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What's Your Undoing?

a bit of sky peaking through ocean water

A sudden change of plans; not being able to work out; being woken in the middle of the night...we all have triggers that cause a shift in our moods and make everything seem so much more difficult than it is.

I recently discovered that my trigger is having to work late on weekend nights. On weekend days that I know I have to work for more than 30 minutes at night, everything feels heavier than it really is. I can be at the park with happy toddlers on a sunny, fresh day, but all the little annoyances, like mosquitoes, seem overwhelming.

It took me a long time to discover this was my trigger. It wasn’t easy to see because I am accustomed to working odd hours. Since I don’t have an 8-5 job, I am used to working around my kids’ schedules and my clients’ needs, which means I can be up at 5 am working one day or working until 11 pm every single night for a week. I truly don’t mind. I appreciate the flexibility it provides me. And yet, I recently made the connection that even though I don’t mind working long and late on weekday nights, I crumble when I have to do so on weekends.

During a conversation with one of my best friends, we came to see that almost everyone of us has their own triggers, and some of these can be very hard to see immediately. For example, my husband’s trigger is not being able to do creative writing on the weekend. At first we thought it was simply not getting time to himself. After keeping an eye on it for a few weeks, we saw it was actually not getting to write. For my sister-in-law it’s not being able to sit with her croissant and cup of tea in the morning. For my best friend, it’s knowing she won’t be able to go to Pilates 3-4 times a week.

All these triggers seem relatively mild, but they have a serious bite. For whatever reason--and there are many unseen reasons behind these triggers--they make us feel off-kilter. It’s kind of like they raise the temperature of the water by a disproportionate amount so that you barely understand why you suddenly find yourself thinking you have to get out of the bathtub.

Knowing your triggers will not take their sting away. However, knowing what they are helps put everything in context. On those weekends when I know I have to work at night, I prepare myself mentally and emotionally. I am not able to shake off the blanket of heaviness that comes over me, but when I feel like breaking down because my kids refuse to get out of the bath, I remind myself that it all feels more tragic because of the pressure of my trigger. I also keep an eye out on weekends when my husband can’t make the time to write. If I notice he is slipping into a bad mood, I either take the kids so he can write or I remind him part of what he’s feeling is due to his trigger.

Take a bird’s eye look at your life and see if you can recognize the things that make you come undone. It’s not the obvious triggers you are looking for, like an empty stomach or having illness in the house, it’s the ones that slip under the radar since you wouldn’t really expect them to be a big deal. Once you identify them, keep an eye on them and see if just observing them makes them easier to deal with.

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