How to heal emotional triggers: 12 Simple Short- and Long-Term Strategies

by The Relationship Guy
December 7, 2022

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Learning how to heal emotional triggers is crucial since they can take over your life if you don’t learn how to identify, manage, and heal them correctly. This is especially true in today’s uncertain times, when many of us feel different emotions about so many things.

That’s why it’s essential to develop strategies to effectively manage emotional triggers and get our lives back on track. Here are 12 short- and long-term strategies to help you do that.

Introduction: What are Emotional Triggers, and How Can We Identify, Manage, and Heal Them?

Are you sometimes surprised by your emotions?

You suddenly feel very sad or angry, even when part of you knows it’s out of proportion to what’s happening. If so, you could be experiencing an emotional trigger.

That’s the psychological term for when your reaction has more to do with your past than the present situation.

The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines a “trigger” as:

A stimulus that elicits a reaction. For example, an event could be a trigger for a memory of a past experience and an accompanying state of emotional arousal.

APA Dictionary of Psychology

In the most severe cases, triggers can be related to post-traumatic stress disorder. To a lesser extent, they’re also a routine part of life for most adults.

How to heal emotional triggers

For example, you may enjoy your job and work with your boss.

Then, you want to quit one day because she looked in your desk drawer without asking first.

When you examine your response more closely, you remember how you felt when your parents or your spouse violated your privacy in similar ways.

Healing your sore spots will help you to be happier and more successful.

Emotional Triggers in Relationships and What to Keep in Mind

Emotional triggers can have both positive and negative effects on relationships.

But what exactly are emotional triggers?

Basically, they are the psychological and physical reactions that happen when a person is exposed to a specific stimulus or situation.

They are often the result of past experiences, current circumstances, or even the presence of certain people.

Emotional triggers typically make people feel and react hurt, betrayed, or angry, but they can also make them feel loved, connected, or appreciated.

Because of that, it’s vital for couples to be aware of their own emotional triggers and those of their partner, as this will help them better understand each other’s reactions and create a healthier relationship.

Feeling unappreciated is a common emotional trigger in a relationship.

Negative feelings like resentment, anger, and sadness can surface when one partner believes they are being neglected.

These feelings can come out as criticism or passive-aggressive behaviour, which makes it hard for the other person to respond healthily.

When one partner feels unappreciated, they may want more attention and affection from the other. In response, the other partner may try to pull away or get defensive.

In the end, this can make it harder to talk to each other and build trust, leading to even more tension and distance.

At the end of the day, the most important takeaway here is the fact emotional triggers will affect your life.

But in saying that, it’s also true that you can find success and happiness in life and relationships by mending your wounds.

Therefore, try the following strategies for dealing with emotional triggers.

You’ll notice that there are short- and long-term strategies for managing your emotional triggers, and that’s for a good reason.

Having short-term and long-term strategies for healing emotional triggers is important because it provides a comprehensive approach to understanding and managing one’s emotions.

Short-term strategies help to manage the immediate feelings and reactions associated with an emotional trigger.

In contrast, long-term strategies are more focused on addressing the root cause of the emotional trigger and learning how to cope with it in the future.

By having a combination of both strategies, individuals can gain a better understanding of their emotions and how to manage them in healthy ways.

This can lead to improved mental health and overall well-being.

Short-Term Strategies for Dealing with Emotional Triggers

Even though triggers are common, they can still cause a lot of trouble.

You don’t want to say or do things that could hurt your professional life or meaningful relationships.

For example, if someone has been through a traumatic event in the past, it can make them too sensitive or quick to act in similar situations. 

That can result in frequent misunderstandings and tensions in relationships.

Additionally, unresolved family conflict itself can act as an emotional trigger, leading to additional issues such as extreme conflict and eventual emotional disconnection. 

How to heal emotional triggers

Also, if you don’t deal with emotional triggers the right way, they can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and even physical health problems.

So, it’s essential that you deal with emotional triggers once you become aware of them.

Slow down

When dealing with emotional triggers in the short term, it is essential to slow down because it gives us a chance to step back and process the situation better.

That helps us keep a level head and make decisions that are in our best interests instead of being led by impulse or emotion.

Taking the time to think about things also makes it less likely that we’ll say or do something we’ll later regret.

So, avoid giving in to the temptation to react right away. Give yourself time to figure out what to do. Take a walk or count to ten.

