Dealing with Depression Series #1 – How to Identify and Defuse Your Emotional Triggers

Depression is a constant battle that you have to keep fighting, even if you lose on some days. 

On some days you may feel good and stay functional, while on others you might have emotional outbursts and absolutely no motivation. 

The constant lack of energy and motivation is a common trait of people with depressive tendencies. However, emotional outbursts are rare and usually preceded by an emotional trigger.

To effectively deal with depression, you must first identify and understand your emotional triggers. 

How to Identify Your Emotional Triggers

Here are a few questions that you need to ask yourself to identify your triggers. Just think of the times when:

  • You lashed out on people or overreacted to a situation
    • Think about the reason, not the action itself, but the emotion that it stirred in you.
    • How did you feel?
    • What made you so angry?
  • You went on a negative thought spiral
    • What caused it?
    • How did it begin?
    • Did someone say or do something that led you to think that way?
    • What were your fears when you were in that spiral?
  • Your heart just wouldn’t stop racing and you felt anxious or restless for no apparent reason
    • What were the events and conversations that happened prior to that?
    • Try to find the cause by evaluating your entire day before this happened
  • You felt really sad or lonely for no apparent reason. Were you alone or around people? Did you watch something or read something that triggered it?
    • For me, it used to happen when I stayed home alone all weekend. Even if I did it by choice, I almost always ended up feeling lonely and sad. And yet, I cancelled plans and avoided going out the following weekend, which again stirred the same emotions. 
    • This is what I call a depression loop. You know what causes that reaction and yet you keep repeating the same action over and over again. 

Identifying your emotional triggers is the first step towards managing them. When you identify an emotional trigger, you are better able to understand what you’re going through and why.

How to Defuse Your Emotional Triggers

When you feel yourself overwhelmed with a certain emotion, it’s best to stop and take a deeper look at things instead of reacting to the situation.

Here are a few ways in which you can defuse your emotional triggers and prevent emotional outbursts.

1. Take a Break

When you see that you’ve been triggered and are about to react to a situation, just pause. Take a break and get some air.

In the middle of an argument or a distressing situation say “I need some time to think, I will get back to this later”.

Pausing when you’re about to have an emotional outburst is the first step. It gives you the time to think about it and decide how you want to respond, instead of reacting immediately.

Choose to respond, not react.

2. Label Your Emotions

One way to stop yourself from lashing out or reacting to a situation is to understand what emotion you’re feeling.

When you find yourself bursting with emotion, stop to label it. Is it anger or sadness? Are you feeling lonely or rejected? Whatever emotion you’re feeling, just stop to label it.

Wondering how it helps?

Well, for one, it helps you pause for a bit and get out of the situation for a minute. Secondly, it calms you down a bit and gives you the time to think.

3. Distract Yourself

Once you have managed to get out of a situation and given yourself time to think, you can actively try to manage your emotions.

Try keeping yourself busy with something that you like, preferably an active thing like painting, writing, any form of art and craft, etc.

Distracting yourself with passive activities like listening to music or watching a movie is temporary and not very effective. So, try to do something that you enjoy doing and keeps you actively involved.

How this helps is by helping you distance yourself from a bad situation long enough for you to calm down and reevaluate. But, you do need to reevaluate things and that’s where the next tip comes into the picture.

4. Reconstruct Your Thoughts

While distancing yourself and taking some time are temporary measures, reconstructing your thoughts is the long-term solution. 

What this entails is writing down your thought and reconstructing it in a more positive way. 

For example, let’s say your thought is “X person said/did this, so that means they hate me and I should cut them out of my life”. 

The problem with this statement is that you’re assuming what they feel, based on something that they said or did. Instead, try reframing it like “I did not like what they said and I should tell them how it made me feel and ask them why they said it”.

Now, this opens a healthy line of communication, instead of drawing conclusions and reacting in the moment.

So, every time you have a negative thought that makes you overthink, reframe and reconstruct it and see the results.

5. Get Help

All these tips for dealing with depression and preventing emotional outbursts only work to a certain extent. For some people, the situation is much too difficult to manage alone.

You should always seek help when things become too much for you to handle and even before that. You can try talking to your loved ones and explain the things that trigger you and how they can help. 

But, the best way to deal with it is to seek professional help. There is no replacement for professional help, especially if you face such emotional triggers on a regular basis.

What Next?

Dealing with depression takes time and a lot of discipline, which a lot of people lack. Therefore, it is important to take help from your friends, family, and therapist.

Use these tips to identify and defuse your emotional triggers and prevent emotional outbursts.

I will post more such resources on dealing with depression, so look out for my next post in this series.

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