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Staying Calm at Work When You Get Triggered

Getting triggered at work is an unfortunate but common experience for many employees. Triggers are situations that provoke a sudden, intense emotional reaction, often anger or anxiety. Common workplace triggers include difficult coworkers, high-pressure deadlines, micromanaging bosses, workplace conflicts, and heavy workloads. When you get triggered at work, it can be difficult to stay calm, think clearly, and handle the situation effectively. However, learning strategies to quickly calm yourself down when triggered can help you manage challenging workplace situations in a composed, professional manner.

Today we will explore the techniques for calming down quickly when you get triggered at work.

How to Quickly Calm Down When You Get Triggered

There are six common techniques for immediately calming yourself when feeling triggered: focused breathing, positive self-talk, mindfulness, visualizing your happy place, taking a walk, and splashing cool water on your face and neck.

Focused breathing involves taking long, slow breaths to relax both your mind and body. For example, you could inhale through your nose for a 4-count, hold your breath for a 4-count, then exhale through your mouth for a 4-count. Repeating this focused breathing 3-5 times when you feel triggered can quickly calm racing thoughts and pounding heartbeats.

Positive self-talk means replacing panicky inner voices saying “I can’t handle this!” with empowering messages like “I’ve got this under control.” For instance, if your boss suddenly gives you a last-minute project with an unrealistic deadline, your negative self-talk may kick in with thoughts like “This is impossible; I’m going to fail.” Combat this by deliberately telling yourself “I can handle this challenge; I’ve succeeded under pressure before.” Speaking encouraging words will calm your fears and build confidence.

Mindfulness techniques leverage the powerful mind-body connection. A quick mindfulness exercise like a brief body scan helps you regain composure. For example, you could quickly scan your body from head to toe, consciously releasing any tension in each body part. Bring your full attention to relaxing each muscle group before moving to the next area. This rapid mindfulness exercise can successfully calm your body and emotions when feeling overwhelmed or angry.

Visualizing your happy place means picturing a peaceful, comforting setting like a sandy beach or cozy cabin in the woods. Mentally escape to your happy place for 60-90 seconds when triggered at work. Vividly imagine all the sights, sounds, smells and feels of your calming oasis. This simple visualization instantly eases stress. For instance, you could visualize walking along an ocean shoreline or curled up by a fireplace when frustrated with your coworker’s drama.

Taking a walk is another quick way to calm down when you feel triggered. Marching rapidly around the office parking lot or taking a few laps around your building helps you physically blow off steam so you can address the upsetting situation in a thoughtful, rational way. The combination of moving your body and changing your scenery helps release the built-up tension making you feel triggered.

Splashing cool water on your face and neck provides an instant chilling effect that shocks your senses and jolts you out of a triggered state. Keep a water bottle at your desk to pour into your hands, splash your face and lightly rub your neck when you need to quickly compose yourself after a stressful incident with a customer or coworker. The cold sensation instantly relieves feelings of burning anger or panic.


Learning techniques to rapidly calm yourself when triggered at work is a valuable skill for maintaining composure and professionalism in challenging workplace situations. Strategies like focused breathing, positive self-talk, mindfulness, visualizing your happy place, taking a walk and splashing cool water on your face can provide quick relief when you feel your anger or anxiety spiraling out of control. By mastering these fast-acting calming techniques, you can successfully manage workplace stressors and be productive even during difficult times. Staying cool, collected and professional even when triggered leads to greater career success.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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