ultimately causes you more harm and actually gives that arrogant person even more control over you. Don’t let them do that.

In the above example a few things happened:

  1. Noticing that the situation is making you feel uncomfortable

  2. Staying calm enough to not react which could make things worse for you

  3. Thinking about how you can safely remove yourself from the situation

  4. Taking action and buying yourself some time to regulate and the decide next steps

You can see how being able to do that can come in handy in situations that may be a lot more serious than a meeting.

You can of course bring yourself to a state of peace by thinking your way out of it but this takes a lot of practice and again, meditation. Eventually, what meditation does is it totally disarms people’s negative impact on you. It’s truly magical. It trains the mind to deal with thoughts in a way that are grounded, mature, empathetic, empowering, objective and insightful. The emotions that previously were triggered by certain thoughts just don’t seem to have any hold over you anymore. Now, I’ll be honest, I’ve only achieved this in certain aspects but I do still get triggered. However, the triggered response moves through me slow enough for me to decide on how I’m going to let it affect me and what I do next.

So, when it comes to tackling these triggers we approach it from the physical as well. It’s the easiest place to start.

Do this as soon as you notice you are being triggered and I mean do it straight away:

  1. Breathe deeply for a few moments ( no excuses…everyone can do this ) even if you struggle to take deep breaths for some reason at least make them slower and deeper than when you are stressed!

  2. If you can, move away from the person, situation or stimulus that is triggering you. Find an excuse to move away even if you think this may be looked down on by others in the situation.

  3. Change your focus - force yourself to focus on something else. You need to be determined with this at first. Our minds are so lazy and habitual that doing this especially when triggered may be hard at first but it will soon become an automatic response.

  4. Tell yourself that everything is ok and that you decide how you feel. Remind yourself that you really can decide on how you feel in that moment….no matter what is going on.

Quick Summary:

Signs you are being triggered

*Increased Heart Rate

*Quicker Shallower Breaths

*Scattered Thoughts

What to do

*Deeper Slower Breaths

*Move away

*Shift Focus

There is also this brilliant NLP ( Neuro Linguistic Programming ) technique called Anchoring which is perfect for scenarios that you know you are likely to find triggering.

This technique involves you touching a certain part of your body ( knuckle / ear ) to initiate a calming or soothing or joyful or safe response instead.

More about this amazing technique in my next article.

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