When Your Triggers Get Tripped In Relationships
By Sue Heimer
Ask yourself, what is the number one thing that is putting you over the edge?
Seriously, you are having an amazing calm, controlled “indoor mommy (or daddy, grandma, caregiver…you fill in the blank) voice” day and then, it happens. You lose it. Again.
Do you see a pattern? Tough question. The days I lost it I hardly wanted to document or journal the moment. I would rather just forget it. But stay with me here. People don’t just lose it. There is build-up or a trigger. Change begins when we become hyper-aware of our breaking point.
Identifying your triggers is extremely important as we wish to become “scream-LESS” or “lose-it-less” parents/caregivers. This reality was evident for me years ago. After surviving a stressful morning with three boys under five, I was feeling discouraged, frustrated, and disappointed in my role as mommy. Negative thoughts pierced my confidence as the day dragged on. Mountains of laundry continued to grow in the laundry room and my living room looked as if a category four hurricane had torn through. The boys wanted me to play with them, but I was preoccupied with household tasks and snapped at them to “go play by yourselves.” Yeah. It was a tough day.
When the doorbell rang, I answered it clad in an old tee shirt, shorts, and hair in a ponytail. As I opened the door, the older gentleman on the other side looked at me and asked, “Is your mommy home?” At his inquiry, I burst into tears and exclaimed, “See, even YOU don’t think I should be the mommy!” I know he meant well…and it could be taken as a compliment…however, I just shut the door on the bewildered gentleman.
I slouched down against the closed door and cried, “I really don’t want to be the mom today…someone else needs to be the mommy.” As the minutes crept by and I continued to lean against the door, I felt this tiny hand on my shoulder and sweet toddler breath on my skin. “I wov you, Mommy,” he declared, and laid his head on my shoulder.
Yup, I could do it another day…this motherhood thing. Sometimes encouragement comes in the smallest and most unexpected packages. But what had triggered my outburst?
In examining the morning, it was easy to point out where the buildup stemmed from. It wasn’t my children; it was the laundry and chaotic living room mess. I was exhausted by the mere thought of trying to catch up.
Are your blow-ups a result of pent-up frustration over the never-ending laundry pile that seems to multiply like rabbits? Just when you are feeling caught up, you find another pile of towels shoved in the corner of your teenager’s bedroom. Or maybe it just drives you crazy that your house has not been swept in 3 weeks and then you step on a Lucky Charm in the living room and as you are pulling the sticky mess from your sock, you lose your indoor mommy voice in a major way.
You’ll have a sense of empowerment once you can identify what puts you over the edge. This examination of triggers works in all relationships, not just parenting. When your triggers are tripped with your spouse, boss, coworker or family member, explore what was happening when the “build up” escalated. Now you can formulate a detour to keep you from reaching the breaking point.
My personal trigger tips:
If your trigger is the laundry, consider going to the laundromat. Seriously, no eyerolling please. I did this for a season and it alleviated stress. After dropping my older boys off at school, I headed to the laundromat and as seven machines cleaned and dried the clothes, I read books to my toddler. After folding the clothes, I took them home in baskets and put them away. Seven loads were completely done by late morning. This left the must-have-tonight loads manageable and my indoor mommy voice intact. The added plus for my toddler was reading time with mommy.
Another one of my triggers was a clean house. I wasn’t even aiming for white glove condition. My standards were not that high. I just dreamed of floors and bathrooms cleaned on a semi-regular basis. And furniture dusted often enough that you couldn’t write “clean me” in the dust. Armed with this knowledge (revelation of trigger), my husband and I got creative and hired a high school girl to come in every other week after school and help me clean. This stretched an already tight budget and was a luxury; however securing the help of a teenager who was in need of cash was much cheaper than hiring a professional adult. Now it’s time for you to do some homework on yourself.
Commit to noticing (bonus points for making a note on your phone or writing it down) what is happening around you before you lose it each time in the next week. Identify that trigger and consider yourself Superwoman/Superman for now understanding the “what” behind the screaming/losing it.
Armed with that knowledge, what are some creative ways to combat those triggers?
Sue Heimer is an author, counselor, Bible teacher and international speaker. Sue is the president and founder of Leaving Your Legacy Ministries, a ministry to encourage and support women in every stage of life. Sue recently authored When You Feel Like Screaming: Practical Help for Frustrated Moms, is the contributor to multiple books including What I Wish I Had Known, and is a regularly featured writer for Focus on the Family and Faithlife publications. Her greatest passion is to encourage women to love and lean on God in every aspect of their lives. Sue is a certified Biblical Counselor and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. As a member of the prestigious AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) she is honored to be recognized as one of the top National Christian Communicators.
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