7 Proven Ways to Identify, Avoid and Overcome Triggers.
We all have people, places and situations that trigger us emotionally in negative ways. Learn how to recognize your triggers and take proven steps to overcome them and reach emotional health.
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7 Methods to Successfully Curb Your Frustration
Regardless of how calm you are most of the time, you might still have those moments when your frustration level seems to go sky high. The challenging aspect of feeling frustrated is the urgency you feel to express those upsetting feelings.
However, you’ve no doubt learned you’ve got to “keep a lid on” your feelings in certain situations because, if you don’t, you only create more difficulties for yourself.
In such exasperating times, try these strategies to handle your frustrations:
- Take some deep breaths. Although this strategy sounds like it might not help at all, the fact is that breathing techniques really work. If you use the wellness guru, Andrew Weil’s, “4-7-8” technique for breathing, you’ll discover you can calm yourself down rather quickly. Here’s how it works:
- Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4.
- Then, hold in your breath to the count of 7.
- Finally, breathe out through your mouth to the count of 8. Focus on blowing out all of the air from your lungs in this step.
- If you take four 4-7-8 breaths in a row, your frustration will likely dissipate and you’ll feel better.
- Disengage. If you’re in a situation where you can briefly leave the room, excuse yourself to exit. Go to the restroom or for a quick walk in the building or around the parking lot. Physically disengaging from the frustrating event will nearly always help your frustration level to drop.
- Challenge yourself to say nothing. Probably the toughest suggestion on this list to actually do, saying nothing means you won’t compound any developing difficulty in the room. Although you have a right to your feelings, it’s not always wise to voice them, especially if you’re feeling quite frustrated at the time.
- Be proactive. Try to anticipate when you might feel frustrated so you can ponder how you’ll handle it if it happens.
- For example, maybe you’ve got a brother-in-law, Paul, who seems to always push your buttons and get you feeling pretty irritated. And you just happen to be going out to dinner with Paul and your sister this evening.
- Ask yourself, “How can I prepare now to keep my frustration at bay or to handle it if Paul triggers me?” Thinking about it ahead of time will help you tap in to your own strategies to keep a handle on your frustration.
- Learn to distinguish between things that really matter and the “small stuff.” Does the situation you’re getting so annoyed about really matter in the grand scheme of things? Save your emotional agitation for something that’s truly important. When you can establish these differences in your mind, you’ll be better able to ignore some of the small stuff.
- Ask yourself, “Will this really make a difference a year from now? 5 years?” If not, you can usually put it in the category of the “small” stuff.
- Another way of using this concept is to “pick your battles.” Save the battles for the big stuff.
- Distract yourself. If you get irritated when only 2 or 3 people are present, it’s best to distract yourself with thoughts of things you have to do at home or looking for something in your briefcase or purse. Maybe you notice a lovely painting on the wall in the restaurant where you’re dining.
- You can avoid simple frustrations by either thinking about or doing something to take your mind away from the frustrating topic.
- Focus on another person in the room. If you’re in a group of people and someone says or does something that frustrates you, turn to the person next to you and ask how she’s doing. It’s fairly easy to disengage from the person who’s irritating you and talk to someone else whenever others are close by.
You have the power to curb your frustration. You can take deep breaths, disengage, avoid commenting, anticipate developing frustration, and learn to tell the difference between big things and the small stuff. You can also distract yourself or even focus on another person in the room.
These methods work! Try them the next time you’re feeling frustrated. You’ll feel so much better and your frustration will disappear!
Perfection vs. Excellence
There’s a huge difference between doing something well and doing it perfectly. Attempting to be perfect can bring on feelings of inadequacy and even interfere with completing important projects. Excellence, on the other hand, is attainable and is always more than good enough.
Eliminate the idea of perfection from your life and you’ll see your productivity soar. For example, a poorly written, but complete, book can still be published. But a perfectly composed book that’s only half finished is essentially worthless. Of course, there’s a middle ground between poor and perfect. And that terrain includes excellence.
