Mental health: we all get triggered sometimes

October 10, 2023

Photo by Gui Spinardi at Pexels

Christina Agha, Leila Reynolds and Tiana Odunowo examine the impact of emotional triggers and how to deal with them

The Prince’s Trust Youth Index 2023 survey shows that the overall happiness of young people (16-25 year olds) is the lowest it’s been in 14 years. This has predominately been attributed to financial anxiety and poor mental health.

We all have our own emotional triggers that can cause us suffering.

You might know the feeling when someone makes a jokingly-cutting comment. It may not be a huge deal to another person, but it sticks, leaving you feeling off centre and unhappy for the rest of the day. This is an emotional trigger, an event that evokes emotional symptoms, such as panic, low self-esteem and negative self-talk.

Triggers can come from many different aspects of our lives, often originating from pain or suffering experienced in our childhood that we were unable to process properly at the time. Check out more about this here.

Emotional triggers can stir feelings of abandonment, anxiety, anger, sadness or powerlessness. External events, such as a significant anniversary, a specific smell or seeing a difficult person from your past, can also bring up challenging feelings. This can manifest in physical symptoms, like a racing heartbeat, restlessness, nausea and muscle tension.

Emotional triggers can stir feelings of abandonment, anxiety, anger, sadness or powerlessness

Some people may be more deeply affected by emotional triggers than others. The important thing to know is that everyone experiences them to some degree. One of hardest parts is getting through them.

Firstly, accepting how you feel is crucial. If you try to deny your emotions, you will end up more confused. It is empowering to accept and explore your vulnerabilities. By staying aware, it becomes possible to address the difficult feelings and clarify what support you need to transition to a calmer place.

As well as psychological solutions, there are physical steps you can take to help yourself such as: focusing on your breath, relaxing your body and releasing tension.

There are techniques for focusing your mind such as choosing a keyword representing how you want to feel in the moment, taking deep breaths and allowing yourself to feel the shift.

There are many ways to gain emotional freedom in the moment. Mindfulness is a practice that involves paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment (in your mind, body and surroundings). It can help you to become more aware of your thought processes, your emotions and physical sensations, and understand what you’re experiencing.

Even having a quick chat with a friend can lift a lot of tension

In the long term, therapy sessions or groups are a perfect way to discuss your experiences, as well as to recognise and work with emotional triggers.

We agree, as friends, that even having a quick chat with a mate can lift a lot of tension. By acknowledging and talking through the experience, you relieve some of the stress. Talking can also help you to understand your triggers and support you to feel less affected by similar encounters in the future.

There are other ways to get help. Recently a friend of ours, mentioned how supportive a website called Kooth is. It’s a free, anonymous, safe online counselling service; an emotional well-being platform for young people.

“Kooth has helped me a lot. The counsellors on there are really understanding. Sometimes when I’m just having an off day it’s nice to have this support network, other than my friends… the community on there is great and I would definitely recommend trying it out.”

As we’ve explained: we all have triggers. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think, feel, or respond, so don’t judge your own reactions or those of other people. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Mental health is unequivocally a universal human right. Just as we’re entitled to physical well-being and safety, we’re equally deserving of mental well-being.

If you are struggling don’t hesitate to contact some of the support available:

Leila is especially interested in Film and English Language. She enjoys contributing to Exposure and expanding her knowledge of film-making and journalism.

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