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Tame your Triggers

3 steps to help you self-manage in the moment

On any given day, we are met with demanding, stressful situations that test our ability to manage our emotions and behaviour. When triggered, we may experience a range of emotions, including frustration, anger, resentment, insecurity, and defensiveness. Understanding and managing our emotional triggers is essential to a leader’s personal effectiveness and determines the tone you set for your team.

Self-Management is one of the key components of emotional intelligence. It is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behaviour. 

We can get emotionally hijacked and have knee-jerk reactions to different situations, events or people. As a leader, managing your emotional responses and understanding your effect on others is critical. Identifying these triggers can help improve your emotional intelligence and resilience.

Triggers come in wide varieties, and people’s responses to identical triggers vary greatly. When you are triggered, the emotional part of your brain takes over.

Here are 3 steps you can take to help self-manage your emotional reactions.

Step 1: Name your Triggers

You need to begin by recognizing what causes your stress levels to rise.   If you pay attention to the times when you experience stress, overwhelming emotions, and frustration, you’ll begin to notice a pattern; there is usually someone or something that triggers a stress response.

Determine what triggered the emotion. What do you think you lost, or what did you not get that you expected or desired to have?   The more you learn about your triggers, the better you can control them.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with your Emotions

The good news is that once you are aware of your triggers, you can manage how you choose to react to them, and you can focus on driving your emotional balance. Pay attention to how your body reacts. Does your heart beat faster? Does your body tense up or start to feel hot?   Recognizing your body’s cues allows you to control your emotions before they control you.

Step 3: Get Solution-Orientated

Practicing different ways to self-manage your emotions in the moment and learn what works best for you. Pause and ask yourself if you are taking the situation too personally and what else may be happening. Ask yourself whether what you’re about to say or do will evoke the response or advance the cause you desire? 

For example, let’s stay your flight has been delayed. Rather than losing your temper at the airline clerk, accept that neither you nor they can do anything about a late plane.

Here are some helpful techniques to help self-manage your emotions in the moment.

Be Present
As soon as you notice that you are emotionally reacting to a situation –shift your emotional state to think through what your trigger might be. Choose one keyword representing how you want to feel or who you want to be in the moment. Be Present.

Breathe – take 3 deep breaths and release the tension in your body. Do this by dropping your awareness to the center of your body, just below your navel.

Clear your Mind – go for a walk, even if it’s only around the block, to help clear your mind.

Develop a Buddy system – recruit someone you trust to help. Make a buddy system with a good friend at work. Agree to call each other whenever stress increases. Research shows that buddy systems are social networks of support at work.

Manage your Environment – strive to manage your environment, or it will manage you. To take control, acknowledge the power and effect of your work and life environments. Build awareness of your environment by seeking “feedback.” Where you can’t avoid, “adjust.” Prepare for environmental triggers by creating a coping plan in advance. Practice your reactions and responses to likely triggers ahead of time.  

It takes practice to notice triggers and pause in the moment before you respond. For most of us, this won’t come quickly or easily. Anticipate and prepare for triggers and develop a daily structure to help you stick with your plan.   Noticing your triggers and cultivating ways to respond will allow you to take different actions – and by doing so, you will build resilience and be more likely to reach your goals personally and professionally.