The problem with perfection is that it can never be truly attained. So, in pursuing perfection, not only are you doomed to fail, but in the end, you also might have nothing to show for your efforts.
The Law of Diminishing Returns
Apply the Law of Diminishing Returns to striving for perfection:
Imagine if you spent 25 hours on a two-page paper for a college class. Would you get an A? I would certainly hope so, but what else may have suffered because of it? What about your other classes and obligations? Maybe instead you could have done something enjoyable.
The other thing to consider is this: could you have gotten an A with two hours of work? Or five? From a practical standpoint, the same results can often be attained with much less time and effort. There is nothing to be gained by spending more time on something than truly needed.
If you spent six hours washing and waxing your car and your neighbor spent two hours on his, do you think anyone could tell the difference a week later? More importantly, what else could you have accomplished with those extra four hours? Life is short, and there’s a lot to do. What else could you do with your time besides trying to be perfect?
Pursuing Excellence Instead
Of course, you’ll want to decide on the level of excellence you wish to attain before getting started on a project. Everything you do should have standards that you strive to attain. If you choose your benchmark of completion properly, there’s never a good reason to go beyond that point.
What exactly is excellent, anyway? In our discussion, excellent means that the task was completed at a high enough level that there’s no cause for concern. You know your work will meet whatever requirements are put upon it. Regardless of the nature of the task, you know that it’s done well enough and you have zero concerns about it.
When deciding how well a project really needs to be done, consider the possible outcomes if the task is completed at various levels of quality. Obviously, a surgical instrument requires a much higher level of quality than a spoon.
Once the proper level has been set, you now have a target, a goal that’s been chosen with some thought and intelligence. Now, simply perform the task to that level and stop. That task is completed, and it’s time to do something else.
Giving up a habit of pursuing perfection might seem challenging. However, you’ll be happier, more productive, and you’ll maintain your sanity much more easily by striving for excellence instead. Focus on exceeding expectations. In terms of time, quality, and productivity, excellence always wins in the end.
Understanding and Managing Your Emotional Triggers
Maybe you wonder what’s really going on when you feel like certain events push your buttons. Take control of your emotional triggers by increasing your awareness and developing new ways of responding.
Understanding Your Emotional Triggers
- Learn the definition of triggers. A trigger is an experience that draws us back into the past and causes old feelings and behaviors to arise. An ice cream sandwich may remind you of summer vacations or gossiping coworkers could bring back images of high school cliques.
- Spot external prompts. Some triggers are situational and social. Many people tend to eat more at holiday gatherings. If your spouse is tense, it may affect your own mood.
- Identify internal causes. Over time, anything can be internalized. Even when you’re surrounded by your loved ones, you may be carrying around old conflicts that interfere with your ability to live in the present moment.
- Realize we all have triggers. Much of the literature about triggers focuses on addictions. It’s important to remember that memory plays a powerful role in all our lives.
- Accept individual differences. If you’re startled by loud noises that your spouse fails to notice, you’ve seen how differently people react to the same stimulus. Taking such variety into account improves communications and relationships.
Managing Your Emotional Triggers
- Keep a journal. Tracking your triggers is often the first step in mastering them. It might be helpful to keep a log of occasions when you experience intense emotions or engage in behavior you want to change. Note what’s going on in your head and in your surroundings at the time.
- Challenge yourself. The key to change is placing yourself in difficult positions and being open to doing something new and more constructive. If worrying about money is keeping you up at night, call your creditors to arrange payment plans.
- Know your capacity. Proceed at your own pace. Start out by being more assertive with your spouse and friends if you need to practice before talking with your boss.
- Come up with alternatives. Take advantage of quiet times to brainstorm new strategies you can use when you are under pressure. List productive and enjoyable activities you can substitute for gambling or other habits you want to break.
