You wake up and the kitchen isn’t clean.
The problem isn’t specifically that there are a few dishes sitting out — you’re rational enough to know that won’t kill you—it’s that despite cleaning for an hour yesterday, your partner and kids didn’t have enough consideration to help put everything away once you went upstairs.
You walk upstairs to get dressed, and your eyes are drawn to the items that are out of place.
Maybe it’s only a few. Maybe it’s a lot. You keep telling yourself what you’re going to do with them, and yet you haven’t gotten around to organizing your entire house, because you’re a busy person and you probably don’t have time for it. You add it to your mental “to-do” list anyway.
You get to your closet and realize that nothing you own makes you feel good. You shuffle in and out of outfits until you invariably end up in your old standby.
When you woke up, you reached for your phone. You checked your email instinctively, then drifted over to whatever app gives you the most FOMO. You scrolled, usually out of habit, but also out of anxiety. You want to see what that person who you kind of can’t stand is doing. Even just disliking them gives you a little hit of adrenaline.
You get into your car and the check engine light is on.
You don’t leave fast enough and end up just 2 or 3 minutes late, which is not enough to be a problem, but just enough to elevate your heart rate just slightly.
You’re at work and someone asks you to take on a project that isn’t your responsibility. You oblige. Someone else texts you and asks if you’re available to hangout this weekend. You don’t want to, but you give them a guilt “yes.”
Little by little, and often without you realizing what’s happening, your day stops being yours.
All of these things are micro-triggers, and they are sidelining you more than anything else. It’s not big problems that disrupt us, it’s small ones that compound.
No, we cannot always control what’s happening in our environment.
We can’t always control that someone else forgot to put the dishes away, or who reaches out to ask if we’re available for the thousandth time.
But there is so much that we can control, and we need to. Removing micro-triggers is essential to daily flow and function, because every time we get distracted, upset or bothered by something, we are letting out yet another bit of energy. By mid-morning, we’re exhausted and frustrated, and probably don’t even know why.
Micro-triggers are problems that are so subtle, you might not even notice them. Some of them may have deeper roots, and may need to be resolved with self-work, therapy, or personal development.
… But a lot of them are simply choices.
When you are aware that you’re going to be stressed if the house isn’t at least somewhat clean, you make an effort to tidy for a few more minutes each day.
When you realize that it is crucial to have ample time for your commute, you start your day a bit earlier to give that to yourself.
When you understand that you need to honor your time, you learn how to respectfully and politely decline, and enforce your boundaries.
When you know you want to feel good in your own skin, you invest in clothing that makes you feel that way.
A “trigger” isn’t just something that reminds us of a traumatic event. It’s also stimuli that we know isn’t healthy or productive for us. While in some cases recognizing our triggers can help us heal, in others, it can also help us take better care of ourselves each day.
If we know that we aren’t going to feel capable if our homes aren’t organized, then organization needs to take priority.
If we realize that overbooking our schedule leaves us frazzled and exhausted, then boundaries need to take priority.
If we understand that rushing around in the morning depletes our motivation, then a smooth routine needs to take priority.
It’s about identifying the micro-triggers that are most severely hindering us each day, and strategizing a way to eliminate or improve them.
Though we spend most of our lives most fearful of the big things that could go wrong, it is often the little things, compounded over time, that impact us more than anything else.
That’s why it’s our responsibility to try to manage them as best we can. No, we can’t make everything suited to our needs, but when we start to control what we can, we usually stop worrying so much about what we can’t.