Managing emotional triggers

September 25, 2023

The purpose of this chapter is to help you identify, tolerate, and respond to emotions in ways that leave you feeling strong, in control, and effective.

Emotional triggers can derail your eating and activity plans.

Emotions: Instinctive and intuitive feelings. Natural instinctive state of mind. Mainly reactive to the circumstances, mood, or relationships. There is currently no scientific consensus on a definition. Bodily reactions are involved.

Emotions serve important functions; they provide us with information, prepare us to respond to a situation, and influence our social behavior.

Feelings: Conscious experience of emotional reactions.

Understanding Your Emotions: Five Components of Emotional Experience

  • The situation: Identify the situation or circumstances that prompted your emotional response. It may be an external event or internal event.
  • Your body response: Sensation you feel in your body.
  • Your interpretation: This is the personal meaning you give to the situation, which you express through thoughts and beliefs. Example: a friend who cancels the date.
  • Your Emotion: It is our attempt to put a label on the combined experience of our interpretation and our bodily response.
  • Your Behavioral Response: In response to your interpretation and body’s sensation, you experience an urge to act or behave in a certain way.

How to Know Your Emotions

Are you sure about your emotions? The first step is to learn how to name your feelings. A complex process of synthesizing information about your experience, your interpretation of the meaning, your bodily sensation, and your behavior urges.

An emotion is often best captured in one word. For example:

Joyful, excited, amused, happy, elated…

Loved, adored, liked, desired…

Angry, mad, irritated, annoyed...

Anxious, scared, nervous, worried, terrified…

Sad, depressed, down, hurt, dejected, lonely, despair…

Ashamed, guilty, embarrassed, humiliated, regretful…

List the emotions that may precede your getting off track from your eating and activity plan.

Monitoring the Five Components: For next week, when you identify an emotional trigger, practice observing your emotional experience and then break it down into the five components.

Situation, interpretation, Body’s response, emotions, behavioral response.

Coping with Your Emotions:

Thoughts and behaviors determine the emotional response to a particular situation. Two people can experience very different emotional responses to the same situation because of the different ways each interprets the situation.

Emotional response is greatly determined by thoughts and interpretation of the situation. It’s a triangle between thoughts, emotions, and action and then it can become a vicious cycle.

Behaviors can, in turn, modify how we think.

Are Your Thoughts Realistic: Examine the thoughts that derive your emotional experience.

Your feelings are often reasonable, and at times suffering isn’t warranted. The goal is to stay at a more even keel, so you can be more present at the time of problem-solving. Target your thoughts with two goals in mind: enhance your ability to see a situation from a range of perspectives and increase your ability to develop balance and realistic thoughts about a situation.

How to Step Back and Take a Look

  • Step 1: Identify the emotion you have difficulty with.
  • Step 2: Identify a particular situation where this emotion gets triggered.
  • Step 3: Rate the intensity of your emotion from 0 to 100.
  • Step 4: Write out thoughts that are associated with emotion. Be specific about the situation in which the thought arises.
  • Step 5: Pick the thought that seems most powerfully related to the emotion. Rate how strongly you believe this thought from 0-100.
  • Step 6: Write out the evidence that supports your thought.
  • Step 7: Write out all the evidence against your thought. Switch gears. Points against your previous thoughts.
  • Step 8: Review the evidence for and against. Try to consider both sides and summarize the evidence for and against. Rate how much you believe this thought.
  • Step 9: Reevaluate your thought in step 5 and emotion in step 3. Rate how much do you believe your thought and emotion now.
  • Step 10: What actions do you need to take if the problem was realistic and needs to be solved?

Thought Records

Thought records won’t necessarily magically transform your emotions. What they will do is help you be certain that your emotions are based on a realistic interpretation of events. For next week, record your thoughts as situations, emotion, thought, evidence for, evidence against, balanced thoughts, and make an action plan.

Negative Thoughts About Emotions

Do you hold negative beliefs about experiencing emotions? In order to deal with your emotions effectively, take a stance of openness and acceptance toward your feelings and observe them in a non-judgmental fashion.

Changing Your Behavior

Strategies for changing up your behavior responses to emotional challenges. These strategies replace food in managing emotions. It is about trial and error.

Emotions are like waves; they rise, they peak, and they inevitably fall in intensity. Remember as unpleasant as emotions can be, they will not harm you.

Strategies to Ease Agitation: If you eat to comfort yourself, you continue to worry, and you lose out on the valuable information that your emotions may be providing to you. If you cannot reflect on what you feel and why, you are doomed to find yourself in the same pattern over and over again.

Strategies for Gaining Comfort: Think of a time when you ate to comfort yourself. Find other ways of soothing yourself.

Strategies to Manage Boredom: Make free time more interesting and engaging. What activities or plans can you build into your life that will give you some direction and interest?

Strategies for Rewarding Yourself: Food should be used as a reward only on special occasions, not always. Other strategies such as a new outfit, a good book, a movie with a friend, make a spa appointment, etc. Is your life intrinsically rewarding?