Triggers, Meltdowns and Outbursts, Oh, My!

Weeks of isolation and quarantine. Frustration with waiting in line to shop with a very limited selection available. The inability to see, spend time with or even hold the people who matter to us. Worry about our health and the health of our kids and parents.

Yup, we’re all pretty frazzled.

And that’s our starting point as we re-engage with society. A few months ago, we were comfortable being out and around people. We expected crowds in certain places at certain times. We anticipated grumpy people or rude people or nice people. And we rolled with it.

But now, as we start re-engaging with society, we’ll be operating in a new normal, a world where we’re realizing just how many people are strikingly self-unmanaged. And everyone seems to have a shorter fuse.

The frustration with someone who cuts in line seems to be turning into brawls. The request to wear masks when shopping seems to be an offensive ask that is a deliberate attempt to take away the freedoms we have as Americans. A rude person is shot at.

We’re seeing this across the news and some states haven’t even fully re-opened yet. Unchecked rage. Uncontrolled behavior. Less patience. Less tolerance. Less understanding.

It’s the complete opposite of the heartfelt posts shared across social media just a month ago as the thought of being out in public again was but a hopeful wish.

And it’s happening because people are self-unmanaged. To be self-managed means to be aware of yourself (your emotions, feelings and abilities) and to manage each of your attributes so you can be successful, respectful and effective when dealing with others. When you are not self-managed, you aren’t able to control yourself when you become irritated, aggravated or frustrated. It’s not pretty to see someone – especially yourself – having a meltdown because you were triggered by something someone else is doing.

Think about a time when someone did something or something didn’t go your way and you reacted. As a mindfulness coach, I always remind my clients that in any moment, it is your choice how to be in your moments – pleasant ones or difficult ones. You choose to think and respond or react. The situation doesn’t make you do it. You do it. The situation may be challenging but that is why it is called self-management: manage yourself no matter what the situation.

Where we are today requires us to be more self-managed than ever before. We exist with others and, therefore, things will happen that are beyond your control. Some of those things may even frustrate you or trigger you. But you must stay in control so the situation doesn’t escalate and you don’t let your day be ruined.

Without being self-managed, every disappointment or challenge will get you. You’ll always be ready to explode.   

So how can you become self-managed? By better understanding your triggers. When you know what sets you off, you can start to notice when a situation is triggering you. And when you’re aware of this, you have the ability to take control of your feelings and ensure a more productive outcome for the situation. Take a breath. Remove yourself from the situation. Focus on something else that is more valuable to you.

Be self-managed.

Take Action
Start by coming up with a list of the two or three things that are your primary triggers. An easy way to identify them is to complete this statement: “I hate when people _________ ” or “I hate when [fill in the blank] happens.”

Know your triggers, then think of a few things you can do to calm yourself when you feel yourself being triggered. This could be breathing, forcing yourself to smile, changing your self-talk to something positive, refocusing on something you like, or changing where you are. Those are just a few ideas.

You will have to pay attention on purpose, catch yourself when you feel yourself being triggered or starting to meltdown, and use whatever approach you’ve identified as a way to stay calm.

Today, everyone needs to be more self-managed than ever before. What will this look like for you?

By Kristin Allaben

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