- Make time to relax. Reducing daily stress will make it easier to handle intense emotions. Begin a daily meditation practice or start out the day by listening to instrumental music during your drive to the office.
- Consider therapy. If you’re having trouble making progress on your own, professional help could make a big difference.
- Live healthy. One simple way to make yourself more resilient is to take good care of your body and mind. Eat right, sleep well and exercise regularly. You’ll be better prepared to bounce back from any obstacles that may arise.
- Develop a strong support network. Close family and friends are vital to feeling validated and nurtured. When you’re dealing with stubborn issues, it’s good to know you have people who care about you and want to help.
- Show compassion. The more you know about your own triggers, the more insight you can develop into what the people around you may be struggling with. Strive to be a little more patient and forgiving and people will be more likely to do the same for you.
We all have our own unique emotional triggers. Learning to handle them constructively enables us to fix the issues that get in our way and move ahead in life.
Take inventory of your emotional triggers throughout all next week and comment below about what you have discovered.
We all have our own set of values. While having values is very positive, there’s also a risk of getting over-enthusiastic and expecting others to behave a certain way. It’s important to realize that there’s no single way to live life or view the world. You’re limiting your personal growth and enjoyment when you expect others to live according to your rules.
Being critical of others has additional consequences. If you’re hard on others, you’re also hard on yourself. Your self-esteem and happiness suffer.
Life is simply more enjoyable when we accept others and ourselves.
Use these strategies to remove your expectations and be less critical:
- Be aware of critical thoughts. Everything has a beginning. Before you can make critical judgments and say critical things, there has to be a critical thought. This is your cue to change your thought process.
- Monitor your thoughts and remind yourself to be more open-minded.
- Pause for five seconds and take a deep breath. In most cases, you’re safe until you open your mouth. When you find yourself feeling judgmental, stop and take a short pause. You’ll interrupt your thought pattern and give yourself a chance to think before you say something you might regret.
- How many times have you wished you could take back something you’ve said? That doesn’t have to happen again in the future.
- Understand that people, including yourself, are doing the best they can. That’s not to say that everyone is living up to their potential. But everyone has their own unique past, tragedies, upbringing, health issues, and way of viewing the world. Faced with the same experiences, you can’t be certain you would do any better.
- The person you’re judging might be doing a lot better than you think if only you knew the entire story.
- Avoid stereotyping. There are CEOs with tattoos and wonderful parents that used to be exotic dancers. You’re only fooling yourself if you believe you can judge someone based on a couple of characteristics or facts. Are you strong and patient enough to determine the truth about the other person?
- Find a role model. You know someone that’s very accepting of everyone. Sit down and speak with them. Ask them how they manage to be so non-critical of everyone. Ask them what they think when they see a Goth teenager covered in tattoos and piercings.
- Their thoughts are the answer to your struggle.
- The past doesn’t have to equal the future. Everyone makes mistakes. Those mistakes don’t have to be repeated. Understand that people can learn from their errors. You wouldn’t want to be judged by your greatest mistake, nor would it provide an accurate view of you. Give others the same consideration.
- Respect the freedom of others. No one elected you to decide how others should live their lives. It’s arrogant and delusional to believe that your way is the right way for everyone. You have the option to live your life the way you choose. Provide the same freedom to others.
- Let go of your expectations. Having expectations is a form of trying to control others. Become more flexible. When you have expectations, they’re sure to be violated. There’s only one way you can feel at that point: upset.
- Let go of your expectations and accept the outcome without judgment.
If you have a habit of being critical, you’ll get more out of life if you reverse that tendency. This is a great opportunity to be patient and understanding with yourself. The people that annoy us are here to teach us about ourselves.
Make an effort to learn more about someone you don’t like. You might find that your first impression was incorrect!
Comment below and tell me if you “struggle” with criticism whether it is towards yourself or others, or both. How does that affect your relationships with yourself and the people around you?