Have you ever felt sad after hearing a melancholy love song? Or happy after watching a group of carefree friends share a laugh? According to author and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, an environmental or interpersonal stimulus that elicits an emotional or psychological response is known as a trigger. While triggers can inspire positive reactions, the opposite is also true. 

Fear, anger, depression, and shame are just a few of the negative emotions that can rise to the surface after encountering a trigger. Consequently, unexpected outbursts, anxiety attacks, and harmful coping routines can follow. However, in spite of a trigger’s capability to bring forth unfavorable emotions and actions, with practice, it can also lead to positive habits like self-soothing. 

You’re probably most familiar with the word “soothing” being associated with fussy babies. When infants cry, we pick them up and try our best to comfort them. But when you’re an adult and a storm of intense emotion comes your way, whose job is it to soothe you

Many psychologists agree that when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you are the person who is most capable of restoring your own physical and mental calm. Self-soothing is the act of reducing stress through intrapersonal techniques, and nothing prompts the need for self-soothing more than triggers. So if you find yourself tempted to spiral after enduring a painful event, what should you do?

Just as a parent might try to soothe their baby with affection, music, or distractions, adults can use any number of tactics to alleviate stress. Here are a few:

Although feeling triggered may be upsetting, use the experience to learn how to inspire peace within. Shift your perspective and be grateful for the opportunity to take control of your own joy. The more comfortable you become with managing and protecting your tranquility, the less unnerving future triggers will be.