It can happen in an instant. You hear a song, see an object, notice an event taking place, visit a destination, have a dream, and the strength you thought you had falters. You feel the stab in your heart first, and the numbness begins to seep through the rest of your body. You carry on through the day, but feelings still nag at you, poking and prodding their way into your mind.
Emotional triggers usually come out of nowhere, when you least expect it. And when you have more than one in a short period of time they compact, weighing you down and making life gloomy. Once those emotions have started, they can easily flourish or dig deeper.
For the past week or so I’ve been struggling with emotional triggers and the hurt that comes with them, which is why I want to address the topic. Just about every day I saw, heard or experienced something that began chipping away at my typical cheerful attitude. I kept it hidden, because I admittedly don’t like showing vulnerability, but it started piling up and people could begin to tell something was off.
You may have heard of the Kubler-Ross model called the 5 Stages of Grief. Four of the stages in the model — denial, depression, bargaining, and anger — can be dealt with for different lengths of time and some people might go back and forth between them as long as necessary. Some might even feel all of them at once. Some may never make their way to the last stage of acceptance.
I believe I’m in that acceptance stage of my own type of hurt, though those triggers pull me back into the former stages for a brief time. But I know it will eventually cease. Though the triggers always will be there and probably always will affect me in some way, they won’t overtake me and they will just be, if that makes sense. It’s definitely a journey, but I can get through it, and so will you on yours. Wanting to let go of whatever is at the source of all the emotions is important, too.
Here’s five ways that help me cope or let go of sadness when I feel myself caving from the weight of reminders.
- Talk — Find someone you’re close to, who you trust, who won’t judge you, who has your best interest at heart and who can be available to talk to in person, on the phone, or through text at a moment’s notice or within hours of need. Even better if they know the background details on the situation you’re emotional about. Talk about what set you on the emotional roller coaster, what exactly you’re feeling, how you reacted before that talk or how you’re reacting at that second. Show your weakness, ask for support or advice if needed. Get everything off your chest and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. If you just want that person to listen to your words, make sure to request that beforehand.
- Write It Down — I know from plenty of experience that getting your words out in a non-verbal way can be extremely therapeutic. I’ve done it since I was a child. This is the method I usually gravitate toward first, and helps me most when I’m feeling especially burdened. Grab a notebook, scrap paper, napkin, whatever is on hand and just write. It can be fragments, single words, incomplete or complete sentences. Be as messy or as neat as you want. Write a line, a paragraph, a page or more. If there is a person at the center of the issue, write a letter and don’t send it. Keep it and use it to reflect and see the progress you’re making once you start writing multiple letters. Or rip it to shreds. Doodle, draw, highlight, accent, underline, circle.
- Cry — This will likely come naturally if you do one or both of the first two suggestions. And you know what? That’s ok. Allow the sadness to pour over you and let yourself hurt for a short time. Crying will release the stress, tension and emotions you may have shoved down through the day, and I promise you’ll feel even the tiniest bit better after you’ve wiped the last tear from your eye.
- Distract Yourself — Do something that will clear your mind. Some examples of what works for me is blasting my favorite music while taking care of house chores, going for a drive with no destination or time limit, or diving into a computer or video game. For your fitness lovers, try going for a run, brisk walk or bike ride. Direct your focus elsewhere and find your own form of zen.
- Pray — Last but not least, pray. Give your grief, worries and troubles to God. It’s easy, especially since He already knows the situation, already knows the hurt you’re going through. Simply ask for the strength to get through the pain and ask for Him to make it easier for the future. Ask for healing and for the ability of acceptance.
There you have it. Those ideas help me; I hope they help you, too.
What triggers your sadness or negative thoughts? What helps you release those feelings? Type them out in the comments.