What is your trigger?

I had a conversation with a client last night who is struggling with her training. She’s showing up. She’s putting in the work. But right now, everything about the gym feels hard. 

First of all, whether you’ve been training for a few months, a few years, or a few decades, gym fatigue is going to set in. There’s times when getting yourself through the door and under the bar (no, not that bar silly) is going to feel hard. 

It’s part of the process. Learning how to train through those times is part of the process. But recognizing what sets off that feeling in the first place is also part of the process. 

I asked the client if she knew what started it.

“Well, I had a couple of days of not-so-great eating, and then I felt super guilty, and ever since then, the workouts have felt harder.”

When pressed a little further, she mentioned the guilt. 

“I grew up Irish Catholic,” she said. “I’m really good at feeling guilty.”

(I also grew up Irish Catholic. We learn to apologize for the weather. It’s just what we do).

Brene Brown has made a career on studying shame and guilt. And there’s a reason her TED talks are among the most viewed. People understand shame. They understand guilt. We live it on a daily basis.

It wasn’t the two days of not-so-great eating that affected this client’s mind-set. It was a lifetime worth of guilt that was triggered by a few less than ideal food choices.

The word trigger is defined as a cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist. (Trigger is also the name of Willie Nelson’s guitar, should that come up in trivia. And Roy Rogers’ horse. You’re welcome).

We all have our triggers. Mine is usually related to anxiety. One small mistake on a Monday morning can leave me feeling anxious for most of the week, and those feelings often have little to do with the present. They’re usually tied up in my history. 

It’s important to recognize our triggers for what they are. One or two poor nutrition choices or a missed workout aren’t the end of the world. There is a practice in meditation called R.A.I.N. Recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture. (For many, this is a life-long practice, much easier said than done).

Recognizing your triggers, finding ways to allow the feelings they bring and not pass judgment, understanding where the feelings come from, and offering a little self-compassion can go a long way.

Life can be hard enough without constantly beating yourself up. 

It’s also important to recognize the triggers that set off feelings of joy and happiness. In my case, it's listening to Patsy Cline on vinyl, so I'm gonna go ahead and trigger some of that joy right now.