Stressors or Triggers

At times, we all find ourselves feeling triggered, overwhelmed, or frustrated. It’s important for our well-being that we pay attention to those big feelings. When we ignore them, the stress can continue to build until it spirals out of control.

We don’t always know immediately what caused those feelings, but if we step back and reflect, we can often figure it out. This is an important piece of information to learn because as we get to know what our external stressors or triggers are, we can feel more equipped to deal with them or, if possible, to avoid them, in the future.

Knowing our stressors also gives us the opportunity to respond thoughtfully to things rather than reacting with a strong emotion. Reactions often show up in anger or frustration, sometimes directed at others. When we take the time to respond, we are better able to take personal responsibility for our situation.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

~ Viktor Frankl (Psychologist and Holocaust survivor)


Take a few minutes to answer the questions below.

The following describes my stressors or triggers:

(Example: Unexpected bill. Failing an exam. Someone raising their voice. Negative feedback from a professor or supervisor. Conflict.)

This is how stress shows up in my body:

(Example: headaches, pain, intense cravings, rapid thoughts, tight chest, etc.)

Noticing these feelings early on is really helpful.

Is there anything I can do to prevent these stressors?
What can I do to support myself when I am feeling stress, anxiety, or overwhelm?

(Example: Go for a walk. Practice deep-breathing. Call a friend or family member to vent)

How will I know that I’m not doing well? This can perhaps be some unresolved stressors that are compounding.

(Example: I’m repeatedly late for class. I skip meals. I have insomnia for at least 2 days in a row. I keep forgetting important things.)

What do I need to do for myself when I notice this?

(Example: See a counsellor. Spend a few days at home with my family. Cancel all my non-essential plans. See my doctor.)

At any given time, no matter where you are, a great self-care tool is simply asking yourself this:

What can I do to support myself right now, in this moment?

It seems almost too simple to be effective. However, if you ask it earnestly, it really works!


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Post-Secondary Peer Support Training Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Jenn Cusick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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