Breathe deeply

It’s essential to take deep breaths when dealing with emotional triggers in the short term because deep breathing can help reduce stress and improve emotional regulation.

Deep breathing can slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and calm your nervous system so that you can respond to the trigger more rationally and mindfully.

Deep breathing also helps the body get more oxygen, which can help lessen feelings of anxiety and depression.

So, breathe through your nose instead of your mouth, and breathe out slowly to calm down.

Distract yourself

When dealing with emotional triggers, distracting yourself is an excellent short-term strategy because it lets you take your mind off the trigger and put it on something else.

It can help lessen the intensity of the emotions that have been triggered, giving you time and space to better understand and deal with them.

This can be especially helpful if the feelings are too strong or too much to handle at the moment.

You can do countless things to take your mind off it, such as making a list of things you’re grateful for or deciding what you will make for dinner.

Communicate directly

In the short term, it’s essential to be assertive about your needs when dealing with emotional triggers to communicate your needs and get them met effectively.

Additionally, it aids in boundary-setting and situational control, both of which can lessen the likelihood of further emotional outbursts.

Because you’re actively taking charge of your emotions, being assertive can also aid in warding off feelings of being overpowered or helpless.

Finally, by demonstrating to others that you respect yourself and your needs, you can help them better understand you and your needs and thus develop healthier relationships.

Therefore, practise assertiveness to speak up for yourself, set and maintain limits, and treat others with the same respect you’d like to receive.

Rehearse your response

In the short term, practising your responses to emotional triggers can help you gain more control over how you feel.

Practising your answers beforehand increases the odds that you will keep your cool under pressure.

It will also help you think more clearly and answer better.

Also, practising your responses gives you a chance to practise things like deep breathing, positive self-talk, and relaxation techniques, which can help you stay calm and focused when you’re in a situation that triggers you.

Basically, if your triggers are foreseeable, you can practise your responses in a safe, non-live environment, such as in front of a mirror or by writing down what you want to say.

Set limits

Setting limits can help in the short term when dealing with emotional triggers because it gives the situation structure and control.

For example, setting boundaries can help keep people from getting too overwhelmed or triggered by their emotions and let them focus on the task at hand.

It also helps create a safe place where people can say what they want without worrying about being judged.

Setting limits can help reduce stress and anxiety and give you a feeling of safety.

So, have patience and kindness towards yourself. Yes, you may need to stay away from some situations until you’re ready to handle them, but with enough practice, you’ll get there.

Longer-Term Strategies for Dealing with Emotional Triggers

Managing triggers is essential, but if you want to really heal emotional triggers, you need to look deeper.

When we say we want to go beyond merely managing triggers, we’re essentially saying that we want to heal emotional triggers more holistically.

To do that, you must figure out why the triggers happen and try to deal with them more effectively.

It may involve looking at the feelings connected to the trigger, figuring out how it affects a person’s life and coming up with better ways to deal with it.

How to heal emotional triggers

It can also mean finding ways to build resilience to handle triggers better in the future.

It’s important to do more than just manage emotional triggers and look deeper to heal them.

Emotional triggers can be very bad for our mental health, careers, and relationships and can lead to more serious psychological problems if they aren’t treated.

If we only deal with the triggers, we don’t get to the root of the problem, which can cause more emotional pain.

But if we heal the emotional triggers, we can learn more about ourselves and come up with better ways to deal with our feelings, which has a lot of benefits.

Also, it can help us build resilience and learn how to deal with stress better in the future.

Getting to the bottom of your emotional triggers will help you have more peace of mind and a better life.

Take time for daily reflection

Increasing self-awareness is critical to healing emotional triggers because it helps individuals better understand their emotions and reactions to certain situations.

It allows them to become aware of their thought patterns, feelings, and behaviours that can lead to emotional triggers.

Self-awareness also allows individuals to recognize and address their emotional triggers more positively and constructively.

It helps them to be more mindful of their emotions and create healthier coping strategies to manage their triggers.

Through self-awareness, individuals can learn to regulate their emotions better, become less reactive to triggers, and ultimately heal from the emotional pain associated with them.

So, sit down and observe your thoughts without making judgements, and if you feel like it, write some stuff down.

Accept your feelings

Accepting complicated feelings is essential for healing emotional triggers because it allows you to acknowledge and healthily process those emotions.

When you accept your feelings, you can move through them instead of avoiding or suppressing them.

That helps you develop better coping strategies and manage your emotions more effectively.

