How to Stay Calm When You Get Emotionally Triggered

Ever struggle with becoming emotionally triggered? Virtually everyone has wrestled with this to some extent. The common out-of-control emotions experienced include sadness, anger and fear (anger and fear are often closely related).

What we all need are strategies to overcome the urge to let our emotions take control during upsetting circumstances that take us by surprise. Thankfully, there are some things you can do that will help. 

Regularly Remind Yourself that You’re in Control

Besides first needing to admit that you struggle to keep calm under certain trigger scenarios, you need to remind yourself that you’re in control.

No, that doesn’t mean you’re always able to control what happens to you. What you first have to regularly remind yourself of is this:

You. Can. Choose. How. You. Respond!

It may not feel like much of a choice when the emotions kick into overdrive but it still is. Regularly choosing to play the script of “I can choose to handle this in a healthy way” in your internal dialogue will go a long way in taking charge and successfully changing old habits.

If you only see yourself as the victim, you’ll struggle to recognize the empowerment that can be yours (a truly freeing realization).

Decide Ahead of Time What You’ll Do 

Come up with a strategy ahead of time to better deal with emotional triggers. Although deep breathing or counting to ten could help during the moment, that’s a dangerous thing to place all of your hopes on.

Get in touch with what feelings trigger you. Often, these emotions bubble up because of a need that you feel isn’t being met.  You may feel the need to be successful, accepted or respected and you’re tempted to unload because what’s happening seems to threaten those needs in a powerful way.

It’s important to remind yourself that these inherent, deep-seated needs don’t have to be threatened by a moment in time. They’re something you first must establish within you. They shouldn’t be so flimsy that you have to depend on these needs being met by others or favorable circumstances.

Write a Letter but Don’t Send/Mail It 

Do you have an ongoing struggle that tempts you into a pattern of becoming emotionally triggered on a regular basis? Or, has bitterness been building up for a while and you’re afraid of how you could respond next?

This could be due to struggling to handle a difficult phase in your child’s development, a toxic boss or because of regular relational stress among other possibilities.

If so, consider writing an emotion-filled letter that you don’t intend to send. You just write to get it “off your chest” and maybe you even read it to a trusted friend. The only catch is that you don’t press send—it’s not worth losing your job or damaging your relationships.

Over 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln employed this very technique and it still works just as well today. The Union Army in the Civil War had just suffered massive casualties at Gettysburg due to what Lincoln considered poor oversight by his generals.

Grieved and infuriated by the heavy soldier casualties and General Meade not taking measures to end the war then and there, Lincoln wrote a scathing letter to Meade saying, “Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.”

The only catch is that he didn’t actually send the letter but kept it in his records. Lincoln recognized that unleashing what he’d written would’ve caused more harm than good. To this day, that letter has survived and serves as a valuable reminder of the power of releasing emotions with the written word (and without hurting anyone in the process).

Manage Your Reactions by Taking Charge of Your Health

Stress has a remarkable way of bringing out the worst in us. Things like blood-sugar levels, proper sleep, good nutrition, a healthy network of friends and a manageable schedule are crucial.

Having these in place will make managing your emotional reactions far easier to handle.

Consider Therapy if You’re Still Struggling to Handle Your Emotions 

It’s possible that you’ve tried everything you could think of and you’re still struggling to remain emotionally calm in tough situations. This may be due to a stressful season of life that will eventually pass or a number of other factors.

Sometimes it helps to have someone to walk alongside of you as you cultivate the skill of emotional calmness. The OC Relationship Center can provide you with evidence-based ways to better manage your emotions so you can live the life you want. You can schedule an appointment at our Mission Viejo, CA or Newport Beach, CA locations.

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