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How to Process Triggering Content

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| May 5, 2022

Processing triggering content is far from easy, but these tips and resources can help you continue to consume content in a healthy way.

The sound of footsteps outside your door; the feel of a hand a little too close; the smell of a stale, quiet room; the taste of homemade lasagna; the article that hits too close to home. Our triggers take the form of sensory stimuli, sending us into waves of emotions, like grief, anger or confusion.

This reminds me of something.

This tense recognition doesn’t always make sense, and you might find yourself having a disproportionate reaction to the stimulus.

At that moment, you might not be able to put your finger on it, but your body can. Your physical and emotional reactions are the signs of an emotional or psychological trigger.

Something lives just beyond the trigger, be it a past hurtful relationship, grief or any type of traumatic event that went unhealed.

It’s a common human experience, even if it does feel isolating and confusing at the moment.

We know a lot of our narratives contain triggering content, so this blog will explore helpful tips in dealing with your triggers as well as providing resources so you can continue to process and engage in an honest and effective way.

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How to Deal With Triggers

We consume a ton of content on the daily, running the risk of encountering a triggering stimulus. It could range from an inexplicable yet mild discomfort to a full-blown anxiety attack. This can affect how you process content and your ability to engage.

Consider written content as an example.

Say you’re browsing through a narrative, see a trigger warning at the top and continue reading. Partway through the narrative, you stumble upon a paragraph, be it a description or an account of something that transports you to a time you hoped to never revisit.

Your reaction is visceral. You become conscious of the heat in your blood, and your body feels as though it’s pumping emotion. You’re no longer able to continue reading the narrative with a clear head, let alone engage in discourse about this particular topic.

You’ve been triggered and you just don’t know what to do.

Here are some tips in dealing with your triggers:

  • Take trigger warnings seriously. The term “triggered” has found its way into common vernacular (often in a joking way), but trigger warnings exist for a reason. Pay attention to the warning, whether you have related trauma or not, and prepare yourself for content that can hit hard.
  • Identify what’s happening. Take inventory of your reactions—thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. Bring an awareness to your body and write it down. This will allow you to come back later to reflect on what happened.
  • Identify the trigger. This can be as difficult to pinpoint as your reactions, but isolating the aspect of the content that triggers your reaction is an important part of reflection. If you’re unsure, write down multiple aspects of the content. 
  • Take a step back. Separate yourself from the content and remember a few things: Don’t take it personally; you’re not alone in this experience; whatever you’re feeling is absolutely OK. Allow yourself the space to navigate the complexity of your trigger while making the move to go back to an objective place.
  • Don’t abandon this moment. When you experience a trigger, there’s something happening under the surface that is demanding to be healed. Take the time to reflect and take advantage of the resources available to you (more on that below).

It’s tough to remain objective in the midst of a triggered response, but practicing these tips can help you navigate the moment and seek out resources that will continue your healing.

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Not only is getting triggered part of the complex human experience, but in 2022, we’re getting more and more equipped to handle these sorts of experiences with the help of others. Here are resources that can help you process your triggers:

  • Find a therapist. Therapy doesn’t exist solely for people experiencing extreme trauma. That’s why 41.4 million U.S. adults sought mental health treatment in 2020. Bring in your notes with the feelings you experienced and the content that triggered it.
  • Start journaling. While talking to a therapist is crucial for healing, so is self-reflection. Taking the time to be alone with your thoughts allows you to process at your own pace in a way that may be as beneficial for you as verbally processing.
  • Use your support system. Leaning into your support system, be it family, friends or a mentor, provides an intimate support that you can take advantage of more frequently than a professional.
  • Practice self-care. Using self-care as a way to reflect and process can be effective. Whether it’s allowing yourself the space to relax your body after an emotional upheaval of being triggered or using movement as a means to process, your body deserves care, and that’s something you can give yourself.
  • Seek immediate help. If you’re experiencing dangerous or harmful feelings, please don’t hesitate to seek immediate help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7 lifeline for mental health emergencies, and if you’re in the U.S., 911 can also be called anytime.
  • Additional resources. If you’re looking for more ways to care for yourself, or even another person, whether it’s processing triggers or navigating other mental health issues, use this guide to find even more helpful resources.

These resources are available for reflecting as well as for use mid-trigger. You don’t have to endure these tough moments alone.


Addressing your triggers enables you to make the forward movement needed to get to a place where they no longer destabilize you mid-paragraph or song. Learning to process your triggers in a healthy way allows you to consume a range of content and expand your perspective, ultimately making it possible for you to engage without the fear of a trigger holding you back.

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