Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Three years ago I developed a recurring and annoying condition that causes my rib cage to swell. Although harmless, when it flares moving and breathing becomes uncomfortable. As a result, I am cognizant of my physical activity and try not to lift anything heavy. Being careful with my body movements to avoid a physical reaction led me to consider how careful I am when it comes to my mental health. How intentional am I in preventing an emotional reaction?

All of us have triggers that connect us to a memory. We could be triggered by a location, song, name, or even a scent. Some connect us to happy, favorable memories. Some are tied to harsh, painful ones. In the case of the more difficult triggers, some aren’t avoidable. In those instances, it’s vital to have healthy coping strategies to counter the negative association. The other types of triggers, ones we can prevent from intruding in our lives, give us more control if we are willing to take it.

There was a time when I discovered my negative triggers, but I didn’t avoid them. The reasons varied. Sometimes I was testing my strength. Sometimes I was being defiant. Sometimes I was being naive. Sometimes I was just being dumb. Either way, I had to reach a point where it wasn’t worth risking activating an emotional breakdown for the sake of being strong, defiant, naive, or dumb.

We should not toy with negative emotional triggers. It can be a dangerous game. Some of us—like I once was—are less than careful with emotional health. Some of us jump into romantic relationships with those who have personality traits that trigger unhealthy behaviors, but we do it anyway. Some of us are out of control when we consume alcohol or take drugs, but we do it anyway. Some of us are all too familiar with what a visit to a certain city or with certain friends will do, but we do it anyway.

We all have to learn to take better preventative care of ourselves. Just as I try to ensure that I don’t trigger a recurring physical condition, I also need to be intelligent about my emotional and mental health. It’s not worth the risk to use strength testing, walking in defiance, being naive, or anything else as an excuse to be lax with my emotional health.

What are you willingly picking up and carrying around that is an emotional trigger for you? Become aware of the triggers in your life so that you can learn how to eliminate or reduce their influence. It is your responsibility to take excellent care of you, in your entirety. Stop willingly lifting things that are too heavy and too painful for you to carry.

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