What to do when you are triggered by something

I’ve been talking a lot with people lately about how to manage situations where they have been triggered and are experiencing heightened emotional distress.

Despite all the personal ​​work you may have done to explore, process, and use tools to manage being emotionally triggered, it is likely that there will still be occasions in your life when something unpredictable shows up and makes you feel like you’re back at square one.


But you’re not…you’re not back at square one. Please don’t let the odd occurrence here and there make you minimise all the hard work you’ve done and how far you have come!

The fact is…you are human, and you have a life journey that has shaped who you are. Because of this it is hard/impossible to avoid all situations that might trigger something from your past and bring with it an emotional storm. So instead of trying to avoid the inevitable, and beating yourself up when it happens, try keeping this tool/process in mind:

Step 1: Use a grounding tool to calm you down and bring you to the present moment. An example of a grounding tool is to:

  • Name 5 things you can see, hear, and touch

Step 2: Once you are a bit calmer, use the A-N-D strategy to build awareness and observe your experience:

  • A: Aware. Become aware of your body sensations
  • N: Name the body sensations (whatever comes to mind – there is no right or wrong words)
  • D: Describe the feeling associated with the body sensations

Step 3: Use journaling/writing to help you process why the situation triggered you. Writing is a great way to build awareness and a coherent narrative around our stories. When we have this coherent narrative, we are less likely to be triggered by it again.

  • Was it a situation from when you were younger? What beliefs did it trigger for you?