Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 160 August 2023 | Page 61

Mental Wellbeing

We All Have Ups and Downs

By Paula Quinsee
We all have days where things are good , and days where things feel rocky , and sometimes we get triggered and can feel the emotions boiling over . Here ’ s how to deal with it .

When I get triggered , my breathing gets more erratic , my chest starts to get tight , and my heart pounds like a stampede of horses . I then tend to snap at those closest to me , and start to feel overwhelmed , which then leads me to procrastinate as a coping mechanism . I get triggered . You get triggered . It ’ s normal . So why does this happen to us ?

What you need to understand is that our triggers were actually ‘ hardwired ’ inside of us as a child , before we even knew how to talk ! We may not have memories of someone erupting at us as a child , slamming doors , giving us the silent treatment , or the likes thereof , but that ’ s because memory isn ’ t just what is in your brain , memory is also what you have experienced in your body .
When you were tiny , you had stressful things happening around you . For example , you felt the impact of stressed-out adults who were doing their best to cope each day . You didn ’ t have words to describe what was happening around you , but you felt triggered in your little body . That slammed door scared the daylights out of you , or mom yelled because she was exhausted , and you erupted with tears in response to her eruption of stress . These normal , childhood experiences are hardwired inside of us . They become our automatic response to stress , and that ’ s why we feel triggered as an adult . The truth is , we usually don ’ t remember all of this , because it happened before we had words to make sense of it all .
No parent can get it right 100 % of the time – most just do their best grappling with the everyday challenges of life . I know I don ’ t get it right some days , and I snap at others , or I slam the car door in frustration , and I can occasionally be stubborn and dig my heels in . I feel bad about erupting , but I still do it . That ’ s the truth . It also means I am human .
Dealing With Triggers
So , let ’ s not focus on our parents . let ’ s rather focus on how we can take control of this ingrained stress response and change our reactivity to work for us as adults . There are three steps to rewiring your stress response :
1 . Repeat the mantra . The next time you come down hard on yourself for something you did or didn ’ t do , repeat this sentence out loud to yourself several times : I am a good person who …. ( yelled at my kid , blew the deadline , overthinks things a lot , stresses , etc ). By starting with “ I am a good person ,” you remind yourself that you are not your actions , so you ’ re less likely to beat yourself up repeatedly . The thing is , you are a good person , but we all have some deeply ingrained wiring that we need to learn to upgrade , instead of letting it override our rational , logical side .
2 . Replace the trigger . Every time you recognise your trigger , replace it with a different action . So , if you get triggered by your partner who doesn ’ t respond to your text or WhatsApp message straight away , stop , pause and reflect . Ask yourself when was there a time when you did the same thing to your partner ? Perhaps you didn ’ t respond to their message straight away because you were in the middle of a meeting , and you were only able to answer them later ? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction .
Perhaps your partner is now in a meeting and is unable to answer your message straight away . This does not mean that they love you any less , or are rejecting you . Stop your trigger from erupting , and pause to calm yourself down so you can think rationally . Reflect on a time when you acted in a similar way , what was going on for you then , and is it possible the same is happening in this situation for your partner ?
3 . Reframe your thinking . Thoughts drive
our actions , so reframe your thoughts from being reactive and defensive , to ones where you ask open questions to get context and clarity , which removes ambiguity . ( This is where our brain goes into overdrive ). For example , here are three ways you can ask deeper questions :
• Tell me more about …
• Help me understand …
• Is there more to that …
By using these open-ended sentences , it creates a safe space for us to go deeper and find out what ’ s underneath our trigger , and how to regulate our reactions to a more conscious one , where we can think and talk through it , thereby reframing the experience for us and changing the narrative of our deep-rooted source .
Paula Quinsee is the founder of Engaged Humans , facilitating connection between men , women and couples . She is a certified Imago Relationship Therapy Educator and Facilitator , NLP Practitioner , PDA Analyst , coach and trainer . She has authored two self-help guides : Embracing Conflict and Embracing No , as is an international speaker , advocate for mental health and activist for genderbased violence . More info at www . engagedhumans . com .