Acceptance also allows you to gain insight into why the emotion was triggered and how to prevent it from happening again.

In this way, accepting your complicated feelings serves as an essential step in the healing process and can help you to become more emotionally resilient in the long run.

How to heal emotional triggers

Therefore, learn to acknowledge difficult emotions without blaming yourself or trying to suppress them.

Stay connected with how you’re feeling throughout the day and be OK with your emotions, not just the pleasant ones.

Tolerate uncertainty

Triggers often involve feelings of helplessness.

So, learning to tolerate uncertainty is a long-term strategy for healing emotional triggers because it helps us manage our reactions to that uncertainty.

When we can tolerate uncertainty, we are better able to stay open to different possibilities and manage our emotions more effectively.

That means that instead of getting overwhelmed by our triggers and feeling helpless, we can be proactive in finding solutions that work for us.

Additionally, tolerating uncertainty allows us to become more aware of our triggers, which can help us to identify and address them more effectively.

That can lead to increased self-awareness (see #1) and improved emotional regulation, both of which are vital components of long-term healing.

So, learn to face the reality that some things are beyond your control and devote your energy to the areas in your life where you can make positive changes.

Seek support

Seeking support is also an important long-term strategy for healing emotional triggers.

It gives you a chance to gain insight, understanding, and perspective on the underlying issues causing the triggers, which can lead to more effective and lasting ways to deal with them.

Seeking help also helps people learn to recognise and deal with triggers before they spiral out of control, and it teaches them positive coping mechanisms for when they feel overwhelmed.

But even more than that, connecting with supportive people can give a sense of safety and acceptance, which can help people feel like they have the power to work through their emotional triggers.

So, when you’re ready, talk to someone you trust about what sets you off.

Tell your friends and family how they can help. Having strong bonds with other people can help reduce the impact of triggers in your life.

Show respect

Respect is another important long-term way to heal emotional triggers because it builds trust and understanding, especially in a loving relationship.

With mutual respect, partners can learn to identify and address their own and their partner’s emotional needs and triggers, which can improve their relationship.

It also makes a safe place for both people to talk about their feelings without worrying about being judged or criticised.

So, showing respect can help heal emotional triggers and set the stage for a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

On the other hand, calling someone “triggered” can be used as an insult to mock their experiences.

Respecting others, in contrast, is a way to validate them. And that makes the environment healthier for everyone involved.

Consider counselling

Counselling is a good long-term way to deal with emotional triggers because it gives people the tools they need to recognise, understand, and manage their emotions.

Through counselling, people can learn how to figure out what sets them off, how to deal with things more healthily, and how to understand their own feelings, actions, and reactions.

This can help them make better decisions and keep their feelings from worsening.

Counselling can also help people feel better about themselves, understand others better, and create an atmosphere of trust and openness.

Ultimately, by going to counselling, a person can learn to deal with their emotional triggers better and, in the long run, live a healthier and more satisfying life.

So, if you feel that’s what you need, you might want to talk to someone who works in mental health for more help.

Sound therapy can definitely help you understand your behaviour better and teach you helpful ways to deal with it.

You can get a recommendation from your doctor or a quick Google search for local mental health providers.

Conclusion

To better manage our emotions and lead healthier lives, it is crucial to healing emotional triggers.

Learning how to deal with emotional triggers can help us deal with our feelings better, figure out what makes us upset, and find ways to handle difficult situations.

We can also improve our relationships with other people by eliminating emotional triggers. We can learn to be more kind, patient, and understanding with ourselves and with other people.

We can also build emotional strength by learning how to deal with things that make us unhappy.

We can learn to better control our emotions in stressful situations and find healthier ways to deal with them. This can lead to more self-confidence, better communication skills, and better emotional control.

To sum up, it is critical for the emotional and relational well-being of ourselves and others to heal emotional triggers.

Take the time to learn more about your emotional triggers and how to heal them.

Reach out to a trusted friend or family member, or seek help from a mental health professional if needed.

Make sure to practice self-care and be mindful of the things that bring you peace.

And remember, it takes time and effort to heal and process your emotional triggers, but it is possible.

About the author 

The Relationship Guy

Gideon Hanekom is the founder of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) which focuses on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor and hypnotherapist (DipProfCouns., DipMSHT.) almost 10 years ago. He completed a graduate diploma in Psychology and is currently pursuing postgraduate Psychology studies at Massey University. He has been married to his wife for over sixteen years and is the dad of two children. His articles have been published on Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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