We have all experienced a “trigger” — the feeling of being pushed into a negative emotion by something that someone says or does. A trigger is actually a perceived threat, and it prompts a physiological shift that we know as “fight or flight.” …Fight and flight are equally dysfunctional the vast majority of the time.
The first key to managing triggers is to become aware, sooner, when they begin to arise. The signs are usually physical: a flushing in the face, a tightening in the chest, a rising heartbeat, the desire to strike out or withdraw.
Whichever one you’re compelled to do, don’t. If you’re a fighter, step back. If you tend to flee, stay engaged.
You can’t think logically once you’re in fight or flight, so instead focus on quieting your physiology. Take a few deep breaths, in through your nose to a count of three, out through your mouth to a count of six. Feel your feet, to ground yourself. As your body calms down, your emotions will follow suit and your mind will begin to clear.
Once I get my wits about me, I’ve found two sorts of reflection help most. “What part of this is my responsibility?” [and] “Who is the person I want to be in this situation?” Or even more specifically, “How would I behave here at my best?”