How to Choose Positive Responses to Negative Triggers
When people ask you how you’ve been lately, chances are good that your default response is something like, “Ugh, I’m so tired. Work has been running me ragged.” Somewhere along the way, we collectively agreed that being overworked and chronically stressed was a badge of honor.
Americans tend to equate busyness with high achievers, but chronic stress and anxiety are examples of negative triggers that can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. Other triggers can be criticism, rejection or feeling that people aren’t respecting your boundaries. Here are some tips for becoming more aware of your unhealthy triggers and responding to them with positivity.
1. Listen to Your Body
You might not be consciously aware of how you’re feeling, but your body never lies to you. Emotions like anxiety, anger or fear can manifest in symptoms like sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, stomachaches and stored tension in areas such as your shoulders, neck and jaw muscles. Other long-term side effects of living with the pressure of negative triggers can include hypertension, inflammation and a suppressed immune response.
At least once a day, check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling. Is your heart rate elevated? Are you storing tension in tight muscles? Do a body scan meditation to relax and bring your awareness to any areas where you’re experiencing pain or discomfort.
2. Pay Attention to How Others Make You Feel
In a perfect world, everybody would be easy to get along with, and nobody would ever rub you the wrong way. In reality, however, not all personalities of people in your life will mesh well with yours. If most of your interactions with a specific friend, relative or co-worker leave you feeling anxious or upset because they are rude or disrespectful to you, limit your interactions with these toxic people as much as possible. You can also practice strategies for dealing with difficult people.
3. Learn When to Say “No”
The word “no” is tiny, but mighty. Still, many people haven’t learned to harness the power of “no” to work for them. If you’re feeling mentally overwhelmed and you know you can’t handle adding anything else to your plate, you should never feel guilty about politely declining a task. Practice saying phrases like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have the bandwidth to give that my full attention.”
4. Be Aware of Situational Triggers
Sometimes, negative triggers might relate to specific circumstances or elements of your surroundings. For instance, perhaps being in heavy traffic provokes symptoms of road rage. If that’s the case for you, try to leave earlier or later than usual, so you aren’t in your car during peak congestion. Alternatively, take mass transit or try to find ways to make your time in the car more relaxing, such as listening to guided breathing exercises while you drive.
5. Practice Self-Care
When you encounter negative triggers, your initial impulse might be to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. While these substances can offer short-term relief, using them over an extended period can lead to dependence, higher tolerance and addiction. They can also cause or exacerbate mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Instead of using intoxicants, choose a positive, healthy self-care activity such as journaling, doing yoga, meditating or taking a relaxing bath.
Learn to Recognize and Manage Negative Triggers
Awareness is often the first step to any lasting change. The more you take steps to be conscious of your negative triggers, the better you’ll be able to choose a positive response. If your goal is to become more mentally healthy and resilient, incorporate the tips in this article into your self-improvement strategies.
Another thing Beach House’s mental health professionals recommend is asking for help when you need it. If you’re living with addiction and a co-occurring condition such as anxiety, depression or PTSD, evidence-based treatment can help you learn to live a healthy, fulfilling sober lifestyle. Our private beachfront reserve in beautiful Florida welcomes people from all backgrounds who have struggled with substance use issues. Contact us to verify your insurance or learn more about us.